No matter what your business is, we all win with our customers. They're expressing themselves online (among other places) and you can't pretend you don't see it. Big brands can't respond to every single tweet but they should be watching for early indicators of what's bubbling up around their brand and address that publicly. If you're still asking the question "Why do I need to invest in social media?", it’s time to go back to listening to your customers and really consider the benefits of their feedback. It’s a fact that some of the most candid conversation resides in social media.
In their post on HBR.com, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss make the case for embracing social platforms (like the Lithium Community Platform) for their ability to deliver feedback into your organization. In their post, Use Social Media to Partner with Customers and Improve Service, they write, "Social media make it easier and cheaper not just to acquire customers, but also to partner with them operationally, to collaborate with customers to make your service model work even better." Now we’re talking!
A real strategy in social media can feel, on some level, vulnerable. Do you really want to help your customers publicly say what you should do? Yes, you do. Why? Because ignoring the negative means you're disregarding all feedback. To anyone, that would feel dismissive – is that really part of your brand promise or the experience you want your customers to have? Feedback is not only negative. It is also insight into what your customers like about you, what needs you can help them fulfill and what ideas they have for your services and products. Frei and Morriss articulate two of the big benefits to embracing feedback through a social media platform:
Service recovery – knowing is good
"Engaging customers on these platforms means that you can measure, surface and fix service breaks with unprecedented speed and accuracy. In addition, you get to display your responsiveness in a highly public forum, which doesn't happen in a call center."
Service improvement – be open to the feedback
"The voices who self-select to broadcast their advice tend to be valuable in other ways, too, less price-sensitive and more willing to pay a premium for good service. Partnering with them makes sense on a whole bunch of levels. You get better; they get invested." The fact is vocal people are engaged, so use it to your advantage.
If you need a little inspiration for embracing vulnerability (where fear meets feedback), watch Brene Brown's TED Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability." Give yourself 20 minutes to watch the video and another 10 to sit there stunned. Or find inspiration for your feedback vision by looking at a few of our Lithium communities:
National Instruments set out to leverage customer feedback by co-creating with their customers. The results?
Over 3,700 ideas submitted through their customer community. Over 37,000 people voted on the 12 features ultimately implemented. As people saw their ideas implemented, number of customer complaints decreased.
Barclaycard is creating new products, driven 100% by community feedback. This project is so transparent that is front and center on their website, “Barclaycard Ring is a credit card that's driven by its community of cardmembers. Now, there's power in numbers. You and your fellow cardmembers will work together to shape Barclaycard Ring into something you can feel good about. As your credit card company, we promise to listen to what you have to say. And, we'll show you how your actions, like paying on time and going paperless, can influence the card's success.”
Early results are impressive. Community members are voting on the charity the project supports as well as having an open conversation with customers about late fees. Their blog regularly shares the results so they know how feedback is impacting the organization. Have you ever heard of a credit card company with this level of transparency?
Yes, even constructive feedback is tough to take. Smart companies will pivot here and see feedback as an opportunity to show customers that you're listening, your reacting and that you actually care about what they have to say. And you’ll do it at scale, not just one customer conversation at a time.
Your customers are actually a lot like you, so ask yourself, "isn't that the way I'd want to be treated?"
For me, the answer is an overwhelming yes.
Katy Keim is the Chief Marketing Officer at Lithium Technologies. She is a frequent contributor in the Lithium View blog.