There are some changes happening with the way your customers and prospects are using social media, that if not handled properly, could not only affect your efforts to add new customers to your customer base, but could negatively affect your retention/churn rates as well. This post provides an overview of what’s changing and why, the challenges associated with those changes, and x things you can do to avoid potential losses and even gain competitive advantage.
Until recently, social media users were content with primarily a one way, marketing oriented relationship between themselves and the companies they do business with. But, that is changing.
Social media users now expect to be able to more, such as request customer service, resolve problems, get answers to questions—even conduct transactions. They expect someone to be “listening” for their requests. They expect nearly instantaneous responses, and they expect to be able to get their issues resolved.
How Social Media Affects Retention
Social media is a public forum. Unlike a telephone conversation, which is a private, one to one interaction, the interactions you have with your customers are seen and “experienced” by many. What you do and how you do it is very visible to your customers and potential customers. So, with every interaction, you have an opportunity to create a positive or negative perception of value—with a whole lot of people.
High perceived value is one of the factors that contribute to increased retention. If your customers have “liked” or are following you, they can see how well you treat—or in many cases—don’t treat other customers when they have a question or a problem. Even if they themselves do not have an issue, they are getting a good look at what might happen if and when they do. And, they are forming opinions and perceptions about the overall value you provide—based on what they see happening to others. If what they are seeing is positive, they will tend to have a good value perception. Conversely, if what they see is a lack of responsiveness, they will tend to question their buying decision and may begin looking elsewhere.
What You Can Do About It
#1 Confront/Accept the Facts and Embrace the Change
In his best selling book, Good to Great, Jim Collins identified several traits that the great companies all possessed. One of those traits is the willingness to confront and accept the facts about your changing market. In this case, it is important that you accept the fact that social media is not a fad. Your customers are expecting to use it for more, and it will continue to play an increasingly bigger role in the customer decision making process—both pre and post sales.
The good news is this: companies who embrace social media based communication as a viable and important part of their retention strategy will not only succeed in reducing churn, but will also succeed in increasing their customer base with net new customers.
#2 Develop and Implement a Social Media Response and Resolution Strategy
Most companies today have some form of social media strategy. However, that strategy tends to be attraction oriented. That is important to be sure. But, once the customer is created and that initial sale is made, a transition to support mode takes place. In that mode, the direction of communication changes. The initiator is now the customer. They make comments and requests. They expect you to be listening for this and they expect you to respond.
So, in addition to your social media attraction strategy, you need to develop a set of strategies and processes to manage social media response and resolution. When developing a response strategy, some important questions will need to be answered:
- How will you staff this function?
- Who will be responsible for listening and responding? Marketing, customer care, contact center, etc.?
- Will you treat this as a standalone function, or will it be integrated with your existing contact center and other communication channels, such as phone calls, emails, chats, etc.?
- What sources will you listen to and how will you listen to them?
- How will you filter out those posts needing responses from those that don’t?
- Will we respond to all posts, or to just certain types of posts? If just certain ones, how will you decide?
- How quickly will you respond? Will all be treated equally, or will you prioritize? If you prioritize, what determines priority?
- What controls, if any, will you put on responses? How will you manage the quality and accuracy of responses?
- How will we handle cases where you need to collect sensitive or confidential information to resolve a problem?
- How will you manage responder productivity? How will you support increasing post volumes?
#3 Implement and Use a Social Media Response and Resolution Platform
As social media volumes and customer expectations regarding response time increases, handling social media on a “one off” or manual basis is becoming increasingly untenable and expensive.
Just as you may have implemented and leveraged tools such as ACD and IVR systems to help you reliably and cost effectively route and manage phone calls, emails, faxes, chat sessions, you should consider using a relatively new breed of technology known as a social media response management platform.
Different from other social media monitoring and tracking tools that are primarily designed for marketing purposes, response management platforms provide features and functions designed to facilitate effective and efficient social media based response and resolution activities.
Typically, these platforms allow your social media response management team to:
- Monitor and collect posts from a variety of different networks and feeds
- Tag/Categorize/Prioritize posts for handling and reporting processes
- Route and distribute and queue posts to individual responders or groups of responders with specific skills
- Provide a way for responders to handle posts more efficiently
- Provide mechanisms for taking the conversation “off line” when needed to collect confidential or sensitive information needed to answer a question or resolve an issue
- Provide performance and business intelligence metrics and reports that allow you to manage activities, productivity, response times, etc.
Social media is changing the way many consumers do business. It not only affects your ability to attract and convert new customers, but your ability to retain them as well. Companies who accept this fact, develop and implement a response and resolution strategy and tools as part of their overall social media strategy stand a good chance of not only retaining their existing customer base, but also of improving their competitive advantage and attracting and converting more new customers.