Tagged: Social Media Today

Social customer service: it is ‘legitimately difficult’ (Social Media Today webinar)

Last week I tuned-in to a Social Media Today webinar about customer service.  One of the participants was Dave Evans (@evansdave) from Lithium.  He had a number of interesting charts which made clear the extent to which customers or consumers now have an expectation that brands will be able to deliver an on-line respond to their specific issues and question – especially in terms of response to Twitter questions.  No great surprises here, I wrote this about the future of customer service back in 2009, but it is good to finally see this sort of thing hitting the mainstream.

However there was one thing he said that stood out – and which I will surely drop into all of my talks and presentations.  He said this stuff is ‘legitimately difficult’.  I loved that.  Obviously he has an interest in suggesting this because if something were easy, why would you spend a lot of money with Lithium doing it?  But he is right.  The easy thing to do in social media is simply fill-up the void with industrial quantities of content.  The difficult thing to do is listen and respond to your customers.  But if a brand wants to operate in the social digital space – that is what it is going to have to do, no two ways about it (as this study from Edelman clearly demonstrates).

Brands have to recognise that they are increasingly operating within the community of their customers.  A community is not an audience and you can’t treat it as such by pushing messages at it.  A community is something you have to listen and respond to.  It is why social media is a behaviour identification and response challenge, whereas traditional (audience-based) marketing is a channel and message (reach and frequency) challenge.  Traditional media is a medium of distribution: social media is a medium of connection.  Traditional media is high reach but low engagement: social media is low reach but high engagement (if you do it properly).

But many brands still don’t get this.  They are pursuing brandfill strategies which, to paraphrase Dave, are ‘ illegitimately easy’.

Seamless omni-channel customer experiences. Did the customer order one of these?

omnichannelYesterday I received an email invitation for a Social Media Today webinar which posed the question “are you providing an omni-channel customer experience?”  Now I have a suspicion that in 10 or 15 years time when marketing has finally moved-on, we are all going to look back at this sort of stuff and shake our heads.  How was it that we ever got ourselves caught up in such tangled nonesense, we will ask.

A ridiculous term like omni-channel customer experience is only born when we need to use language to disguise a fundamental gap in understanding.  Terms like this are a sure sign that we don’t really know what we are talking about.  We are just making things up that sound good and have the reassurance of seeming vaguely familiar.

According to Caitlin McCulloch, Director of Community Marketing at Social Media Today “Omni-channel marketing focuses on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available channels, including mobile Internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog, and so on. When brands think customer experience, they need to think omni.”  A seamless omni-channel customer experience in fact – even better.

The problem here is that the social digital space is not about channels and messages (reach and frequency) and generic customer experiences.  It is about behaviour identification and response:  it works in a completely different way.  It is well nigh impossible to have a conversation with the same person in multiple channels.  You can only have a conversation with an audience in multiple channels – but the social digital space is the world of the individual, not the world of the audience.  A concept like a seamless omni-channel customer experience can only ever work in the world of the audience: the world of traditional marketing.  It just has no relevance in the social digital space, where people need to be treated as individuals.

Brands may want to bombard their customers with omni-channel experiences, but customers cannot, and will not, reciprocate.  They just want to talk to brands through whatever channel is most appropriate to them at any given moment in time.  The customer selects the channel and they never select an omni-channel.  The only part of this that needs to be omni is the ability for a brand to be available on all the channels, thus have to ability to listen and respond at the time and in the place that its’ customers want.

Customers don’t want ‘customer experiences’.  When has a customer ever asked for a ‘customer experience’?  They want brands to listen to them give them answers to questions in as close to their time (i.e. real time) as possible.  In fact, the closest thing to an omni-channel, from a customers’ perspective, is Google.

But hey, providing a seamless omni-channel customer experience sounds really great. It fits into the statement “we at x brand are totally committed to providing a …”  It then opens the way for agencies who can then sell seamless omni-channel customer experience marketing solutions.  Ker-ching and everyone is happy (except the customer of course).


Is Ryanair right to eschew social media?

