Honest Engagement: Getting the Social Experience Right

Let’s just cut to the chase: social customer experience management belongs in operations. Whether you call that support, care, pre-sales, or service matters less than not calling it marketing or PR. Here’s why.

Typically, marketing and PR are focused on creating and managing a message from the brand to the customer, potential customer, or other identified target. And it’s a vitally important function: if you’ve ever witnessed one of those situations where people in the same organization begin arguing publicly over product attributes, you know exactly what it looks like when the brand loses control of its own message. It’s ugly. Whether driving demand or responding to a market opportunity or crisis, a focused, effective message is absolutely critical to business success. Thank you, marketing and PR.

But the new requirements for engagement are different. It’s notable that in marketing circles we still define “engagement ads” as those ads that invite clicking and further exploration. OK, that is a form of engagement, in the same sense that going to a high school dance, looking around, and asking someone to dance is also a form of engagement. But in terms of customers’ expectations – and their characteristic “less about terms of art, more about personal response” view of the world – in the case of the dance the use of the term “engagement” is further down the road, involving a sustained and tangible display of commitment generally symbolized in the offering of a ring. It’s way more than a click.

Now step back and ask yourself: where in your organization are you most able to build and sustain one-on-one, repeated acts that lead to engaged customers? Are you simply measuring sentiment in your social listening dashboards, or casually responding “Hey, thanks!” to every other post? If so, how can you possibly move toward engagement, loyalty, and advocacy on an individual customer basis? You can’t.

Want proof? Look at the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology: “How likely are YOU to recommend…?” The question is not, “Based on a market wide assessment, what is you brand health?” or, “Of the channels important to your brand for communication, in how many are you actively participating?” No, the question at the core of NPS is about understanding, for each individual customer, whether or not this person would be likely to recommend you. If the score is positive (NPS runs -100 percent to +100 percent) you’ve got more promoters than detractors. If the score is over +25, 35, 50…you’re in an increasingly strong position.

Back to the question raised: where in your organization are you most able to respond individually? Here’s a hint: where are you already doing this and measuring it today? Customer care. Service and support. By whatever name it goes, it’s generally on the ops side of the house and reports to the VP of customer care, the SVP of technology, the CIO, and/or the COO. There’s a reason for this: individualized engagement requires scale, operational skills, detailed metrics, agent training, etc. It’s a different game: bringing aggregate sentiment and volume trends, or one-off response methods to the new business requirement of actively managing incoming posts on social channels is a lot like bringing a spoon to a knife fight. It’s not going to turn out well.

How do you get social right? It’s not simple, but it’s not rocket science either. It takes commitment (just like engagement!). You need a platform that prioritizes automatically, that separates service requests from warranty from pre-sales, and routes these in seconds to specifically trained agents who respond personally and ensure resolution. Think “call center meets social care.”

In this recent article, various aspects of the difficulties of great social care are presented. What struck me the most in this article in the idea that “as a result of these types of difficulties, Twitter as a help channel may be fading.” Au contraire. The events noted are all evidence of the exact opposite: brands are trying to figure out how to do this in a way that makes sense for them, and for their customers.

Speaking purely for myself, I’ve certainly made “learning mistakes” and come out better for them. (The trick being not making the same “learning mistake” over and over.) I welcome any brand for my consideration that is actively trying to understand where and under what terms I want service to be delivered. The brands referenced will all come out ahead, and rest assured that my use of Twitter for customer care will not decrease! It’s an amazing channel, particularly given its inherent mobile-friendly apps: Twitter on mobile shortens time between the event and reporting of the event. That sounds about as perfect as you can for real-time reporting and resolution of customer care issues.

Case in point: flying home from San Francisco I had a simply great experience on United Airlines. I tweeted about it on boarding, and shortly thereafter received a personal response from UA. Want more? When I upgraded to DISH Hopper, or when I noticed an issue with my Time Warner Cable Internet service, I used Twitter to take care of both, in minutes (disclosure: both DISH and Time Warner Cable are customers of the company I work for). No, far from it: Twitter is not going away as a care channel, and the fact that brands are actively trying to sort it out is absolutely to their credit. Write their names down because these are the brands that will win.

So move over bacon, and make way for Sizzlean. If you’ve got your listening chops down, help your operations team build its skills. Rather than forcing a marketing solution (aka “listening tools”) for one-on-one engagement, step up to a metrics-driven social customer care platform and help the social agents get the brand “feel” right. Then step back and let them do their job, using the platform-provided social customer experience and metrics to audit, guide, and improve over time. Work together with operations to ensure that you know what the market is telling you, and that Bob, Sally, and Mary are all highly likely to recommend you.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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