Tag Archives: Customer Relationships

Facebook Private messages: Good for social business, good for CRM?

Now brands can use Facebook Direct messaging to respond privately to their customers for a more personalised support experience.

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Facebook has rolled out its new version of Brand pages.  These look like the page familiar to users who have enabled Timeline view. It will also include a feature to improve social CRM – if it gets it right..

Now, when customers interact with the brand, the brand has the opportunity to respond by private message, without the rest of the stream seeing the interaction.

Brands can also respond to individual wall posts through private message, as long as a fan initiates the conversation.

Private messages for pages will be great for brands that want to get open and honest feedback from their customers. Although it is currently only available in Asia, it will be rolled out world wide soon.

Brands need to get their act in gear if they want to take advantage of the 1:1 interaction with their customers.  They need to respond in a positive, and timely way to avoid any negative responses.

Bob Kraut, SVP of advertising and marketing communications for Arby’s, suggested the direct messages may help firms avert comment threads that spiral out of control, causing bad branding.

"This [will] lower the risk and be better for customers in the long run," he said. "There will be more people in the game, and maybe less transparency. But maybe the customer is fine with that. It’s the customer that counts."

Without an effective customer engagement framework in place, and a team to respond to the demands of 24 x 7 complaints and comments, brands might feel that they are not as social as they think they are…

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Coca Cola happiness machine

Aah – this is really sweet…Coca cola has some brilliant ideas to connect with its customers.  This is the happiness machine which only dispense drinks if you can prove you’re a couple.

This is what happened in Istanbul on Valentines day this year…

What a great way to connect with people.  And make folks feel really great about the brand… Kudos to Digital buzz for the find..

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

5 ways to better engage your customers

I often get asked about how to get more engagement on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  After all, it’s what I do for a living.  The challenge that most companies have is trying to get their customers to talk to them.  They expect far more engagement than they are getting.  But companies don’t tend to engage.

They  use social media as a way of broadcasting their message.

They don’t reach out and engage with their customers, they broadcast to them.  Brands have campaigns to run, launch calendars and social schedules to adhere to.  They don’t have time to reach out and proactively chat to their online audience.  They broadcast and wait for a response. So how do you get better engagement for your brand? Here are a few ideas…

Talk to your customers.  First.  Reach out, don’t wait to respond.   Your customers would love it if you proactively joined in the conversation

Use the tools to find out who is talking about your brand and join in the conversation.  when I say join in the conversation I mean: Leave a comment on someone’s blog, initiate a Twitter conversation, comment on a YouTube video, vote for something on a web page.  The link with track back to your brand.

Don’t spend all your time talking exclusively about the brand.  The Cravendale social media campaign using subliminal messaging to raise awareness of milk.  They don’t even use the brand name Cravendale, preferring to communicate through the Bertrum Thumbcat alias.  This makes you more curious to find out what is happening to the ‘purrsonality’ each day.image

Don’t expect too much from your Facebook engagement and ROI efforts.  Remember not many people ‘actively’ engage

Don’t worry if engagement doesn’t appear immediately.  Like all relationships, they take time to develop and grow.  But you’ll reap the rewards if you’re patient and your group of brand evangelists will grow.

What are your tips for better brand engagement?  Is there anything I’ve missed out?

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

 

Brand responses: The 6 levels of social CRM

We talk about using Twitter for customer service and using Twitter to engage with our customers and improve social CRM.  We list our top tips and we blog about our rules for engagement.  We talk to our clients to try to encourage them to join all of the social channels together and to use Twitter merely as one component of their social CRM strategy.  But do companies embrace this way of listening?  Does the brands’ customer experience make customers more satisfied with the brand?

Unfortunately No. Not often.  With some notable exceptions, as customers, we’re often left high, dry and disappointed.

There are a few steps that brands can take to improve their levels of customer engagement.  Say, for example, you, the customer, posts a tweet about a brand.  Perhaps your tweet is a criticism about poor service you’ve received, perhaps its just an observation or a comment about the brand itself.  You broadcast your message and wonder whether you’ll get a response.  Sometimes you get a great response, sometimes you don’t hear anything.  There are different levels of engagement responses ranging from zero to hero.  Lets have a look at the different levels of the brands’ response to the customer.

Level 0: You get no response at all.  The brand doesn’t have a social media listening policy.  They are not listening to any feedback about them.  Does the brand care about you, the customer?

Level 1: You get a response through Twitter several days later.  The brand has probably been notified of your comment by someone more socially savvy than you.  Their late response only serves to make you angry with them for their attitude towards you.

Level 2: You get a response through Twitter several hours later.  The brand does listen to you – eventually.  They have no engagement framework in place detailing when they should respond.  You are pleased that they bothered to get in touch at all.

