Like most things in business, people tend to ignore things until they start costing them money. Once they have ebbed the flow, they then pay a consultant to show them how they can leverage whatever it is to make them money! At this point they start taking notice of the business practice and it becomes engrained operationally. The fast paced journey of social media has been no different!
Cast your mind back to the story of Dave Carrol. The Country and Western singer who single handedly swiped $180million off the value of United Airlines when he escalated his customer service compliant – a broken guitar, to YouTube in the form of an engaging and bespoke piece of content targeted at the jugular of the airline brand. Brands and businesses were left observing from the sidelines aghast to see how easy it was for a disgruntled customer to take an entire brand down at the click of a ‘post’ button.
What was telling in this case (and still a lesson many are to learn) was that Mr Carrol had only resorted to social media after unsuccessfully resolving the issue in other customer service channels. A pattern that is still very relevant today. The reality is that many of the complainants who take to social media have tried unsuccessfully to resolve their woes elsewhere.
When a customer takes to social media to vent, the comments expressed can often leave other customers with a whole new perception of a brand. Escalated situations like these can cause damage to a brand’s reputation, popularity and overall consumer trust.
A decade of understanding later, and brands are turning their attention to a more proactive, ‘front footed’ approach, learning to harness social media not only to protect their bottom line, but also to drive it.
Social media is a great way for organisations to engage with customers and amplify positive and/or important messages. We are surrounded by many great case studies on customer engagement, such as Samsung’s Jack Whitehall series, used to leverage brand awareness alongside TeamGB or the Greater Manchester Police using social media to ask the public for help in tracking down suspects by sharing a post for others to see and receiving over 50,000 shares.
In the days before social media this type of exposure would have taken many man-hours to prepare and would have cost thousands of pounds to produce and deliver.
The fact is that social media has completely reinvented the way that consumers can interact with brands and social channels now play a fundamental role in helping businesses to communicate with their customers as well as respond to their queries.
In an article by Harvard Business Review entitled “Your Company Should Be Helping Customers on Social” by Maher Masri, Dianne Esber, Hugo Sarrazin & Marc Singer- the authors state that the U35s spend almost 4 hours per day on social media, attributing this to a 2.5x increase in the volume of tweets targeted at brands in the last 2 years. McKinsey have supported this by stating that 30% of social media users prefer social care to phoning customer service. It is both more convenient to the user and by using this medium the balance of power shifts from the organisation to the consumer.
Sadly, the landscape has developed it’s own kind of inequality around complaints. Customers are realising that more often than not they get a ‘better deal’ when turning to social media. A complaint left floating in public is far more likely to get noticed and resolved than those left behind closed doors. Some brands have been more open about this than others. NPower openly admitted putting social queries at the front of the queue because they could see the direct link between customer retention.
So with customers ‘Voting with their Tweet’ it is surprising that recent data from Twitter shows that 38% of organisations are either not set up to handle customer service enquiries or choose to ignore them!
The best companies look at social care not just as issues to be resolved but as opportunities to create value by cross-selling, upselling, or reducing churn. ASOS demonstrates a clear tone of voice when responding to customer queries in the public domain. Using this as an opportunity, the best brands will then use an unhappy customer’s complaint to both cross-sell and upsell.
No one is naïve enough to think that products and services come defect free and that there won’t be issues, but how organisations deal with these issues is a real test of character. If you can see how proactive an organisation is at dealing with complaints in an open way, then you know that if a problem develops it will be resolved. Brand re-enforcement at its best!
The authors of the Harvard Business Review article found that companies that have developed social care capabilities to do this well – in a personal, non-invasive, and relevant way – improved year-over-year revenue per contact by 6.7% (those that didn’t saw a corresponding 12.1% decline).
At last some ROI figures for delivering customer service over social media! Can the remaining 38% really afford to wait?
James Leavesley is CEO of CrowdControlHQ, the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform built for enterprise. Supporting brands and business to drive their ROI for their social media.