A company's brand is constantly in a state of flux impacted by the reviews customers and shoppers leave on Social communities. Today everything else about the brand is chalked up to company spin and takes a back seat to your customer reviews. While it may be true that no single customer engagement will make or break you, a video or a poor review history certainly can.
Despite the fact that most companies agree that the cost of maintaining an existing customer is much less than the cost to acquire or regain a customer, few companies are doing all they can to improve their standing in the transparent economy. A great example of a company who does well with transparency is Amazon. It’s not a coincidence that the customer experience /satisfaction is their primary focus. Transparency is not rocket science but it does mean your company has to walk its talk.
Here are some quick tips on how to make a customer love you so much that they cannot help but say so and the results are guaranteed to improve your transparency.
1. Keep the main focus of the company on the delivering a great customer experience. Make this is your first and over arching focus of the entire business.
2. Identify key customer touch points and ensure that the customers experience is stellar. This means that product development; delivering a great Customer experience drives all design, UX, Service, Fulfillment, Sales, and Partner selection first and foremost.
3. Commiserate with the customer's feelings. Let them know you understand their issue and their feelings and that you are going to do everything you can to address the issue. Example: I understand how frustrating that must be for you. This does not mean transfer their call and require then to recount the issue to the next rep. A properly aligned company realizes that every transfer point and recounting of the issue worsens the CX. A customer-focused company does their absolute best to offer a one-and -done experience.
4. Let the customer know that you've heard their needs and that they matter. List out each need and discuss what you can or cannot do. I recently attended a Skydiving fundraiser for ALS. The key skydiver, a woman with ALS, had a list of concerns for her tandem partner. These were obviously important to her. He read each one back to her and looked at her and explained what he could and could not do. While not all her needs could be met, in the end he assured her that her safety was his main concern. Let the exchange with the customer say, "You matter to me." Simple Eye contact and smiles go a long way even if the exchange is fast passed and transactional.
5. Review all the major Social communities where your customers are on a regular basis. When issues arise do your best to listen, acknowledge and repair.
6. Make sure that customer experience is your main focus and that all operational requirements that impact that experience are congruent with that primary goal (review number one on this list). Support structures such as commission structure, return policies, warranties, employee empowerment, and delivery policies should support not compete with a stellar customer experience. When the customer experience is your goal all else takes a back seat. I once worked with a company that wanted to make hunters out of a farmer sales force. This company raised their sales quotas and asked sales to offer outstanding customer experience with every engagement. The higher quotas were inconsistent with being able to offer a stellar experience. A company whose main focus is the customer should never risk a workforce whose focus is only on the next sale to engage with a customer.
Companies that are truly committed to the customer understand that the customer is the only reason they have a viable business.
7. Always reward employees for keeping the customer the primary focus of the business. A company should never risk passing the cost of a great customer experience on to their employees. Never make an employee choose offering a great experience at the risk of a smaller paycheck.
If you do right by the customer every time you have the opportunity, transparency will take care of itself.
Just read a great article in the New York Times on how Social is giving a voice, effecting accountability and motivating positive change
,(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/25/us/backlash-by-the-bay-tech-riches-alter-a-city.html?pagewanted=2&_r=3&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131125&). As individuals with access to Social channels we can impact injustice on a level we have never been able to before. We are seeing this happening globally in social uprisings that impact governments, politics, and your local hedonistic CEO. We, as a world, have gone Social and there is no turning back. Social is in business, in grocery stores, and on a BART train in the middle of the night. It’s being tweeted, videoed, blogged and liked everywhere. You can't hide in a limo, a corner office, a Swiss bank account, or a shallow conscience.
Social’s power is in it’s transparency, The ability that a moment shared can go viral in a matter of seconds and change history, government policy, or as we are told in the New Yorker article--even conscious awareness. We are “Little Brother “ and we are watching.
Smart business will understand the power of transparency. Embrace it and put in place a multi-channel sense and respond effort that engages quickly with an infinitely personal level of accountability. Equally, important is the awareness that whatever you offer rings forth with genuine resonance. Happy Thanksgiving!
I think collaboration and transparency are the two most tossed about words in business today. The latter strikes fear at every level. In the beginning of 2013, I said that I thought this would be the year for collaboration. Having made that statement I want to look at how we’ve done so far. You might be wondering why I added transparency to the check in. After all, collaboration is different from transparency isn’t it?
So I did a search on how we are doing with collaboration for 2013 and the results were lack-luster. One article dubbed, Too much collaboration is hurting worker productivity” (http://qz.com/98295/too-much-collaboration-is-hurting-worker-productivity/), basically said that collaboration was sacrificing the solitary worker’s productivity. Sadly, the search mainly addressed the opportunity of collaboration or, the difficulty of it, and so on.