Level 3: You get a response a few minutes later – even though you had tweeted your initial message about the brand outside of normal business working hours.  The brand cares about you.  You are impressed that they are listening to you.

imageThis approach seems all well and good – if the brand is operating at Level 3 but their level of customer service could be improved.  There are other channels that brands can use for customer communication.  Communication doesn’t have to focus exclusively on Twitter.  If the customer wants to communicate using only Twitter, then let them.  But you as a brand can offer so much more than a single channel experience for the customer.

Bret Simmons blogs about leadership and organisational behaviour on his blog and I was lucky enough to meet him, and present for his class when he was over in London last year.  Bret doesn’t tend to complain much.  He prefers to see leadership and positive qualities in people.  He’s recently blogged about a poor experience that he had whilst he was in Las Vegas.  He posted a comment about his meal onto Yelp!  A few hours after he had posted his review, he got an email from the manager of the restaurant offering to follow up with his staff about the quality of the food, and furthermore, send Bret coupons by mail. 

Bret noted how the restaurant had bothered to make the effort to put things right. Further more, they went outside of using Yelp! alone and had used email to make the connections and carry on the communication.   

This type of behaviour transcended a single channel to make the customer connections a more personal experience.  Bret commented that unfortunately the restaurant didn’t tell everyone that they were fixing the problem for him.  They only told Bret.  Anyone else reading Yelp! would see the poor review and wouldn’t see the positive outcome.

I often blog about BT Care in the UK and its excellent customer communication through Twitter. @BTCare is quick to respond, gives proactive support and will switch channels if I want it to. It doesn’t use Twitter exclusively for their customer business.  BT Care responds to its customers on at least level 3 and adds a personal touch to its communications .

So we now need more levels to deal with the enhance ways that brands can respond to customer service issues.

Level 4: You get a response a few minutes later, followed by a direct message on Twitter asking for your contact details so that the brand can follow up with you – You give them your number and you receive a call from the customer service representative.  That’s nice personal service.

Level 5: You get a response from the company, followed by an email.  The brand has followed a link on your Twitter profile and found your email address from your blog or your web site.  They get in touch with you showing that the brand was prepared to invest a little effort in trying to contact you by other channels.

Level 6: You get a quick response from the brand followed by some excellent in person customer service. This is what customer service is all about.  You wish more brands behaved that way.

Occasionally there are some great examples of cross channel communication and social CRM.  Sometimes there are examples of customer service behaviour that tries to go the extra mile to help customers.  Lauren McKay tweeted about how much she loved cornbread when she was staying in the Gaylord hotel.  Like most socially aware companies the company responded quickly (Level 3 behaviour).  Laurel was offered some cornbread which unfortunately she couldn’t take advantage of as she had left the hotel.  4 months later, Laurel stayed at another branch of the Gaylord hotel chain.  She received room service delivering a selection of cornbread and a hand written note referring to her tweet 4 months before.  Now she has blogged about her great cornbread Twitter experience with Gaylord hotels.  She closed the communications loop and it’s obvious from her blog that she’s a very satisfied customer.  Her post has even made me want to stay at The Gaylord if they’re so socially savvy. 

That level of customer service goes above and beyond my level 6 behaviour.  To remember a customers preferences across multiple social media channels is a great enhancement to the customers experience.  To remember your customers preference 4 months later and make the effort to connect across social media channels is a level of customer service that brands should strive to achieve.

Unfortunately, for a lot of brands, this is still just a pipe dream…

Image credit: Flickr

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

 

Social CRM: Why companies fail to evolve

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Image credit: Flickr

Customer relationship management should be at the core of every business whether you have a great online presence or not.  From the ability to process returned goods in a shop, to fixing customer problems online, CRM is vital for businesses. 

Traditionally looking after the customer was a coordinated approach for companies. 

The Customer service teams worked with the Sales team and the Marketing team to make sure that the customer was sure to purchase your goods, and have a good experience with the brand all along.  If there was an issue with the brand or the service, then customer service would sort it out.

The social customer is different. 

He now has the customer relations team interacting with him and engaging with him on his chosen channel.  Companies can then actively engage with the customer to increase perception about the brand.  Collaboration, engagement and dialogue leads the relationship  so you need to change the way you manage the relationship.

But who is the social customer and why does he need to be managed?

Always connected: The social customer gets his information about your brand online.  They learn about news and carry out research through Twitter and Facebook.  Their networks often have the answers they need.

Interactive: They trust 2 way conversations with the brand rather than broadcasts from the brand.  They are socially savvy.  they are connected

Expectant:  the social customer expects  response.  They expect brands to be listening on the social channels where they are.  At any time, day or night.

Listener: They want brands to be responsive to their queries, responsive to their queries and be in listening mode all the time.  They want honesty. They want transparency.  They want answers.

A recent example of a company with a poor reputation for CRM is one of the train operators in the UK.  Last night there was a huge problem with the rail service that services the south west of England.  Passengers who got on the trains to leave London during the 6pm rush hour had a problem.  They left Waterloo station, only to be stranded for more than 4 hours outside Woking Station in Surrey 20 miles away.

imageSeveral people frustrated by the lack of information took matters into their own hands.  Then several other passengers eventually forced their way out of the trains to walk down the track to Woking Station. 

