The Time to Act

Kevin Smith’s tweeted frustrations with Southwest Airlines, the 9 million-plus views of the YouTube video “United Breaks Guitars,” Nestlé’s fiasco on its Facebook fan page. These are just a few of the recent headline-making stories about brands’ names suffering via customers’ complaints on social media. In the midst of all this negative press, however, we fail to take a good look at the innovative and exciting positives that social media can bring to CRM.

First, however, let’s quickly summarize this new medium. Just years ago, a few friends and a customer service representative would have been the only audience for a customer offering complaints or praise. Today, however, each time a popular Twitter user or a frequent contributor to Yelp makes mention of a brand, hundreds, often thousands, and sometimes even millions, take note.

And that’s where CRM—in particular opportunities for positive, brand-building CRM—come into play. The same large pool of consumers who see the brand mentions on social media also take note of the CRM response. Companies, therefore, have the opportunity to please (and, yes, if done poorly, anger) not only the individual who made the initial mention, but all of the spectators as well.

Before any of this can happen, though, brands need to make certain they have top-notch social media-monitoring technology in place. They need programs that will monitor posts, track them, and measure their tone in an easily reportable way. Companies must make sure the technologies they employ work rapidly, and they should be prepared to respond to customer remarks in something close to real time.

Once these measures have been taken, companies can proceed to the response, something I like to call “making it actionable.” Three common types of customers—the unhappy, the indecisive, and the pleased—provide the perfect framework for describing the innovative and exciting methods of CRM I’ve mentioned.

1.    The unhappy customer offering negative feedback: The best trained customer service representatives can turn any negative into a positive and, luckily for them, social media make their job easier.

Imagine a customer is waiting to be seated at a restaurant. He can see that people who arrived after he did have already been seated. What’s more, when he goes to the restroom, he finds the soap dispensers empty and a general lack of cleanliness. Now irate, he decides to do something as he resumes waiting for his table. He pulls out his smartphone and tweets a complaint, listing the restaurant by name and address.

If all systems are in place, customer service will be alerted to the tweet immediately. How should they respond? The possibilities are endless, but I can think of at least two responses that are sure to appease the customer.

First, since the customer has provided the location of the specific restaurant that has displeased him, the company can immediately contact that restaurant’s manager, and she can approach the customer in person to figure out a solution to the problem. Second, the service representative who is notified of the complaint could tweet back the customer a coupon code or voucher.

The indecisive potential customer: In my network of Facebook friends, it’s not uncommon to see a friend ask, “Should I get the new Droid or the new iPhone?” or “Anybody know of a good home security system?”

Once social media monitoring picks up the query, a representative can respond immediately with an incentive to go with his brand, in this case 20 percent off on a Droid or a free home consultation for a particular brand’s security system and a lowered initial price.

The praising, loyal customer: Often there is a customer who loves a brand and doesn’t want to keep it to herself. She checks in frequently at the brand’s top location on Facebook or she leaves glowing reviews on Yelp. Whether it comes in the form of a Foursquare-type appreciation badge or a coupon, this kind of customer needs a reward. As with the other two types of customers, the token of appreciation can be relayed in link form right over the same social media medium the customer has used.

Finally, it’s important to remember that before social media, customer service reps ran into a near impossibility when it came to addressing feedback not directed to them in particular. With social media, no matter what customer service does in terms of reaching out to the customer, the mere fact exists that they are reaching out. Not only is the vocal customer pleased when a brand seeks him out, but all members of his social network who have viewed the exchange are left with positive feelings as well.

So, get your social media monitoring in place, train yourself to respond quickly, and remember: The newfound accountability that social media brings to the table is yours to make positive for not just the consumer, but for your brand as well.

About the Author

Tim Houlne (thoulne@workingsol.com) is a veteran in CRM with more than 24 years of experience in contact center services, technical support, and warranty management industries. Tim is the chief executive officer of Working Solutions, an industry pioneer in the home-based agent model. 

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

For the rest of the October 2010 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

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