My theory is that collaboration seems like something we just ought to be able to do given the right technology—akin to once we get the tools we’ll just do it. Pardon my laughter but like all things in the digital /social realm—its only 15% technology everything else is about people.
Business has taught and rewarded competition. You may be scoffing but every sales person will tell you its, “what have you done for me lately.” Single-mindedness of focus is knitted into the fabric of the employee from the most minor of roles to the most important. The very nature of roles and responsibilities delineate and separate us. At the end of the year your payout is my payless. Get the picture?
I bring up transparency because it is critical to the success of collaboration. Think collaboration happens because you enable us to—no way. You can even bring it into my goals and how I am paid and I will tell you it won’t happen. You see—we as humans are creatures of habit. What is habit? It is what we have learned. We learned it because it works. It’s a habit because we have settle into the folds of its comfort.
Transparency says tear it all off and bear it all. No hidden agendas. No sandbagging. I have gone into many a company that says we are a decision by consensus culture. Do you think they will have an advantage in collaboration? It will be hardest for the consensus company because they have been taught to subjugate themselves to the mass –to no take a visible stand. In a way consensus is another word for a company that has asked their people to have no accountability. Transparency says I am totally accountable and here I bear all to you and together we will do better than I would alone.
Collaboration needs to be relearned. Let the learning begin. It’s not too late—its only August.
Social Media sites are sprouting up everywhere. I am being contacted to review business applications daily on sites hoping to become the next Yelp for business. Why not—its big business right now.
ESN (business-side social networks) are gaining ground and finding their way into all levels of business. These networks bring the hope of financial gains with engagement and greater collaboration. But an ESN alone will not do it. Unlike any other software application Social applications in a business setting depend on the right employees engaging and using them effectively.
The medium of Social Media will begin to slump in usage as it hits the inevitable saturation point among users. Users will find the benefits of visibility may be outweighed by the threats of identity breech. No doubt Social Mediums will find their place in marketing.
One value that has come from Social exchanges is that we are more aware of the realty of any brand’s promise. We all recognize the occasional naysayer always complaining. Social sites have trained us to identify and filter out town criers and cheerleaders. We look for subtle reoccurring issues. These reoccurring trickles form your brand. There is the occasional kamikaze move companies inflict upon themselves--Jeep’s refusal to recall their fiery gas tanks comes to mind. For most companies it’s the need to be aware of reoccurring derailments of promises made but not kept, or poor quality of products, and slips in service that are the killers of brand.
Along come Social Listening applications such as: Radian6, UberVu, Sysomos, Synthesio, and Visible Technologies to name a few. These applications promise to deliver value to your organization. However, they do not deliver value by themselves. There has to be--right engagement and follow-up.
Listening is only half the picture. The other half is what you are going to do with the information you hear. Today most companies have placed Social application ownership with marketing. However, it is rarely ever marketing that benefits from this information. Marketing rarely has the cross-organizational empowerment to ensure that real benefit, real value, and real change happens. Companies need to begin with making a commitment to the Social that embraces the entire organization.
The key is to decipher the message and route it to who can make use of it and is empowered to make changes to rectify it or at least escalate it. One social post can carry nuggets of valuable feed back to Customer Support, Product Development, and Fulfillment. Each department can gain applicable insight into opportunities to deliver greater value.
The key is getting the truth of the message to the employees that can make change happen quickly and effectively. The key is real-time engagement that says we hear you and we value what you are telling us so much that we are making this change because of it. The value is in the customer who is retained and won over. The value is in the customer who freely shares accolades of a company stepping up that wins more buyers. The win is in the customer--now an advocate recruited to weigh in on road mapping product enhancements that earmarks the next innovation for your industry. It’s about the customer that always chooses your company because he values the relationship you’ve built and the quality he relies on.
The value is in how the company iterates based on that feedback and improves. The value is in the company that has vision because of learning and now senses the market and fills the need well before others can. The value is in what happens after listening.
The Social Enterprise is not about flipping a switch on an application in the cloud. In fact, that switch flipping is the most minor component in the launch process when it comes to any Social application.
In order to do Social Enterprise as a strategic and competitive advantage you must be collaboration ready. How can you tell if you are collaboration ready? Well one way is to answer a few questions:
Yes to any of these and you need to address some internal issues along with launching that Social application. Social applications promise to extend your reach. They promise to give you unprecedented access and speed to impact. But if you are not collaboration ready you could have at the very least a failed effort or a very costly virtual billboard at the very most you could sink your company’s reputation. Are you ready for that gamble? You don't have to take that risk if you are willing to ensure you are collaboration ready.
Noreen Poli is product manager and consultant at Ready, Set, Go Social! Her projects range from award winning methodologies to end-to-end mobile gamified applications. Her background in product management is enhanced by experience in user research, analytics, human behavior, and social giving her a unique skill-set custom made for this era of realtime analytics and personalized products.