Traditional call centres invest a lot of time and money into defining the conversation process, and digital marketers should too:
- Who does/says what and when?
- Style/writing guidelines.
- Ideal posting times.
- What are the on- and off-ramps for each conversation?
- When is the customer ready to take action – and what action in particular?
Social Media (SM) is the new call centre of our time – and it’s much more effective because, not only does a SM campaign engage your customers, if executed strategically, it turns them into your best customers — and as a significant spill-over effect showcases the entire interaction for anyone that is following your company on that particular SM platform.
All marketers must define the conversation process for their own campaigns. Unlike the call centre world, you will need a bit more flexibility when using social media, but the success of your campaign will depend on keeping the desired outcomes in mind during each conversation – and optimizing on the fly. This begs the question, how do you orchestrate this conversation – strategically? We think the marketer must focus on 3 main tactics:
- Social Media Listening: You need to listen to your customers across all SM platforms and develop fairly detailed buyer personas for each – so you can engage with them in an organic, customer centric way – with information and fresh content that is customized for them (get it, “customer”). Analytics provides marketers with insights that will help you to develop the kinds of content and messaging that will give your company a competitive advantage – creating customer loyalty – and give your company an easy and fast way to conduct extensive research on social attitudes and brand effectiveness. Marketers have always strived to know their customers: who they are and what they want – but in 2015 and beyond, they need to understand their needs 24×7.
- Speed: According to a recent article in The Globe & Mail ,brands received almost 22 million questions on Facebook and Twitter in 2014 – and took an average of 27 hours to reply – which in an age of “instant” everything – is at least 26 hours too slow. By responding to your customer quickly and in a personal way – you gain customer loyalty – even if that customer is complaining. The entire audience following you on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will gain insight into who you are as a company.
- Know the Value of Authentic Conversations – both online and offline: People want to know that there is a real person on the other end of social media. They want their question, compliment, concern or issue addressed directly, not just managed by a bot or with a bunch of canned responses.
It is those authentic conversations that will keep a customer engaged. Just like a traditional call centre, where you speak directly to a person and they help you through the reason for your call, social media can provide that level of care and interest in a much more effective and efficient manner when managed well.
A great example of creating authentic customer service conversations can be seen in the way restaurants, hotels, airlines or travel agencies manage reviews and complaints through social media. The way in which these are handled can truly make or break a brand these days.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel (Harvard Business Review) had just a situation when they failed to deliver a wake-up call on time to a woman who was subsequently late for an important business meeting.
The hotel offered her several complimentary services – but, most importantly, upon return to her room that evening, she found a hand-written apology from the General Manager. Rather than complain about the hotel, she raved about it to her friends and colleagues. You can’t buy advertising as impactful as this!
Another example of an effective SM interaction was delivered via YouTube to JetBlue customers who’d been stranded in a plane on the ground for nearly eight hours. It was both timely and widely repeated in more traditional media (newspapers, TV) that, since the apology was both timely and sincere, made an impact on a huge number of offline or “real life” consumers.
To paraphrase what they say about PR – even negative social media, handled correctly, can have a huge positive effect.
Social Media IS today’s call centre: it offers immediacy, reach, flexibility and economies of scale that the most high-tech and innovative telephone-based call centre cannot replicate. The rewards of a well-executed strategy based on the development of customer personas, diligent listening/analytics, quick response and optimization – and maintenance of total accountability (with authentic conversations when appropriate) are the keys to success.