The Double Edged Sword of Social Media and Customer Service
Social CRM Applications Link Customer Service to Social Customers
Social media has brought with it an evolution of the social customer, and few areas of business are as dramatically impacted as customer service. Support and service problems used to be something between service reps and their customers. Today, that relationship is shared with a third participant, the customers peer group, which may include millions of people connected by social networks, review sites, niche communities or even microblogs such as Twitter. This third member to the relationship brings a market amplification effect -and the more egregious the service failure, the more likely it is that failure will be repeated and reach more eyes and ears.
To mitigate a negative viral response, and capitalize on the upside amplification opportunity, a new customer service strategy is required to deal with this new reality. Social customers present an opportunity for customer service departments to step up to a more proactive role by becoming involved in customer conversations earlier; to not only address problems, but also answer questions, suggest better ways of using a product or service and, perhaps most importantly, learn from customers about new and innovative ways to use a product or service in ways the business never contemplated. And by acting as a peer in the conversation, service can help build customer affinity and establish the business as a partner or even a thought leader.
Moving customer service organizations from a reactive to a proactive posture requires a cultural shift and a reassessment of the value of service to retaining customers, with an accompanying shift in budgetary priorities. But the customer conversations are already taking place, and people are already talking about businesses and their product or service failures, in many cases saying things that are so damaging they should trigger immediate and fundamental changes to companies' service philosophies. Read more »
Social Media Reality Check | Identifying the Right Time for Social Media Adoption
Learning Social Media Success From Governments and Toilet Paper Manufacturers
Most governments are arguably pretty conservative when it comes to information technology (IT). Government agencies don't usually move too quickly on the latest technologies, and more often then not, they tend to be laggards and eventually adopt new technologies only long after they've been embraced by private sector IT departments.
So when government does something with new technology, that most commercial companies do not, it gets noticed. That's what caught my eye in an IDG News Service story about how the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is a leading sponsor in making extreme use of social media for its staff and contractors.
In fact, the story chronicled how the DoD has been busy creating a wide range of social media tools and business software applications, including several social networking sites, blogs and even a DoD Wiki site called milWiki.
The promotion and acceptance of social media applications in the DoD's operations has significantly evolved over the last several years as methods have been found to maintain information security and data privacy for users while contributing to the DODs mission.
David Dejewski, of the DoD Business Transformation Office, spoke about the progress recently at the FedTalks 2010 conference. "If we can do it, and we can offer all of our global staff access to this thing, so can you guys," Dejewski told the audience which included many other federal bureaus and private organizations. Read more »
Is It Time To Create a Company Blog?
Successful Blogs Personify Companies and Engage Customers
Perhaps you've implemented a stable and successful IT infrastructure, with everything from ERP to CRM to BPM. Your IT staff efficiently manage your business software systems, your customer service team keeps customers happy and your sales team is winning new business.
Maybe you even have a Web site and online presence that's second to none, bringing in website visitors and new leads that are fueling your success into the future.
But perhaps you have held back in an area outside your comfort zone. You haven't entered the world of business blogging. Could this be you?
Does the idea of blogging to a universe of anonymous readers make you uncomfortable or do you just think it's a waste of time? It's okay. There are plenty of other business and IT managers out there who aren't convinced it's worth their time and effort. There are definitely two sides to this story.
There are those businesses on the sidelines who watch their blog-savvy competitors take advantage of yet another customer communication innovation that helps engage customers and bring in more business. And there are the businesses that aren't blogging because their customers may not be Web-savvy and aren't interested in getting their content online. Read more »
A Social Media Business Lesson from Pep Boys
Learning From the Online Experiences of Others
I was a bit surprised to receive an e-mail from Pep Boys, an 80-year-old, Philadelphia-based retail auto parts store, touting their new social media programs. I was also curious why and how an auto parts business is implementing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and even their new iPhone application.
So I rang up Scott Allen, the company's marketing director, to better understand why this almost century-old business was diving headlong into social media.
The idea, Allen responded, was to get outside the company's comfort zone and try to engage new customers. And to do that effectively, he said, means using the online communications that those new customers are using, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and even iPhones. "Our strategy includes being a part of the social media conversation," he said. "We want to reach different demographics and also send a message to customers, 'how can we help you as a service provider?'"
