Blogging & social media: What customer service professionals should know, and do, about it (Part 1)
This article is based on a workshop I delivered at the SOCAP International Symposium in April.
Part 1- Defining Social Media: Blogs & Microblogs
Customer service. It’s the new marketing.
Huh? Anyone who has been in business for more than five minutes knows that customer service has always been part of marketing. The scale of the modern enterprise and the realities of distribution may have separated them functionally, but practically, a customer’s experience with our product is just as, if not more, important than any ad, promotion or package.
Ah, but it’s different now. Customer satisfaction is more important than ever. Research conducted by global think tank Society for New Communications Research in Spring 2008 reported that 72 percent of respondents researched products and services online, and 84 percent considered the customer care reputation of the company when making a purchase decision.
Where are consumers finding this information? Not on your corporate website. Increasingly, they are turning to social media like blogs to both share their opinions and find out what others think. In the SNCR study, search engines, online rating systems, discussion forums and blogs were all considered more valuable sources of information than the company website.
Source: Society for New Communications Research, Exploring the Link Between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media
Social media is a collective term used to refer to a variety of online tools including blogs, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and online consumer forums. This article will give you a brief overview of the ones most important for customer service and satisfaction. The key thing about all of them is that they give consumers a way to communicate with each other, fast. Faster than sometimes the company can respond. As customer service and consumer affairs professionals, you need to understand which ones your customers are using, and develop strategies to use those same tools to improve your service and satisfaction.
We’re going to focus on the tools most relevant to customer service: blogs, microblogs and social networks.
Technically, blogs are simply websites developed using a lightweight content management system (CMS). They use HTML, just like your company website, but the CMS tools are designed to be simple to use for people without technical knowledge. Well known CMS include Typepad, Blogger, Movable Type and Word Press.
The things that most clearly identify a site as a blog are:
- Content, or posts, presented in an article-like form, in reverse chronological order.
- Ability for readers to leave public comments
- Ability to subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed or by email
In practice, however, blogs are much more than that. Unlike your company website, which is probably a fairly static presentation of company capabilities not that different from a brochure, blogs are a conversation. Bloggers write about and link to other bloggers’ ideas. They create space on their blog for readers to comment, and they reply back. This dynamic is why news can spread so very fast from blog to blog.
Blogs typically have a point of view and they are not overtly commercial or promotional, even if they are a company or product blog. It’s all about engaging in a conversation in an authentic, honest way.
The easiest way to understand microblogs – services like Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce – is to think of them as group instant messaging. It’s real-time one-to-many; unlike instant messaging, when you post a public message, everyone in your network can see and respond to it. The most popular service is Twitter, and companies like JetBlue, Comcast, Dell and online shoe store Zappos are already using it to communicate with customers.
In part two, we'll look at social networks and communities.
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