During the course of my career getting closer to the customer has been an ever present business challenge. In the average corporation we have mountains of data about customer performance, yet we still believe we do not understand our customer. Customer Relationship Management is a modern oxymoron and it seem that the more that we know the more we still need to know.
In the average corporation we have a slew of systems, the majority of which relate to customer activities like orders, billing, production, supply chain, all of these should be integrated to some extent to our CRM solution. yet as new technologies appear we talk about improving the customer experience.
As we add Social Media to the corporate arsenal “Improving customer communications” is quoted as one of the key reasons for adopting these solutions. Please do not misunderstand me each of these layers is essential in getting to know how our customer acts, with Social Media it is possible that we may understand not so much why they act as they do but some of their driving forces. To some extent we have been categorising our customer in order to pattern match them, which in turn allows us to focus better on what we perceive their needs are, then along comes a tool that allows our customer to talk directly to us on a one-to-one basis. We are also holding multiple one-to-one conversations simultaneously and each may be different. Each will point to different things we provide our customer well and badly. Perhaps at last we can garner some real intelligence about the mindset of the customer.
Yet Social Media is a marketing tool isn’t it?
Well it can be. Actually Social Media is not a tool for any specific area of the business. It certainly impacts our corporate marketing efforts, but it is also a part of our customer service effort. It also contributes to product development. etc. etc. etc.
The key here is that the customer is now talking each and every area of our corporation. Are you paying attention? Do you have a strategy to respond?
The frustrated customer has always been one to make a lot of noise. We arguably spend too much time thinking about them, especially since most businesses want to ignore them or suffer them as nuisance factor. Yet in the modern communication rich world it is important we listen and respond appropriately. Everything is done so publicly today and it is important that the response is proportionate and focused. Everyone probably has a relative or friend who is frustrated with the service a particular store offers and makes it their mission to tell everyone they know not to shop there. Well with Social Media you can publish your “Top 10 reasons not to eat at McDonalds” on a blog and leverage SEO expertise to have it appear on search engines above (or very near) the company’s main website. Not only will it shout your complaints it will do so while you are asleep and with the right amount of Social Media noise you may be able to tell every internet user on the planet your gripe.
It is therefore vital that the business tracks what is being said about them and their products or brands on this very public forum and respond appropriately. This is about the ultimate of customer service. But more than ever before it is the response that must to be honest. It is better to remain silent that tell a lie. It is also better to admit that your product has a fault than to deploy a marketing message as a cover up. Customers prefer to hear “we goofed” than “you are misinterpreting how this product should be used”. Things do go wrong from time to time. To err is human, we know that. Organisations sometimes have to admit a mistake and bringing clients or the general public to that point may require some prickly crisis management. In the Social Media world you gain respect by admitting mistakes, but it is important to be sincere.
The response given is perhaps the most important thing to be managed when a customer is complaining in such a public forum. Yet who should give the response? Marketing? Customer Services? Product Development? It is probably best that the response sound personal and genuine (heart felt). No response should ever sound like it came from the marketing department. Who responds depends on the circumstances, and may even be the CEO if the complaint warrants it.
Tags: Complaints, Customer