Blogging, social media & customer service (Part 4)
Part 4: What should customer service and consumer affairs do?
You’ve decided that some involvement in social media makes sense. But what should you do? I recommend a phased approach that I call the Four Ps of Online Engagement:
- Pitch or Publish
Let’s take them in order. First, you need to prepare by listening to the online conversation. Monitor the blogosphere for mentions of your company name. Find out who is writing about your products and industry. It’s a virtual, informal focus group that lets you take the pulse of your key constituents. You can do this monitoring on your own, using Google, the Technorati blog search engine and a myriad of free tools that do everything from track Twitter to measure the impact of a blogger’s posts.
Or you can get some help. There are many third party options available, at various price points, from the custom and often costly monitoring programs developed by companies like Cymfony to do-it-yourself dashboards that assemble the information for analysis such as those offered by KD Paine & Partners and Radian6.
If you do proceed with a social media effort, these same tools can also help with the measurement of results, but don’t confuse the two steps. Initially, monitoring is done to assess the commentary about your company and products so you solve the right problems. Ongoing measurement is about results. Have you achieved whatever objectives you set for your social media effort?
Once you know what’s being said about your company online, and by whom, you can start thinking about how to participate in the conversation. This can be anything from simply replying privately, to posting public responses when and where appropriate, to starting a blog, as Dell did, to make it easier for your customers to communicate with you. All of these are perfectly acceptable responses.
The most important thing to remember about engaging publicly is that you have to be able to take action. Sympathy and empathy are a good start, but they are not enough.
Also, keep in mind that not all commentary is negative. When you start listening to what your customers are saying online, you might find evangelists who love your company and products, and are already sharing the love with the people who read their blogs or listen to their podcasts. These folks are a great channel for sharing information with other customers, and nothing would please them more than a little recognition and communication from you.
The final phase of online engagement is actively telling the company’s story, versus simply responding to the ongoing conversation. This is what I call pitch or publish. The company may choose to publish a blog, launch a community or start a proactive program of outreach to bloggers. For most companies, these efforts will be part of the marketing or corporate communications functions, but if your firm is considering one or more of these strategies, I highly recommend that customer care professionals get involved or at least stay informed. Guaranteed, whatever the company does will impact customer satisfaction, one way or the other.
Next post, Part 5: Comments. They're what keep you up at night.
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