Gartner’s Jenny Sussin posted an article on LinkedIn last week regarding the impact of Twitter’s change in DM (direct message) character-limit policy (essentially, there is no longer a limit.) This is a huge change, and one you need to consider.
Twitter as a customer care channel is well-established, though the fact is that most posts directly to brand handles still go unanswered. Combine that with added fact that almost three-quarters of consumers who post a complaint or specific request expect a reply within an hour (and about a third will only give you 30 minutes) and you see where this is heading: Twitter, hand-held, everywhere, and asynchronous is poised to take over as a primary initiation channel for customer engagement. The switch in DM policy, simply put, means that your customers can let you know they need something, and you can now use DMs to address it in one or maybe two exchanges.
There are significant process and policy considerations that grow out of this change:
Provide swift and helpful customer care. Customers raising issues expect real answers from real people who can really help them. You social customer care needs to be charged with and prepared for prompt response and with solutions.
Be available, 24/7. If your product can be used 24 hours per day (Hint: if Amazon can sell it, the answer to the next question is automatically “yes”) and if your product can be purchased 24 hours a day, then you need to offer social channel support to match. If not, then you are ceding two-thirds of the buying moments (the 16 hours per day your team is offline…) to your competition.
Involve your entire organization. Most businesses have effectively created a thin perimeter defense around the organization vis-a-vis customer care and phones teams: customers have access to agents, and agents have access to scripts—and little else. The deeper product knowledge—the real answers—are locked away. The big exception to this is, of course, community and peer-support, but even there the community is often separated from your internal subject matter experts.
So, what should you do?
Get engagement right. Build and train a social customer team that can address questions timely and then provide real information: take advantage of the fact that Twitter is asynchronous to encourage to go and get the right information—data sheets, links to accepted solutions in your peer forums, and similar—and deliver that to customers. Lithium Social Web combined with Experts capability literally connects your customers with the knowledge available in your community. Add Social Response Certification and train your entire team to create and publish Exert content, content your agents can help deliver.
Operate 24x7. Most social customer care teams are small: 20, 30, 50, 100 agents. Your monthly phone center turn-over is probably higher than that! It’s therefore unrealistic to think you can staff 24x7 with that team and not experience high-value employee burn-out. You need instead to reach into your organization; connect your employees, connect your community super users, and tap your phone centers to address the simple issues that arrive on social channels while routing the rest to a scalable, skeletal off-hours team. Ask your account executive about Lithium’s “Scalable Response” product to help you do this.
Provide real answers. To provide better answers, connect your agents with your internal subject matter experts. The amount of information effectively locked away in your employee’s heads is staggering: enable agents to access the full knowledge store inside your firm and to use that information to craft to superior responses. Implement our “Expert Guidance” product and set up to deliver excellent customer experiences.
Twitter’s change in DM policy is significant indeed: start now to ramp your social customer team in both effectiveness (SLA governed responses, measured productivity, etc.) and solution accuracy (getting the correct to the customer the first time.) Add Lithium Social Wed’s “Experts” tools: Scalable, Expert Guidance,” and “Social Response Certification” to your engagement platform. Not only will you accelerate your shift toward lower-cost, higher scale channels (can you spell R-O-I?) but you’ll also drive improvement in NPS/CSAT that will ensure that your social recommendations grow over time. It’s all about winning in a connected world, and Twitter and Lithium just gave you great new tools to do it.
... View more
Have you ever walked in on a Monday morning to a few hundred posts waiting for review, knowing that more than a few could be closed without required action? Lithium Social Web (LSW) has always provided a method via the Supervisor's tools for "bulk closing" posts that don't require specific action, for example when an outage or shipping delay that has since been resolved caused a spike in posts.
But there's a better way to do this, and it's one those hidden tricks that is worth knowing about.
