As a matter of creed, nearly everything we as digital marketers do is highly measurable with clear ties to return on investment. Because of this digital marketers have a reputation and expectation to track everything. But, could the best uses of new media be too traditional to track effectively?
With the exception of exotic cases like Dell’s early promotional Twitter tactics, the best social media strategies are often as difficult to tie back to your bottom line as your efforts to improve customer service, be socially responsible or provide resources and information for your industry. These sorts of efforts tend not to ‘graph’ as well as website analytics and measurements that digital marketing has become known for.
Why are many of the best new media strategies so hard to track? Because, they’re new channels for the very business acumen that’s always been hard to connect to your bottom line; the effects of customer service, the impact of corporate social responsibility and the benefits of industry outreach.
As brands successfully adopt social media, they’re adopting new levels of community and industry outreach without rejecting customer care. The correlative data is there to match customer service quality and revenues. However, in a quest for the immediate and exacting metrics of other digital channels, too many agencies are pitching social initiatives stripped of customer relations in favor of more easily tracked broadcast methods. These rarely pay off in the long run, and it’s not really a strategy within the spirit of social interaction.
Today, we’ll discuss customer service and it’s natural extensions into social media. Every brand is different, but the gist of what you’ll read is that social media simply adores remarkable customer service.
Exploring Amazing Customer Service
In The Thank You Economy, marketer extraordinaire Gary Vaynerchuck recalls the lessons of his father and other community business members who would take pride in service derived from knowing and communicating with each customer intimately. Those were the ‘good ole’ days’ many of us have never experienced, and that is exactly what makes these kind of experiences so remarkable today.
To pull an example from Gary V’s book, it’s the butcher who remembers to leave a hambone aside for you on cold, wintery Fridays. Why? He knows, you always make split pea soup on cold, wintery Fridays.
An inspiration of Jeanne Bliss’ I Love You More Than My Dog, a children’s shoe store owner, had earned a generation of clients for his ability to simply ‘be real.’ Running his business on passion, empathy, humanity and the occasional shared lunch, every stranger received the invitation to become not a customer, but family. Jeanne would take those same ‘old world’ values to become the first leader of Lands’ End’s customer experience team –a brand that would become one of the most respected, desirable brands in their industry for their customer experiences.
These aren’t social media strategies; they’re the customer service passions that have proven to generate referrals and word of mouth for decades. Today, those conversations are happening on Twitter, Facebook and a plethora of relevant social media platforms. It’s new media for old values.
The Customer Service Comeback
Somewhere in the 80’s and 90’s, customer service gave way to automation and bottom-line fanaticism. Grocers learned that they could increase profits by not having an associate carry your bags to your car. Mechanics started to upsell fluid checks that were once a courtesy at the pump. Customer service from most brands became a patience testing listening exercise of frantic mashing of our phone’s ‘0’ in our sanity’s swan song for human interaction.
For my generation, the ones who use reading glasses to Tweet, our cultural references for customer service lie somewhere between Sam the butcher from the Brady Bunch, the Soup Nazi and the movie Served. How’s that for a crowd with low expectations? That’s the bar and over the course of a few decades most of us have forgotten what customer service used to be. Our expectations today are lower than they used to be, which is why a spark of caring from a brand can ignite a wildfire of buzz.
In an underwhelming swell of streamlined business’ with clear profit channels, a scrappy digital shoe store named Zappos would make a name for itself with a daring leap into fanatical customer service.
In his book, Delivering Happiness, CEO Tony Hsieh credits the foundation of fanatical customer service for the brand’s booming success. In 10 years, through the .com bust, Zappos would rise to $1 billion in revenue – big shoes to fill for hopeful competitors.
Customer Service Goes Viral
Today, the brands who embrace remarkable customer service become, themselves, remarkable.
Customers want to be known! Customers want to be valued! Naturally, customers gravitate to brands with excellent service, avoiding those brands who have burned them in the past. This is why many consumers seek reviews from peers before bothering to call for pricing.
When many of us experience extraordinary customer service, good or bad, we share it in conversation offline and on. It’s not unreasonable to think that remarkable customer service can go viral. Know that online, a fireworks celebration of positivity will drown out even the loudest squeaky wheel. Even Zappos gets customer complaints, but good luck finding them in the piles and piles of love letter reviews online.
How Service Gets Social
Embracing social media is hard for many brands with dreams of Old Spice man, but it’s important to remember that social interactions from sewing circles to social media are the realm of the customer. Broadcasts into the conversation will land about as well on Facebook as they would shouted over the shoulders of a group at the pub –and it’s hard to tell which is more likely a venue for you to get socked for the disrespect.
There are strategies that can be designed to best fit your brand to the conversations and platforms happening online. While there is no ‘best strategy’ for all brands online, there are a few methods that have proven to be epic failures. That being said, when fanatical customer service becomes essential to your online conversation strategy, success –though a bit hard to graph- will be there.
Expand your Brand
Sure, you’re brand isn’t the local butcher shop, mechanic or shoe store. Your customers may be global with prospects numbering in the millions, but there are tools to help scale customer service. Customer relationship management solutions, or CRM, serve as your memory and marketing automation platforms, such as those built into Salesforce, can act as reminders to connect. Social media is your eyes, ears and voice.
Social media channels are a showcase for customer service, social responsibility and community involvement (your local community and the community of those you serve –where ever they may be in the world.)
Brands are quickly learning that it’s not enough to simply ‘be there,’ and that there likely isn’t a return of a non-strategic approach. The ‘age of the guru,’ it’s buzzwords and lack of acumen has passed. It’s time for social media to be recognized as an extension of communications. The channels are as measurable as a telephone in the hands of your best associates, and the realization is similar.
There is a bit more science to social media than traditional word of mouth. While you’re still dealing with the same dynamics of a traditional social graph for organic spread and sharing of brand awareness and messaging, you’re also adding a lot of the technical elements that come with the software interface of the communications channel, such as Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, the equation dictating which posts from the friends and brand you follow appear with relevancy in your feed. A proper social media strategy will balance both worlds in a way that best fits your brand, your audience, and your assets.
When you call SilverTech, you get a human being and not a phone tree. Usually, it’s Nanci. If you have the time, ask her about her dogs –you won’t meet a more passionate poodle aficionado. Why have a Nanci? Because the human touch, and the service that touch can provide, is core to our agency.
Customer service is back. Even brands who can afford to ‘buy out’ of customer service are rebooting their brand and reinvigorating the focus on customer care beyond price.
If you’re ready to explore how social media can be used for your business in a way that best serves your sales, marketing, and overall business goals, contact us.