FireShot Screen Capture #127 - 'Ryanair's new comms chief to eschew social media I PR & public relations news I PRWeek' - www_prweek_com_uk_bulletin_prweekukdaily_article_1168936_ryanairs-new-comms-chief-eschew-sociaPR Week in the UK is running this story about the decision of Robin Kiely,  Ryanair’s new head of comms to to dismiss the value of social media engagement.  Is he right to do this?  Absolutely, in my opinion.  Ryanair is an organisation that has been hugely successful despite a studious disregard for customer service.  I am fond of contrasting the corporate stories of Ryanair and easyJet.  The story of the later is “you only pay for what you want” and the story of the former is “you only get what you pay for”.  In this respect, Ryanair is being absolutely true to it corporate story.

Kiely is quoted in the article thus:

‘A Facebook account would not be helpful to us, as we would have so many people looking for a response.’

He called the social network a ‘two-way tool’ and said maintaining a dedicated account would probably mean ‘hiring two more people just to sit on Facebook all day’.

‘If customers want to get in touch, the methods are there,’ he added, referring to the brand’s customer care line.

Spot on.  A dedicated Facebook account would mean hiring two people just to sit on Facebook all day.  For most organisations this would be a productive use of two people’s time because: a) it would demonstrate that the organisation takes its customers seriously and, b) it would provide the organsiation with valuable intelligence about what its customers want.  But Ryanair is not ‘most organisations’.  It is the exception which proves the rule when it comes to customer service.

In many ways this approach to social media is less insulting, and less ineffective, than the approach of many organisations who simply outsource the management of their Facebook presence to an agency,  At least Kiely recognises that you need to put dedicated people onto managing Facebook, and better to promote the customer care line upfront, rather than respond to Facebook enquiries with a standard “Thanks for you question, please call our customer care line on this number” response.

Co-incidentally, Rynair was discussed in the SMTLive webinar on ‘Marketing and Customer Service’ organised by Social Media Today on Tuesday – i.e. before Kiely’s statement. You can download the audio here.   It was a good session (as have been all the recent SMT webinars in recent weeks – I recommend you sign-up).  I think it was  either Frank Eliason (he of former @ComcastCares fame)  or Carol Borghesi who made the point that effective customer service is all about being “true to who you are.”  And that, or course, is exactly is what Ryanair is doing.

(But I would still always prefer to fly easyJet – provided, of course, that they can get me where I want to go, when I want to go there, from an airport I want to fly from, at a competitive price.  And therein lies the rub.)

A radical thought on brand ambassadors (prompted by @coryedwards and Social Media Today)

Here is a thought to end the week.  There is a view out there that a good way to use social media is to find  and cultivate a group of people who can become brand ambassadors – representatives of a brand within the consumer community.  I don’t support this approach.  I think a much better approach is to use social media to establish consumer ambassadors within your brand.

The key to this is understanding the difference between a super-fan and a brand ambassador.  A super-fan is someone who, for whatever reason, has a particular passion or interest in your brand.  There will not be many of them (almost always significantly less than one per cent of your consumer base).  These are also the same people that might appear to qualify as brand ambassadors.  However, these people rarely want to talk to the rest of your consumers, they would much prefer to talk to other people like them, or to the brand itself.  Even if they did want to represent your brand, you would have to question their suitability – because, by definition, they will not be representative of your consumers.  They may even come across as rather strange to the 99.9 per cent who don’t share their particular passion.

So – to use these people effectively, you need to go with their flow.  You need to motivate the behaviours that they are already inclined towards, and this generally means involving them in your business, rather than promoting your business.

I was prompted to write this having tuned in to the #allthingscustomer  webinar yesterday organised by Social Media Today.  Not sure if this will be podcasted – but if it is, it is well worth checking out (watch this space).  @coryedwards from Dell was talking about how Dell had identified “ranters and ravers” from their social media monitoring.  Rather than try and convert the ranters and encourage the ravers to go and rave some more (i.e. become brand ambassadors), what Dell did was bring these people together, offline, with the people from Dell who were seen as activators – i.e. the key Dell people who needed to hear what these people had to say and were empowered to go and do something with this information.  Basically Dell was creating customer ambassadors within the organisation.  Dell originally held two of these session and this year they are holding 20 – from which we can assume that this idea is working.  I wonder if any brands have set up a Customer Embassy within their organisations.  Might be an interesting idea.

(This is really a build on a previous post about digital influence http://richardstacy.com/2012/05/15/are-digital-influencers-actually-that-important/)