I spend most of my days talking to line executives and leaders in health care, financial services, publishing, and other types of organizations about the impact of customer experience on their business. We talk a lot about how they are earning consideration from their customers. How they’re delivering on their brand promise. And how they’re anticipating customer needs as they evolve.
But, as I was roaming Twitter the other day, I couldn’t help but think how brands are using social media tools to not only raise awareness, gain share of voice, and generate leads, but how they are using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare to fundamentally strengthen customer experiences.
This post isn’t meant to discuss whether your brand should play in social media at all or to what degree—that’s a different post for a different day. This post is more about understanding how each of these tools can strengthen your customer experience. They are all social media. But they are not the same.
As marketers, you know customer experience matters. It matters for satisfaction and advocacy. And our research found that organizations that have a well-understood definition of customer experience are twice as likely to beat their profit targets than those that do not.
So, it makes sense to know specifically how social media platforms can help strengthen your customers’ experience. Stop thinking about your competitors—just because they are using Foursquare or YouTube doesn’t mean you should, too. Instead, focus on tools and platforms that strengthen your existing customer’s experiences with your brand. Remember: The stronger your customers’ experience with your brand, the more they will reward you in terms of repeat business and referrals down the road.
Let’s take a look at four of the key platforms and what customer expectations might look like and a few things you can do, as marketers, to strengthen your customer’s experience within these tools:
What do customers expect? More and more customers are looking for deals, special offers, and coupons on Facebook (a full 25 percent “like” brands because they want coupons or deals). In essence, they want that deal they can’t get anywhere else. (Look at what Cirque du Soleil is doing with Facebook). But customers also expect responses and acknowledgment from brands—a simple reply in the comment stream can go a long way with a potential or existing customer.
What can brands do to strengthen customer experience? Because the vast majority of the fans who “like” you on Facebook are probably existing customers, you’ve probably already solved a need for them. So, use Facebook to create a stronger connection or anticipate their next need. This is strengthening the customer experience after the sale (or between sales) by giving them what they crave: VIP access. This VIP access can take the form of exclusive coupons or deals. It can also mean “behind-the-scenes” glimpses of your products, services, or company. Whatever the case, make sure you treat these folks for what they most likely are on Facebook: your biggest fans.
What do customers expect? Speed is of the essence on Twitter. Most customers expect a response from a company when tweeted within 24 hours or less. Of course, that presumes brands are listening on the platform. As the Dominos, Toyota, Chrysler, and other social media flare-ups have taught us, customers on Twitter assume you’re listening. That’s become table stakes for most brands now.
What can brands do to enhance customer experience? First and foremost, set up a “listening station” to ensure you catch those issues that can spiral into full-blown flare-ups online. Third-party applications like Tweetdeck should allow most brands to set up simple searches for keywords and brand mentions to detect issues early on. Then, meet—and exceed—customer expectations on speed by making sure you’re staffing appropriately. Remember, Twitter doesn’t recognize weekends or “office hours.” You need to be listening—and responding in some cases—24/7. And finally, think about your customers’ experience on Twitter and if it’s similar to what they’re experiencing offline. Sure, speed is important online, but your customers have a singular relationship with your brand and a perfectly reasonable expectation that interactions will feel consistent no matter how they find you.
What do customers expect? Customers typically use Foursquare for two reasons: to achieve “mayor” status and find deals. Sure, when customers check in on Foursquare, they’re letting “friends” know where they are and what they’re up to. But they’re also checking to see if their favorite companies, retail outlets, and restaurants are offering deals exclusively to people like them that use the geo-location tool.
What can brands do to enhance customer experience? If you’re going to use Foursquare as a marketing tool (and remember, it’s not a tool for every brand), keep in mind you’re reaching a very niche audience. (Foursquare has 7 million users currently.) But it’s an audience that’s typically highly engaged and connected online. So, it pays to exceed their expectations. (After all, they’re more apt to share than others.) So, think about an extraordinary offer for your mayor—remember, your mayor is already a huge fan and customer. So, don’t just offer a buy-one-get-one-free drink coupon. For these existing super-customers, think about what would really strengthen their affinity for the brand, and encourage them to share with other potential customers.
What do customers expect? We know video consumption online is up—way up. (YouTube gets more than 2 billion views per day now.) But why are customers viewing so many videos? Because they need help. Or because they want to be entertained. And remember, some folks aren’t necessarily watching your videos on your YouTube channel—they’re viewing them in a widget on a blog somewhere across the Web. And they’re finding your videos by searching. (Did you know YouTube is the second largest search engine on the Web?)
What can brands do to enhance customer experience? Because people find video on YouTube by searching, we can’t really call it a community—it’s a search play for brands. So, you’re likely reaching customers early in their experience as they are looking for options or late in the experience as their needs are evolving. They’re likely not in the heart of choosing, buying, or putting a product or service to work. Consider that when creating video content. Is it clear what your company offers and what you’re all about in the video? Does your video content offer up answers quickly and efficiently? (No one wants to spend 10 minutes viewing a brand video.) Do you offer up contact information in your video or a place to go for more information or to buy your products and services? These are all basic questions you’ll want to address given the kinds of customers viewing this video content.
What’s been your experience with some of these key social media tools? How have you strengthened your customers’ experience online?