Like many businesses before them, Pep Boys began their foray into social media as an experiment. About a year ago the company opened its Facebook fan page and haphazardly tried to grow its followers. At that time, though, there was not a lot of direction to the business experiment.
That's now changed. Pep Boys has a dedicated internal resource and two external PR people helping them get their Twitter account, Facebook fan page, YouTube channel and iPhone strategies into the air with a true flight plan, Allen said.
How are these social channels helping Pep Boys grow their business? Read more »
An New Look at Data Privacy Mitigation Strategies
Data Privacy Concerns, Threats and Vulnerabilities Elevate
Data breaches and compromises by hackers, accidental data losses through stolen laptops or smartphones, improper records disposal: let us count the ways that your business and customer data can be stolen, misplaced, misused and misappropriated.
So how is your company proactively mitigating this threat? Do you have a tested plan in place to prevent data theft or loss? Are you doing all that you can do to encrypt your customer and business data so that it cannot be used if misappropriated or lost? Do you have an executive sponsor in your company that is aware of this threat and championing the protection of the company's data?
If not, the odds are it's only a matter of time before your company will incur a data theft or loss of some type. These things happen; particularly to the unprepared.
It's what you do to prevent disasters and how you respond to them that makes the difference between a successful response strategy and the viral escalation of a headline grabbing and embarrassing news story.
HealthCareInfoSecurity.com carried a story about the importance and rising popularity of corporate privacy officers (CPOs). The article discussed how increasing data security threats mean that the next generation of Chief Privacy Officers need the latest technical and business skills so they can aid their companies in better protecting their customers and employees by making their data impenetrable. Read more »
A Business Lesson in the Social Media Learning Curve
Nestle Provides a Lesson Learned in Social Media Adoption
Smart social media requires careful planning, iterative roll outs and caution when the unexpected occurs. Unfortunately, several companies otherwise forward thinking and social media initiatives have been thwarted by knee jerk reactions when customers don't react as expected.
Consider the case of Nestle. Like many businesses before it, the Switzerland-based food company created a Fan Page on the social media site, Facebook, so that its millions of customers can get information and discuss the company and its products. While a simple and seemingly benign move, the company demonstrated foresight in opening a new channel to better communicate with customers.
With almost 100,000 fans on their Facebook Fan page, Nestle apparently became upset when some of those customers and friends of the company began modifying Nestle's posted logo and including it in their own profile pictures. Sure, we can all understand that Nestle probably saw it as an affront to their brand or trademark, but this is a fan-based Web site where social customers are very emotional about everything from politics to religion to music to sports to their favorite stores and brands. However, instead of harvesting the upside and passion they saw from their Facebook friends, Nestle's staff posted a web page telling them to knock it off or they would delete fan posts and images. It seems that after a Facebook fan modified a Nestle logo to use as an avatar, the Nestle corporate suites responded in a very Web 1.0 kind of way. To no social media experts surprise, fans were dismayed and vocal. Read more »
Social Listening: The New Integral Component of Customer Service
Real-Time Online Monitoring to Respond, Resolve and Retain Customers
It seems so simple. Your company's reputation is critically important to your business for recruiting, sales, customer retention, and in today's world of more competition, your very livelihood.
So what actions are you taking to ensure that your company is being seen in a good light online? Do you have a resource in your company monitoring the Internet to ensure that online remarks or fires are being put out quickly? Are you getting real-time notification Alerts from Google when your business is discussed online in a news story or a blog posting? If you aren't, you should be as you are missing an opportunity to safeguard your reputation and connect with customers.
How so? Well, if your customers are complaining or ranting about your company online, you want to know so you can do something about it quickly. Its now all part of a comprehensive customer service program, and applies even if customers aren't calling your toll-free number and ranting over the telephone. Further, if you find them by seeking them out on whatever channel or social network they have chosen, they will be even more impressed and will likely feel that you care about addressing their concerns.
Maybe even bigger, new prospects will witness your company spokesperson responding to the customer complaint personally online, in a timely fashion, and those potential customers will from the outset retain good feelings about dealing with your business in the future.