This caused power to the lines to be shut off stranding 60 trains.  Passengers switched to Twitter to try to get an answer from South West Trains about why there was such a delay (here’s an example if you can’t find anything on Twitter search) and there are several blog posts documenting the chaos.

The thing that jumps out of this debacle is the utter lack of communication from South West trains themselves.  National Rail Enquiries, who provide information about train scheduling were online, active and as helpful as they could possibly be last night. 

Representatives of South West trains were unavailable last night and refused to comment this morning although there is an apology on their site.

Unfortunately for companies with no social CRM in place, Twitter hash tags makes communication between strangers easy.  Communities form for the moment, transient friendships are made.  Companies can no longer hide with fabrication and evasiveness.  The social consumer is socially savvy.

Social CRM necessitates a change in behaviour.  A total change.

Relationship change.  Previously, the passengers on the stranded trains would have been totally dependent on messages from the guard. now they have formed an engaged community of activists, demanding answers in real time.  Communication has been democratised and anyone can help the customer with his issue

Process changes: The consumer is in control.  They control the messaging.  The company now needs to listen and effect the change.

Channel Changes: The customer decides what channels to use.  Twitter tends to be the main channel for instant dissemination of information with blogs used as a follow up

Time changes:  This is not a 9 to 5 world any more.  Companies who want to achieve good relationships with their customers need to be on hand to answer questions whenever problems arise.  Even at 11pm.

Message Changes:  Consumers create dialogue.  Customers want interaction.  They don’t want outbound messages broadcast from the marketing teams.  They want to connect with the customer.

Gartner predicted that by 2010 50% of customers with online communities will fail to manage them correctly as  South West trains have proved.  Even though they haven’t created the community, its there all the same.  And South West and many other companies need to take heed of this and evolve their social CRM strategy before they utterly fail.

Watching the complaints of the many commuters who have no other way to get to London for work still streaming across the social web, I think that they already have…

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

 

 

Social CRM and bad customer service

This is an interesting infographic about customer service from the Get Satisfaction blog.  With the rise of social media customer service is becoming a key part of conversations I have with most clients who want to add a customer service engagement framework into their social media activities.  Without a framework, you can quickly become the ‘uncaring business’.  without a mechanism to help, your customers will move on.

The bottom line is you need to keep your customers happy.  Engage with them in the way that they want to engage.  If you’re not listening to them, then they will go elsewhere.  Makes sure that they are happy with the service that they give you.  They will go elsewhere if you don’t.  If you provide good customer service – then you’ll retain customers.  Ignore your customers and they will move on to another provider.

Make sure that your social media engagement framework has your customer service component closely tied into it.  if you work in the financial industry, then make sure your terms of engagement follow regulatory and compliance procedures at your company.  Do all halfeyou can to keep your customers happy.  Go above and beyond to make them loyal.

And they will spread the word on your behalf and get you other loyal and engaged followers / fans / customers…

It’s about the discount–not the relationship

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I found an interesting post on Nasdaq today talking about the differences in what companies think that their customers want, compared with what their customers actually want from them.  IBM carried out a study and talked to more than 1000 consumers – asking them how they used social media.  Company executives were also asked their opinion about why they though consumers interacted.  There are some interesting callouts from the study which seem to contradict the way that we think we use social media:

 

  • Consumers use social networks to stay in touch with family or friends
  • Consumers use social media sites to find discounts and for purchases
  • Companies feel that they are under pressure to engage with their customers
  • Companies believe that consumers hope to feel part of the community by this type of engagement

 

This is all very well in the B2C space, where, as consumers we’re searching for the best deals around.  This is how Groupon has become so successful. 

Groupon offers discounts (and earns its revenue by taking a fee of 50% of the Groupon offer price plus VAT).  Groupon has a way of retaining their customers.  Have a look at what happens when you try to unsubscribe! http://www.groupon.com/unsubscribe 

Loyalty, offers, discount and deals matter in the B2C space.  But what what about B2B?

With B2B relationships are important.  With B2B, companies rely on their partner network to sell their services, products and licenses.  I think B2B connections are all about relationships.

Sure, companies can offer their partners suppliers discounts and offers – but I don’t think that’s the only reason that partners connect.  Business partners need information, news, and roadmap knowledge so that they can tailor their own businesses to align with the direction of the company.  If they don’t have this early information, then a partner could invest in creating a solution offering which could be aligned with a product that is about to be sidelined or sunsetted.  An investment error like this could be a significant issue for a small business – much more than a potential partner service, discount or free offer.

Customer connections matter.  Relationships matter.

If you’re only aiming for a light touch or one time engagement with your customer, then a special offer will work wonders.  It will initially get people through your door.  It’s the relationship that you have with the customer after that first contact that might keep them coming back.

And that’s all about how you make the customer feel.  Part of a community that receives discounts might be the relationship that keeps them coming back to you.  Ask Groupon…

Image credit: Flickr