To quickly review and close posts, start by creating a Smart View using the Admin panel: define the Smart View so that it picks posts from a specific queue. As a saftey precaution you may want to limited the scope to low priority posts, as it's always a good idea to consider carefully anything rated P2 or higher though the technique you are about to see can certainly work for those as well. In the figure below I've created a Smart View to select posts P3 or lower, from a specific workqueue:
Next, open your Analytics tab and then open this Smart View. Find the "Conversation Status" breakdown and click into the posts that are Open/Awaiting First Response. You'll see a complete, scrollable list with all post details; For blog and forum posts there is even a fly-out that shows the entire post! This makes it easy to know exactly what you are looking at. The breakdown widget, opened up, is shown here:
Notice that next to each post is a checkbox, and that the entire collection can be bulk closed using any available close disposition. Simply review the posts as you scroll, unchecking any post that you not want to close. When you've reviewed the list, click "Close As..." and, like magic, all of the selected posts will be closed.
TIP: If there are more than a few hundred posts needing attention, go back to the Smart View and filter down a bit: for example, limit the Smart View to P5 only, save your changes, clean, then repeat for P4. At a minute or so for each step it's still the fastest way to close in bulk.
Using this technique you can quickly get your queues in shape after a weekend storm, or any time that you need to manage groups of posts.
... View more
Among the hazards of maintining a brand: when advertising and actual experience don't appear to be in sync. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/31/us-chipotle-mexican-lawsuit-gmo-idUSKCN0R023M20150831
... View more
Business results are increasingly driven by the perception of your brand. Call it a first-world problem, but in developed markets the primary driver for purchase has shifted from price and availability to the perceived alignment between what you firm stands for and personal values of consumers. To see this in action, consider a handful of recent examples, all centered on strategic business planning. In other words, these brands did what they did largely for business reasons.
Earlier this year, Chipotle announced that it would no longer use serve food containing genetically modified ingredients. This follows the firms’ earlier (2013) initiative to label foods containing GMO ingredients. Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive of Chipotle, said this was “another step toward the visions we have of changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” or , more simply, changing the way people considering the question of “lunch” think about Chipotle.
Of course, it’s not always that simple, as the similar case involving Starbucks makes clear. DISCLOSURE: I am a long-standing Starbucks Gold Card holder. Starbucks—for a variety of reasons including Neil Young, found itself entangled in the GMO food labelling initiative and resultant lawsuit. DISCLOSURE: I am (also) a long-time fan of Neil Young. While Starbucks is an affiliate member of the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (one of the parties bringing the lawsuit), it is not directly involved in the lawsuit itself, stating that, as an organization, “Starbucks has not taken a position on the issue of GMO labeling. As a company with stores and a product presence in every state, we prefer a national solution.”
Here’s the problem: Starbuck’s customers—who can generally be described as having at least some degree of economic choice and therefore are likely to be motivated by a values alignment higher than price and availability—expect Starbucks to be involved, and more to the point to be their advocate in helping eliminate GMO ingredients. Whether GMO is truly harmful or is instead the “Fluoride of the 2000’s” is beside the point: Starbucks’ customer base likely tips towards non-GMO, and Starbucks stated non-involvement is therefore a problem. Personally, I was motivated to send a note (to-date unanswered) saying that “until you take a stand, and as a customer I expect you to, I’m drinking elsewhere.”
Flash forward to the most recent Starbucks’ annual shareholders meeting, during which Starbucks’ founder and CEO Howard Shultz responded to a floor question regarding Starbucks’ stand on gay marriage, to which he responded “Not every decision (we make) is an economic decision,” continuing “The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds.” Turning directly to the questioner, Mr. Schultz added “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got (here) last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.” Unlike the GMO position, Starbucks position on respect and appreciation for diversity in the workplace is absolutely clear. That’s the clarity that customer expect.
So guess what? I went back to Starbucks: I can avoid GMO by choosing an Americano rather than my preferred soy latte, and can support an organization that is otherwise strongly aligned with my own personal values. As a professional involved in strategic planning this basic values-connection between business and customer feels more important than ever.
