Tag Archives: Perception

The personalised touch: Social CRM done well

imageI’ve been staying in an amazing hotel this week. I’m in Mexico to deliver a workshop and the hotel prides itself on its personalised service. 

I arrived to see a noticeboard welcoming me to the hotel.  A nice touch.  A Gin and Tonic arrived whilst I sat down and checked in and my own butler to unpack my clothes if I chose.  All good so far, and what I’d expect from a ‘special service’

But what made this hotel different was the service I received throughout my stay.  All of the waiters and staff knew my name and greeted me.  Different concierges were aware of conversations I’d had earlier in the day to other hotel staff.  Courtesy and politeness and a really personalised service made my stay really special.

And isn’t this what we strive for in our social media activities?

We struggle to get the engagement we want from blogging, Facebook and Twitter activities. 

We set targets that are impossible to achieve and hope our campaigns go viral.

We want our consumers to talk to us

But we often lack the personal touch

For example, if you have a Facebook page, what do you do with it?  Do you ask questions, use polls and competitions?  Do you offer coupons, or random fan of the day competitions?  Do you respond to interaction from your page fans?  Do you let your fans feel that they’re in control?

Or do you just broadcast? Do you never refer to any of your loyal fans by name?  Do you know what they like?  gin and Tonic?  Beer? Soda?  Do you know their habits?  Do you care?

My tips for improving your online relationships are:

  • Talk to your customers.  Respond to their comments early and encourage them to interact with each other on your comment stream.  From there you can gather data on who your top influencers for the page are
  • Give Twitter and Facebook based exclusive offers.  Dell have some great examples of how they generate a positive ROI on their social media activities
  • Involve your customers in decisions about the product and how they want the product or solution to evolve.  Remember how Marks and Spencer involved their customers in product naming of their Wedgehog.  You could do something similar for your product set.
  • Try polls to gauge customer reaction – and act on the polls
  • Try not to spam your audience.  If you work globally, then make sure that you talk to your fans on their time zone.  Make sure you know when to post your social media update

And remember the personalised service.  Online or offline, personal service will get you a much better response, will improve perception about your brand and make your customers return to you over and over again.

Just like I’ll return to the hotel where all of the waiters know my name Smile

 

Eileen is a social business strategist 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.

Image credit: Flickr

 

Getting paid to tweet about products?

I’m encouraged that the UK Office of Fair Training are clamping down on Tweeps  and bloggers that are paid to be effusive about products whilst not admitting that they receive payment.  The use of Twitter reaches new heights for communication (there were 6,939 Tweets per second sent on January 1st according to the Twitter blog).  People are communicating more, and celebrities have a huge set of followers.  So should they append tweets with ‘ad’ or similar to show that they have been paid to do this?

In companies like Microsoft, bloggers and Tweeps receive a salary, so it’s natural that they would enthuse about company products.  Their opinions are (generally) their own and they put a personal perspective to the standard PR campaign about the product.  But celebrities don’t tend to work for companies so is it right that they get paid to talk about consumer products.

Look at the TV adverts.  The voice over, or the ad itself shows celebrities talking about the product.  They don’t explicitly say that they are being paid to advertise the product.  We’re intelligent enough to assume that they are.  So why do the OFT need to get Tweeps to ‘explicitly state’ that they are promoting products.  Surely we all just assume that they are being paid when they enthuse.  or are we assumed to be so dim. that we blindly assume that they love these items AND have been paid for them?  Did all of those women actually buy those dresses they wear at the Golden Globe awards or the Oscars?  Surely not…

But does the fact that these celebrities endorse brands, and enthuse about them mean that  we’re going to be more influenced by them and buy goods?  We’re much more likely to buy products recommended by our peers (figures vary from twice to  4 times more likely to do this).  But are we more likely because a celebrity endorses the brand.

Do we now class these celebrities our peers and our friends just because we follow them on Twitter? 

There are new rules for online advertising that are coming out in March and they now include User Generated Content (UGC) on web sites.  Here’s a snip from the code

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When the new code comes out in March 2011, will Tweets from paid celebrities be included in the CAP remit?  Will it change the way that Facebook page campaigns work.  It will be interesting to watch things develop…

Perhaps I’m too cynical – but I’m less likely to buy something that a celebrity has endorsed  – whether they are paid for endorsing the product or not.  I’d much rather consider something that one of my first degree connections has enthused about. 

Or AM I too cynical?? Smile

 

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Crisis What Crisis?

