“Social Media Will Never Last!” was the title of the email screaming in my inbox this morning. Now before I panicked that one of my favorite past-times was headed to extinction, I took a moment to read the diatribe. Turns out social media is indeed alive and well, and the “Your Daily Success Tip” written by one of the wise women in my life, Dayna Steele, did an excellent job introducing me to an informative piece from Entrepreneur.com – 12 Social Media Mistakes That Entrepreneurs Make. I’d harbor an argument that these mistakes are made by entrepreneurs, corporations and individuals alike. And they are DEFINITELY made within contact centers and with many customer service organizations.
The very first discussion in the article was by Brian Solis of Altimeter Group. He says that the biggest social media mistake companies make is when the channel impact isn’t understood and is therefore ignored all together. I couldn’t agree more! In fact, that statement alone made me reflect back on two recent situations.
The first actually happened a few months ago. I was researching a rather expensive pet product and went out to social media to read reviews, get advice, and get validation that the product and company (we’ll call them Doggie Co.) were worth the investment. I certainly found more than I expected and probably none of what Doggie Co. intended. While the company itself didn’t have a social presence, one of their very disgruntled customer service reps did. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been dissuaded by the employee’s Twitter rants about Doggie Co., their customer service practices, and the product…but I was. I ended up not purchasing from them, and went merrily off to a competitor. I did though send the company an email informing them of what I found and what they were unintentionally ignoring. I am happy to say that today, they DO have a social media presence and are not ignoring the impact that social media provides. Now they are sharing customer experiences and properly exploiting the brand value they want to have.
As Solis says in the Entrepreneur article, “Let’s stop talking about social media and start talking about how customers can connect, learn, share. Take the time to really think about how you can use social (and mobile) to deliver value to customers and strengthen your brand promise.”
The second situation of ignoring social media came during the final judging process of the ICMI Global Call Center awards that were held at ACCE in May. When we asked Luke Jamieson, the Head of Member Services for UniSuper, who was a finalist and ultimately the winner of Best Small-to-Medium Call Center of the Year, to expound on their social media strategy progression, he said “We initially ignored social media as the value wasn’t appreciated. That all changed when we found ourselves in a social media crisis.”
Jamieson explained that the company had an unplanned situation that resulted in a lot of customers going out to social media to complain. At the time, UniSuper didn’t even have a Twitter handle, yet they had over 300 pages of tweets from customers hashtagging their dismay. Jamieson said that the contact center partnered with marketing to get control of the situation and that they now have a very robust process for social media in place. He clarified that it did take them some time to perfect the strategy though, as it was originally born out of duress. As Jamieson so eloquently said, “The contact center took over social media during a crisis; innovation is always the worst time when it is in crisis.”
In the same Entrepreneur article I referenced earlier, Ilise Benun from Marketing-Mentor.com cautions anyone from jumping into social media without a strategy and without knowing the market first.
Brad Cleveland echoes the need for a social media strategy in the ICMI Guide to Serving Customers Socially. In the eBook, he says, “Having an official presence in key social sites such as Facebook and Twitter is only a first step. Being part of “the conversation”– listening to customers and appropriately interacting with them where they are and as their needs dictate – is a powerful differentiator.”/
Cleveland clearly lays out the 5 key steps to successfully deliver customer service through social channels:
- Join the Conversation
- Harness the Contact Center’s Potential
- Reshape Your Customer Access Strategy
- Build All Interactions into Plans and Processes
- Cultivate Strategic Value
The bottom line is this – don’t fall into the trap of ignoring social media. Don’t be innovative only because of a crisis, or jump in without a plan, and don’t abandon when it gets hard. As the contact center, you can take control of the social customer service strategy. In the final words of the ICMI eBook, “Social channels are providing a significant opportunity to shape services that differentiate, build the organization’s brand, and, ultimately, have a positive impact on customers, employees and shareholders.”