Just last week Matt Heusser, a software developer and tester for social software platform vendor Socialtext of Palo Alto, CA., published a blog post on the Software Test Pro Website. Heusser put together an interesting story about the comparisons he sees between a Perdue Farms chicken packaging conveyor belt and the pros and cons for Software-as-a-Service reliability. If the chicken conveyor belt stops, or the SaaS vendors connectivity or service is halted, your business stops in its tracks, he wrote.
Heusser's blog post, "Software Lessons from Perdue Chicken," then dove into SaaS and his recent real-life experiences with Quickbooks Online from tax preparation and business accounting software vendor Intuit. Read more »
A Social Media Hoax Illustrates The Line Between Engagement and Embarrassment
Customers Don't Appreciate Being Lied To or Toyed With
As your business continues to experiment with Twitter to take advantage of the immediacy that surrounds this innovative social media and customer engagement tool, sound judgment should recognize that this is a tool, and not a toy, and that used immaturely such immediacy can be your worst enemy.
How so? Consider the case of the Washington Post sports reporter who was suspended from his job for a month for using Twitter in an experiment to see how quickly a false rumor could be circulated on the Web.
In covering the unfortunate incident on The Washington Post's Web site, the paper announced that veteran sports reporter Mike Wise was suspended after he posted a false news story about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Wise tweeted that the quarterback, who was accused of a sexual assault earlier in the year, would be suspended for five games by the NFL. The well known quarterback was previously handed down a six game suspension by the league, but it was widely reported that the suspension could be shortened.
Wise sent out his false tweet before any action was actually taken, in order to see how long it would take for the bogus news to circulate online, according to the Post story.
"Wise had planned to fess up 5 minutes later with another tweet but allegedly didn't notice, while doing his WJFK-FM radio show, that his Twitter account had frozen, part of a temporary glitch, and his post did not appear until 30 to 40 minutes later," the Post story explained. "In a later tweet, Wise joked that his source was a casino employee in Lake Tahoe. He later explained on the radio show that he was attempting to demonstrate that anyone will print anything." Read more »
Adjusting Your Business Strategy for the Social Media Evolution
Accelerated Obsolescence Requires a Social Media Diversification Strategy
As your organization explores the many options available to communicate with your customers using social media tools and platforms, remember one key lesson: beware of "the next big thing." Change happens quickly in information technology (IT) - and it occurs even faster in the world of social media.
Consumers are the driving force in social media tools adoption, and consumers are a fickle group, well known to switch social media tools or platforms when the "next big thing" comes along that provides superior each of use, better design, greater personalization, integration with other tools or any of several other factors.
Jumping ship to the next social media experience is fine for your customers, but it can throw a wrench in your company's social strategy or social media plans if you've put all of your labors into social media platforms that are on the verge of being replaced with something new.
Despite social media tools volatility and accelerated obsolescence, companies must invest into something for to wait for the social media market to stabilize may be a very long wait, and in the meantime you're missing the opportunity to expand social conversations with your customers and grow your business. The necessary balance is to get into the game, however, not put all of your social media eggs into one basket.
Remember America Online? Remember when it was the 800-pound gorilla in online communications. That may seem like lifetimes ago, but it was actually 1995. So what if you had sunk all of your online strategy and investment into AOL back then? They wouldn't get you very far today. AOL has nowhere near the cache that it once did and its current relevance, and viability, is questioned by many. Read more »
Social Media Gone Wrong
Not All Social Media is Good Social Media
Many businesses are working hard to explore and implement new methods to communicate with their prospects and customers using social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. But for some companies, the customer and media attention they're getting on these social networks isn't exactly what they had in mind when they kicked off their initiatives. The experience of the big retailer, Target, comes to mind.
Target did what it's permitted to do by law and made a $150,000 political contribution to a candidate for governor in Minnesota. The company is headquartered is in Minneapolis. The issue for Target was that the donation was made to a Republican candidate who does not support gay rights. So what do people do when they're angered by politicians, stores, service companies and anything else? They post rants online via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networks.
And that's what happened to Target. Someone who didn't share the retailers political beliefs got upset and created a "Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics" fan page on Facebook.
In less than a month, it grew to almost 74,000 fans and is still growing. The fan page list the phone numbers for Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel and for the customer service department so that supporters of the anti-Target campaign can voice their displeasure by telephone. Despite being a common practice for companies to donate to political candidates, within Government guidelines, Steinhafel issued an apology for the donation and said that such policies will be reviewed. Read more »