Want to read more? Want to learn how to build values-based strategic thinking into your social technology plan? Consider reading It’s Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For by Roy Spence and Haley Rushing. It’s an amazingly clear look at how purpose and values underlie successful, long lived businesses.
... View more
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s below is worth five hundred billion. Why? Because $500 billion was roughly the global advertising spend in 2013. Looking at the graph, it’s obvious that an increasing share of that is wasted. Building a strong business is no longer about declaring the brand to be this or that in a TV spot or magazine ad: it’s about proving it every day, in every single transaction, with every customer.
Taken from a thought-leadership article appearing in the Harvard Business Review, the story accompanying the graph makes clear this new reality: if you’re thinking in terms of ROI and measurement of actual values (and you should be) then the article will appeal to you. It makes the case that on your balance sheet your relationship with individual customers is now worth twice as much as your measured brand value. Brand value, as a share of balance sheet assets, has fallen by almost half in the past ten years while customer value has doubled.
So what should you do? Quit your ad campaigns? Unlikely: awareness is still part of acquisition. But instead of focusing primarily on advertising—which most brands do--focus on customer retention and loyalty. Not loyalty as in “here’s 50 points toward a beach umbrella (with our logo on it…) that you can earn in a few years” but rather loyalty as in “I will repeatedly buy from you and tell my friends about you if they ask.” And what’s the easiest way to ensure that? Get to know your customers as individuals and engage with them as such: learn about what they like, and consistently deliver that. Here’s how.
When a customer calls, you have a standard for response. When a customer walks in to your store, same thing. But what about a post on Twitter? In a study conducted by Maritz, the majority of brands failed to respond at all while separately, of those that did, the majority had response targets of 2 hours, 4 hours, or even longer. That used to be OK; in contemporary connected markets, it’s not.
Best of class response times for high-tech consumer, telecom, media and entertainment, and financial services is now on the order of thirty minutes, with some response time targets as fast as 90 seconds. 90 seconds. The fact is customers are more likely to buy when you respond: a New York University proved it, as if you needed a study to know that.
Engage Your Organization
It’s an all-too-common practice that Marketing and PR still own customer response. But consider: just because the social media channels have “media” in the name doesn’t mean your social response needs to be limited to “Wow, we’re so sorry. Please email us.” For brands with basic social customer, the bar has been raised there too: it’s no longer sufficient to define responses in a script and force agents with limited process knowledge to fend-off customers with advanced questions they really can’t answer.
To be sure, agents can answer—in an excellent, efficient manner—questions like “Why does my statement show a $12 charge when I was expecting a credit?” It’s better from a business perspective to spend $3 on social rather than $30 on a call to address questions like that. But what happens when your customers asks “In considering our renewal, which blade server best fits my needs?” You need to engage subject matter experts across your organization: can your social response team do that?
Share the Love
Finally, share the love. When your customers experience satisfactory resolution to specific issues, and in particular those using social channels, those conversations should be shared. Not just on Twitter where your employees probably can’t see them but internally, on monitor walls and real-time desktop dashboards. Build employee excitement around collaboration social channel participation. Why?
When employees see customer’s questions their first thought is “I didn’t realize that so many of our customers had that problem!” The result is better products and services. The second thought? “I could help answer that…I know what to do to fix it.” There is simply no better way to get expert assistance for agents who often do not know the answer than to appeal to the experts within your own organization.
So there you have it. Customer value is at an all-time high: it looks less and less a winning strategy to pour money into Superbowl ads. Instead, empower your organization to engage and get to know your customers. Build relationships through timely responses that encourage loyalty and brand advocacy.
It’s what’s next.
Dave is the VP of Social Strategy at Lithium. He is the author of best-selling book "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day," as well as "Social Customer Experience: Engage and Retain Customers Using Social Media". He is also a regular columnist for ClickZ and a frequent speaker at industry conferences.
Dave co-founded Social Dynamx, acquired by Lithium in 2012, and p rior to joining Lithium, he was a product manager with Progressive Insurance and a systems analyst with NASA | Jet Propulsion Labs.
... View more