Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Role of Social Media in Simple Terms

Wind the clock way, way back. Look at retailing before telephones and radios. Customer service was a personal experience that happened at the place of business. Want to visit with other customers, visit with your neighbors as the smaller towns all supported the local merchants and the merchants generally listened or went out of business. Wind the clock forward and retailers are on a steady path to greater and greater levels of isolation with their customers. Most retailers today have no real "forum" for customers to share ideas or unique experiences with each other much less share these ideas with the vendors/retailers.

That's the basis for social media in the business world. Creation and fostering of a community of customers and company representatives that allow for a free flowing dialog of ideas, feedback and sadly, problems. The problems need to be quickly addressed so as not to sour the balance of the conversations. The best thing is to create a sidebar conversation of some sort to resolve the issue and then publish to all that the issue was successfully resolved. Never leave a posted complaint without a notice of resolution.

This model puts the responsibility for social media in the hands of Marketing/Sales with problem resolution the responsibility of Customer Service. Don't mix these 2 together. Marketing needs to focus on growing the loyalty of the customer base. Customer Service needs to address the problems.

In fact, in a well run Customer Service model, customers are advised to use designated support channels when they have a problem and not rely on Twitter or Facebook for answers. On-line support forums are not the same as "social media" per se but are a great place to allow customers to help each other provided they are properly moderated. Do not mix these forums with other social media channels.

Those companies that have complaints and problems being reported on their social media sites on a regular basis have a failed Customer Service system. It's no more complicated than that.

Remember the old adage, "Praise in public, reprimand in private." This applies to social media as well.

If you would like help defining and deploying an effective Social Media strategy alongside your Customer Service system, CEP, Inc. can help. Please contact us for a free evaluation of your existing systems.