Social Media Influencers Can Boost Customer Service’s Image
Companies naturally want to create and promote positive brand images. They spend loads of money to convince consumers that they are the best at what they do and that their products and services cannot be beat. How they meet that goal has changed through the years as alternative communication and entertainment channels emerged.
The rise of social media created a new type of promoter. Literally anyone with an Internet connection, a social media account, and a strong area of interest can influence others. They have long been sought by marketing departments, but now, businesses are trying to use these same social media influencers to enhance their customer service image, a process with potential as well as challenges.
The world constantly evolves. “An important change that happened recently with social media is that people connect in new ways, ones that they never had before,” says Grad Conn, chief experience and marketing officer at Sprinklr, a customer experience management (CXM) solutions provider. And with social distancing measures in place to control the spread of coronavirus, various social media channels look to play an even more vital role, in both our personal and business lives, in the months and years ahead.
These new channels are changing how consumers buy. In the past, customers looked to friends and family members for advice when making purchases. Then movie, TV, sports, and music celebrities moved the marketing needle. Nowadays, a new type of celebrity has at least as much influence, if not more, than all of them. Increasingly, consumers trust the opinion of online strangers much more than brand messaging, Conn notes.
Digital word of mouth is a phrase that Gartner coined to describe the process. The influencers’ rise started years ago with the emergence of bloggers and the use of long-form text-based content. Today, the emphasis is on visual messaging, like YouTube and Instagram, and anyone with a presence on those sites and a few followers can change opinions.
Still, not all content is relevant to everyone, and so it has become quite difficult for companies to cut through the clutter, says Sam Fiorella, a partner and customer experience strategist at Sensei Marketing. “There is so much information available today (Web 2.0, digital media, etc.) and so much noise (blogs, various news sources, etc.). Social media expanded content generation a hundredfold. Everyone is developing online content. With the change has come a growing feeling of skepticism. Individuals are leery of fake news. They look for trusted sources, turn inwardly, and rely on their peers more. Influencers gain their trust and offer companies an opportunity to quickly and directly link that trust to their brands.”
That’s as true in marketing as it is in customer service, the latest frontier for influencers.
When customers have bad experiences, many voice their displeasure by posting negative reviews or comments online. Rather than responding to the slights themselves, companies that provide excellent customer service create a strong, loyal customer base that ideally will advocate for them on their own and counter any negative impressions left by dissatisfied clients. Such groups have grown in importance because many social media exchanges skew toward the negative, inflammatory, and hyperbolic.
Companies are still searching for ways to leverage this emerging channel. “For customer service organizations, influencer marketing involves detecting satisfied clients and encouraging them to share their positive experiences with peers across social media portals, like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter,” says Omer Minkara, a vice president and principal analyst in Aberdeen’s Contact Center & Customer Experience Management Practice.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
Contact centers capture customer information in a variety of ways with call monitoring, surveys, web monitoring, and speech and sentiment analytics products. CRM programs aim to further increase value by looking at customer buying patterns. Social influencing offers contact centers a means to extend those tentacles further and gain new insights into customer behavior.
But companies need to make dramatic changes to take this step. They must extend their CRM functionality and data warehouses to capture and store social network information, such as an individual’s streams, messages, mentions, and likes. They also need tools that monitor those channels, identify content that mentions them, pinpoint the creator, and help them forge relationships with influencers.
A variety of solutions, dubbed influencer relationship management systems, emerged to fill this void. Vendors like Creator IQ, Four Starzz Media, Grin, Influative, Sprinklr, and Wooly sell these types of systems, which can identify items such as influencers’ interests, preferred ways of communication, social profiles, numbers of followers, and types of content produced.