This is an article that I wrote for the January edition of IT Now which was published this week

 

imageYou already know that social media is changing the way you find information and will fundamentally change the way you interact online.  But with the media focus on errors, mistakes and PR disasters, how do you reassure your executives that if things do go wrong, you have an effective and workable process in place to mitigate the effects if it occurs at your company?

Many companies also don’t have an effective crisis management plan in place.  They have no procedures to deal with an online or crisis catastrophic physical event involving their employees and the results can be devastating. Therefore, companies that are starting to use social media for communication or customer support should consider having a comprehensive structured procedure to cover all possibilities, potential issues and aspects of managing a crisis.

Consider the problems that Toyota had earlier this year with vehicle product recalls and issues with brakes and accelerator pedals.  Toyota initially had no plans in place to deal with communications with customers and remained largely silent until the crisis had escalated to global proportions. The media speculated on what was happening, community forums were reporting stories, complaints, and criticism of the company. Toyota had an estimated 10% wiped off the value of the brand.  When the crisis continued to grow people were kept well informed by blogs and Tweets.  But these messages seemed to have come too late to keep the reputation of the brand.

This type of issue, and others like it, could be minimised by implementing an effective brand monitoring program that watches for change of sentiment about the brand, and looks for spikes in user engagement or dissatisfaction.  This approach could avoid nascent PR problems which might go unnoticed by the brand. Early action by the brand can turn issues into non-issues due to early engagement with customers.

Engagement and proactive conversation which reduces the customer’s pain and keeps them informed is a good approach to minimising the effects of a crisis.  If you keep your customers satisfied by regular communications they will turn to your channel and not turn to the media for information.  When issues arise, companies who keep the media and customers informed will avoid speculation about what is happening.  In December 2008, Ford had an issue with a long running Ford fan site called the Ranger Station. Ford sent the owners of the site a ‘cease and desist’ letter requesting that they dropped the use of the name ‘Ranger’. The news spread like wildfire across many Ford user forums which quickly looked like Ford’s actions were turning into a PR disaster. Scott Monty, Fords social media manager systematically minimised the effects of the PR firestorm within 24 hours using social media channels.  Scott satisfied the customers’ needs to know what was going on in almost real time, keeping the community informed and happy.  This stopped speculation on other 3rd party web sites and drew attention right back to where the news was happening – from the team that was involved – at Ford.

Usual PR diversionary tactics and tricks – delay, deflect, defend weren’t needed at all – and this helped in the crisis management strategy. What worked much better was honesty, candour and total transparency – which is a much better tactic.

Having an effective crisis management plan in place is important and all outbound communicators need to be aware of the new procedures. But adding it to your employee terms and conditions without any proactive approach will not work when a crisis hits.  Your policy amendment needs to be rolled out to each and every member of staff but what’s the best way to go about this?

Here are some considerations for implementing your crisis management plan.

  1. Educate everyone in the company.  Offer half day training sessions tailored to everyone in the business, or offer online e-learning.  Make the training mandatory and phase it in over several weeks to make sure you train everyone in the business from the C suite to the admin team. Everyone needs to be aware of the new policy and how it will affect them.  Make sure your training rollout includes provision for new members of staff joining after the training has completed
  2. Set expectations.  Although everyone throughout the business will not be using social media in their day job, they need to be aware of the impact that it might have on the business and they will need to become brand advocates offline.  With the growth of your online brand presence they might get questions offline, and need to be able to know how to deal with any questions about policy, strategy etc.
  3. Roll the policy.  Make sure everyone signs the amendment to their terms and conditions.  If they are going to use social media, then they need to be trained first – so they can help and guide others who may be new to corporate blogging / social media activities etc.
  4. Put a process in place so that any outbound communications by anyone in the company is done with the knowledge of the line manager and HR. 
  5. Find someone within the organisation to become the social media evangelist.  Often the company doesn’t realise the commitment they have already invested in the company, so to having a great communicator on your side is invaluable.   They will help communicate your strategy to the execs.
  6. Have a centralised list of people who do outbound communications so you know who to direct your communications to inside the office.
  7. If you have the resources, monitor each employee’s use of their chosen business social media channels to be able to proactively respond to any issues that may occur.
  8. Have an effective crisis management plan in place.  Involve the Communications team and the PR team.  Make this plan part of your social media policy.
  9. Make sure you have enough people who can listen to the outbound stream to detect if a crisis develops and act accordingly.
  10. Revisit the plan and make sure it’s refreshed often.  Unlike the employee handbook, social media changes often so you need to be flexible.

