The Missing Link

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Anyone who has ever been part of a brand or product support structure knows that feeling when a stranger begins talking with someone else about that item or service. Whether overhearing in an elevator or eavesdropping on a phone conversation, you get a general excitement and curiosity as to what that individual’s experience has been. The reason is simple: while focus groups or pursued follow-ups can be polluted by the individual’s awareness of it being a standardized process, anonymous feedback between two or more people is inherently honest and unaware. That is to say, when people don’t realize they are providing feedback through a significant channel, the genuine customer sentiment emerges.

This genuine customer sentiment is surfacing every day. And not in conversations taking place in diners, hotels, airplanes or shopping malls. Instead, these invaluable tidbits of honesty and true customer reactions are occurring every second on avenues of social media. Whether on Twitter, Facebook, forums or blogs, there are thousands of bits of data each day that deal with how individuals perceive a brand and its products.

The industry, it seems, is still trying to understand how to use this information. While some companies simply do not feel up to finding the solution and simply remain absent on social media platforms, others are so buried in data that they remain at a standstill. By implementing a limited series of program modifications, both non-engaged companies and those attempting to grapple this conundrum can become effective at configuring the data available into a manageable framework.

Step One: Embrace Social Media, Top to Bottom

Likely the most common suggestion from social media experts, encouraging social adoption on all levels of the corporate hierarchy is raised time and time again due to its real value. According to Burson-Marsteller (a global public relations and communications firm), 70 percent of Americans research a product online before making a purchase. If a similar market share existed within popular magazines, wouldn’t your company be looking into involvement with that medium?

The value of creating a social media presence doesn’t just stop at consumer value, but also exists internally. Without widespread acceptance of this new platform, social media teams often feel like the black sheep of the customer service division while other departments can feel neglected or threatened by these new efforts. By integrating social media within all existing efforts and coordinating assistance across platforms (escalations, research and development, customer feedback, etc.), companies can avoid having that department be the “new kid at school” and, instead, effectively implement what may very well be the future of all divisions within their company.

Step Two: Define Existing Expectations, Then Exceed Them

Because social media is such a new platform for engagement, companies have been playing catch-up or coming up with standards on the fly as new titles, divisions and hiring efforts are made. To ensure the most effective program, the primary step is to consider what performance standards are being encouraged and review for consistency and improvement. By eliminating the rationale that social media rules should mirror traditional channels, and developing a roadmap for making social media the most effective and profound customer service effort in your company hierarchy, true innovation can develop that will make a large splash online from existing customers and prospects alike.

Step Three: Calibrate to Determine What is of Value Right Now

With the adoption of social media within traditional platforms platforms, companies today are also finding a lack of a stop-valve or filter for incoming content. Whether that means failing to determine what is a qualified marketing lead or not being able to find customer service issues amidst hundreds of brand mentions, a wide variety of concerns exist due to a lack of structured rules. Sit down with department heads, both for social media and traditional divisions, to determine the top five most important types of customer discussions/feedback and implement the changes necessary to prioritize them. The resulting solution may be additional filters within your social media tools or finding a different provider for data due to inflexibility. The worst decision a company can make, however, is to just go with whatever was decided at program inception. In failing to review the standards in place, as well as reviewing all standards and tools to determine their effectiveness and the competitiveness they allow, companies can find themselves stuck wading through the Internet’s static while competitors strive forward.

While each of these items may sound easier said than done, they all deal with one common theme: the importance of having the discussions within your organization that are necessary for effective evolution. In reviewing the options available with the widely accessible data the Internet has to offer, companies can ensure that technology has not evolved far beyond their currently used tools as well as maintain an open-ended program initiative to improve. If you knew that people regularly met at noon to discuss your product in the mall’s food court, wouldn’t you take whatever steps necessary to monitor that conversation? Yet, all too often, companies aren’t making those strides online for a host of reasons. By making an effort to execute the aforementioned steps, brand ambassadors can begin making the changes necessary to monitor and engage with consumers worldwide.

Jason Wolcott is the Co-Founder and CEO of Digital Roots, a social CRM vendor. If you’re interested in learning more about social media in the contact center, or how a social customer care program can positively impact your company’s bottom line and reputation, contact Jason at jwolcott@digitalroots.com or follow him on Twitter @JayWolcott.

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