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.



5 thoughts on “Brand responses: The 6 levels of social CRM

  1. Kevin Ball

    Last year I tweeted about a poor delivery experience from a rental car company – and got a DM from the US version of the same company offering to sort the problem out. But when I explained it was the UK incarnation of the company I had the issue with, they couldn’t help.

    1. eileenb Post author

      Kevin, that company was obviously thinking globally but unable to deliver locally. With so many social media programs driven out of the US, its a shame that they can’t be honoured locally. We’re still at a very early stage in our social evolution – with a heck of a long way to go!

  2. TechieBird

    Great post Eileen, I love the story about Lauren and the cornbread!

    At the other end of the scale, dealing with complaints via social media, while it’s nice to be able to get a reaction to a tweet about a bad experience I can’t help but think that “better late than never” customer service, where you have to slag off a brand in a public forum to get their attention, isn’t really great customer service at all.

    I would argue there’s a level of engagement that surpasses all of this… where your first contact to the company, be it through a call centre or a web form or face to face in a shop, is dealt with to a reasonable standard, and if you’re unhappy with the outcome escalated to a skilled, empowered person (not just another person working from a slightly different set of scripts) without the customer having to scream, threaten, or start bad-mouthing on Twitter. Social media used to *augment* already good customer service (like Lauren’s example) is what we really want as consumers, not social media as a last chance saloon when every other means of communication has failed.

    I had a recent interaction with a well-known UK gym chain – after all attempts to get service through the ‘usual’ channels, and being met with a stone wall of “computer says no” I cancelled my membership, and afterwards tweeted to that effect. All of a sudden ‘head office’ wanted to help. (On the phone they flat-out refused to deal with me.) However helpful and lovely their social media people, it won’t fix the coporate culture of general disinterest and doesn’t change my perception of them as an entity. For all I know they were launching a Level 6 response right at me, but it was too late, they already lost this customer.

    1. eileenb Post author

      Wow interesting stuff . We still have such a long way to go with our social CRM don’t we. The ssue is, brands that don’t have a joined up story are losing customer loyalty – and that takes a heck f a long time to get back..
      Thanks for the comment – I sense another blog post coming along 🙂

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