Having an effective and workable plan in place will mitigate the issues if a crisis occurs. After all, the difference between a crisis and an emergency is that everyone is drilled in emergency procedures (think fire crews and cabin crew).  With an effective crisis management plan and procedures in place, you can add your social media emergency drill to your standard implementation plan, drill everyone and make everyone aware of what they need to do when – or if the crisis arrives.

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Proactive Twitter support from BT

I’ve praised BT in my book about their attitude towards social media and how they effectively use it for customer service.  Well, not only do they have reactive support towards queries and complaints (they listen for mentions of their name on Twitter) they also do proactive follow in care.

I’ve had problems with my broadband for a few months now, with intermittent outages and reduced download speeds and I noted my issues by web submission followed by this Tweet. BT  responded really quickly on Twitter, sent an engineer round and I had service back within a few days.

This morning I got the Tweet below.  BT were proactively checking up to see if my broadband was ok.

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Actually, my broadband is a bit slow, but up constantly.  I reported the change in download speeds, got the other tweet on the screen grab above followed by a phone call from an engineer.

That’s really proactive service – and all over Twitter.

Social media can work really well in customer service situations.  Companies can really get close to their customers and engage directly with them for the issues.  Adding proactive follow up can only enhance the customers experience and improve perception about the brand. 

However, this customer service plan needs to be implemented alongside the existing customer service process and seamlessly incorporated with all of the other ways to connect.  The customer can then choose the way that they want to talk to the company, switch between modes of communication without loss of information, whilst moving towards a satisfactory customer conclusion.  My communications with BT so far have included SMS Text message, Twitter, phone, face to face and web.   The experience hasn’t been too bad, although in each of the face to face visits I’ve had, there has been a little breakdown in communication.  The engineers weren’t fully briefed on the complete fault history.  A small hurdle – easily fixed.

But overall, the follow up tweet has really impressed me and My perception of BT is so much higher than it would be if I’d received a damn satisfaction survey assuming all was hunky dory.  Nice one BT Smile

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Why customers want an emotional shopping experience

Its interesting to watch people talk about how ecommerce is evolving – for the last 2 years, the buzz words and focus has been on mobile, mobile, mobile – now its on social social social.  Our purchasing trends are evolving and they are evolving to include our online friends.

We used to operate in a transactional way – think of other shopping sites you’ve visited and how these sites made you feel.  With 5 or 6 screens to complete your purchase, it often isn’t a pleasant experience.

To capture the hearts and minds of the consumer, the shopping and purchasing experience needs to be emotional, to reverse the trend away from the transaction and towards the emotional experience.  The problem is that large brands have so many barriers and processes in place that there is no space to interact or connect effectively with the consumers.  So what do the consumers do?

imageThey go and congregate in groups and forums online where their voice will be heard.  Think of flyertalk – for frequent flyers.  A great community which shares knowledge amongst its members.  Think of Trip advisor which can make or break the experience for the traveller.

(This one was highlighted at a recent session I want to – and it made me smile – although other reviews were just as bad for this hotel in Flagstaff Arizona… )

 

What this highlights is that peer reviews will influence the way that you shop.  With the ability to recommend places, items, things for purchase and push these recommendations to your friends, you can influence their buying decisions and choices.  With a recommendation from their friends, are 4 times more likely to buy.

These recommendations make your brand socially worthy.  And socially worthy is really good currency in the social media world.

If your brand is socially worthy, your social worth will drive more volume and reinforce your brand in an effective way.  having experience here will really help – otherwise you’ll drive customers away.

Mobile devices  and engaging mobile apps are a really effective way to get customers to engage, but its not all about the application, it’s about the experience and the customer engagement.  And the customer wants to engage.  With proper engagement the customer is in control.  Brands shouldn’t chase the mobile channel or the social channel to the exclusion of everything else – they should be engaging holistically.  Delta’s Facebook page is a great example of holistic engagement:

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Booking a flight now all occurs within Facebook.  There’s no reason to go to the Delta Web site to book a flight.  The Flight booking experience is streamlined, simplified and shareable with your friends in Facebook.  You are in control.  No wonder customers love their ticket buying experience.

It seems like such a small thing to do to simplify the experience, but often the structure of the organisation holds simple innovations like this hold them back from innovation, back from improving the shopping experience.  Finding innovation like this example, and other things that no one has done before, can have a huge impact on the customers experience – and their perception of the company, and blend that experience into a physical experience in the shop (or at the airport in Delta’s case)

Changing the experience fundamentally, putting the customer in control will change the way that they think about your brand – which will encourage more social conversation, engagement and feedback

Which begs the question – Is your brand actually yours to control? Perhaps democratisation of your brand might be the best thing for it…?

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