Tag Archives: Frank Eliason

Corporate Social Media Activity is NOT Childsplay

Social media isn’t just a young person’s domain, but many senior executives treat it like it is. When I speak to them, the general belief is that you have to understand and be comfortable with it to look after it, therefore it’s best left with a young person. Not so, and shame on senior people for not being prepared to ‘get it’, and their willingness to leave accountability with part-time and under-experienced resources. Some can already look back and see how they erred, while others don’t recognise the unexploded bomb hidden away in their organisation.

This article at inc.com caught my eye. Hollis Thomases condenses nicely the reasons why young people, though talented and engaged with social media, may not be just right to look after your activities there. Here’s my take on corporate social media activity:

  • Marketing usually takes the lead because social networks and Twitter are great for branding, promotion and outreach. It’s a cool, like marketing people, medium and a relatively inexpensive method to get noticed. So do be creative in your online activity without going back to college for the resource. And please don’t be fooled into thinking that customer service and technical support will be easy. And it isn’t cheap. And it isn’t quick. I’ll come back to this in a moment*.
  • Focus attention – there are so many options out there that it’s easy to dabble in everything. But being a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none gets no prizes. Find the areas that get you the most coverage for the least effort and expense. In the consumer world this may boil down to Facebook and Twitter, but in B2B you may find LinkedIn, Focus.com and others are better. And before we get distracted by the young person’s ability to multitask, it’s emerging that they may not be so good at it as we’ve been led to believe. In customer support, I know of companies with multiple forums on their own website, and in Facebook, and elsewhere, with so little activity in each as to make it inefficient to monitor and moderate.
  • Be joined up in your approach. Voice, email, chat and other customer service channels have been around for a long time. Much longer than social channels. But the new kid on the block does provide insights into the customer experience that the established channels needs to take account of. For example, customers have learned that a poor experience on the phone doesn’t mean they have reached the end of the line. Simply tweet your complaint and the chances are the company will bend over backwards to get you back on board, and in public. It’s much better that the experience is always good so customers don’t resort to the court of public opinion for resolution.

Social media deserves a place at the boardroom table rather than in a broom cupboard. But let’s not overhype the medium and believe that business as usual has changed. Sure, it has an impact. Sure, it has an effect. But not many established businesses will close their customer service operation down, or reduce high street branches, because “social” is the way to go. It will continue to mature and contribute to the way business is done but not to the extent that boardrooms are filled with fresh college graduates because they understand “social”.

What impact do you think social activities will have in the future?

 

*I’m indebted to Frank Eliason for a mention he made at a conference in London earlier this year about the cost of serving customers through social media. It’s not cheap and it’s not as quick as you may think. Why? The volume isn’t there, the medium isn’t quite right, and the medium of choice when you absolutely need help NOW is…the phone – invented over 100 years ago. But if I want to get your attention, tweeting may just be my final option.

Customer Service in Social Media – taking baby steps

I joined around 60-70 delegates last week in London for the Useful Social Media event Social Media for Customer Service Europe. The keynote speaker was Frank Eliason of Citi who, frankly, nailed the topic. Social media has been great for marketeers but presents challenges.

For example, “friends” do the most unfriendly things such as say bad things about your brand in public and on your Facebook site. They also ask unrelated questions where marketeers intended discussions around new products and services should happen. And finally, they have stopped calling for assistance and now tweet, asking the world instead. Or they express their frustration through Twitter when they did ask you and you didn’t reply.

It’s little wonder that senior company executives are wary of social media. Nevertheless, social media is here to be embraced, not least because customers like it and use it. As time passes late adopters will adopt, and laggards will lag (losing touch?), and generation Y and Z folks will dwell in cyberspace looking for near-instant gratification and help from peers.

The message I took away from the conference is two-fold:

  1. Don’t ignore or constrain social media – embrace it. You can’t contain, prevent, or avoid it but you can work within it to get the best and right results. It’s encouraging to see that social media roles are appearing at very senior levels in large organisations. A sign that engagement is happening.
  2. Customer service departments need to get involved. I was struck by how many marketeers were at the conference. Clearly this is where the early budget has come from but, as I expect there’s a lot for CS professionals to learn from what people say unhindered in social channels, they must get involved and wrest control of CS interactions from marketing. Otherwise, who know what advice and guidance customers will be given?

ROI was also under discussion and various points were made about the return companies gain on their investment. Universally, everyone said it was tough to conform with traditional company ROI calculations. I’ll probably post on this again in the next few weeks as the topic continues to appear. Part of the justification is finding the right format to satisfy the needs of executives, and ensuring that the arguments stand up to scrutiny.

What else did I take away from the conference? There weren’t many dyed-in-the-wool CS people there, so I expect that interest is from people with a CS role and an interest in social media. More people needed that see social media as a customer service channel, methinks!

If you have an opinion, please comment