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6 Steps to Creating Relationships Using Social Media

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Dec, 05, 2014 @ 00:12 AM

social media is about relationships

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good white paper from Astute entitled, "Holistic Social Relationships: Breaking down social media silos and enabling a coordinated brand voice."

Lesson #1: The majority of social media conversations aren’t relevant to the business, but those that are can be incredibly valuable. Listen intensely to find relevant conversations. Those that are not relevant to business can be a good way of building relationships and putting a human face on your company.

Lesson # 2: Social isn’t something you can own, it needs to be leveraged as an integral, vital and strategic channel. Getting access to relevant information is important. Delivering it to key stakeholders is critical. Strive to create relationships in social media. Provide information of value. Answer questions before they are asked. Be a trusted, transparent source of information.

Lesson #3: It’s not enough to simply monitor social media. You must be able to find and act on critical issues in real-time. Responsiveness is key. The more timely the response the more trust you build.

Lesson #4: Consumers want to tell you more about what they like and don’t like. They’ll tell you in great detail about how they use your products and services. Make their feedback a strategic part of your organization and engage them further to understand the emotional connection they have with your products and services.

Lesson #5: Integration is important and connecting of all parts of the organization to social systems is critical. Build a common platform based upon the needs of your service origination and you’ll find more flexibility and access to the most important information.  It's critical that everyone speaking for the firm in different social media channels are delivering a consistent message that is "on brand." Consistency breeds trust. Inconsistency breeds confusion and distrust.

Lesson #6: Collecting data is terrific, but look closely for actionable feedback from consumers AND act on it! Train your firm's social media participants what is "actionable feedback" and why it's important. This is their, and you firm's, opportunity, to be "awesome," be responsive and provide an outstanding customer experience. 

By empowering your employees to engage with customers via social media, you are putting a human face on your company.

To ensure you are delivering an integrated message, make sure your employees understand the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm and are able to articulate them in the appropriate manner via social media.

Have a "go to" person for any potentially problematic situations and get everyone participating in social media together on a regular basis to share what they are seeing, hearing and learning.

How are you leveraging social media in your organization?

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: customer experience, be responsive, consistent messaging, listen intensely, social media

Are You Having Omnichannel Dialogues with Your Customers?

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 14, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

omnichannel dialogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Swati Sinha of SAP and Kevin Poe of Experian for a thought-provoking presentation on "How Marketing Can Power Engagement: Using Analytics to Deepen Customer Relationships."

 

With more social media channels and apps, there's that much more opportunity to have a dialogue with customers and prospects.

 

Social media use has increased by 76% over the past year.

 

This has resulted in more personalized social interactions, as well as the expectation of instant gratification across channels.

 

It also generates real-time consumer insights in you listen intensely and interact with customers in-person or online.

 

We also have a real-time view of the customer which gives us information about:

 

  1. Consumer history -- purchases, engagement, channels for both.

  2. Future behavior -- able to predict lifetime value of the customer.

  3. Current context -- time, location, activities and emotions of the consumer.

  4. Identity -- attributes, public data, likes, interests, memberships, ownership, segments.

In order to have this information, you must be prepared to collect data from mobile devices, social media channels, websites, third-party sources and sensors and integrate into your CRM.

 

Doing so will enable you to create more engaging, richer customer experiences which will give you great opportunity to connect with prospects and customers one-on-one and provide them with instant gratification and "wow" customer experiences.

 

Creating a more responsive enterprise will enable you to:

 

  1. Create and shape demand in real-time.

  2. Rapidly match supply to a changing market.

  3. Deliver new products and business models more quickly.

 

Doing so will:

 

  1. Increase loyalty.

  2. Increase performance.

  3. Increase speanding.

  4. Increase customers.

 

However, a total reliance on data, technology and marketing automation can cause you to have a false sense of knowledge.

 

It's still about people and regardless of how much data you have about a person, you still need to have a dialogue with that person to really know what the person is thinking and what's driving their actions.

 

According to Forrester, 80% of companies believe they're delivering a good customer experience; however, only 8% of customers, from the same companies believe they are receiving a good customer experience.

 

Here are the four disconnects:

 

  1. Failure to have a dialogue with the customer to learn what they're really thinking.

  2. Lack of channel integration. Failure to provide an omnichannel experience.

  3. An internal view of the customer experience. Companies assume they know what the customer experience is without talking to customers to verify their assumptions.

  4. Unclear ownership of, or emphasis on, improving the customer experience.

 

Here are the five steps to take to close the gap between what companies, and their customers think:

 

  1. Customer data -- have an omnichannel, 360-degree view of the customer.

  2. Customer satisfaction surveys -- I prefer Net Promoter Score to ensure you know if the customer is sufficiently pleased with the experience you are providing to recommend your product or service to their family, friends or colleagues.

  3. Customer experience testing program.

  4. Predictive modeling with customer experience satisfaction results.

  5. Measurement of the impact of your customer satisfaction and customer experience initiatives.

 

Are you using all of the channels available to have a dialogue with your customers?

 

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

 

Tags: dialogue, customer experience, consumer insights accelerate sales, listen intensely, omnichannel marketing and customer service

How To Improve the Customer Experience (#CX)

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Sep, 24, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

improve customer experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk to your customers.

 

Ask them how you are doing.

 

Listen intensely to what they have to say.

 

Ask follow-up questions to let your customer know you're really concerned with what they have to say.

 

I am consistently surprised by the lack of contact with customers that top management has at some of the companies with which I've worked.

 

If you're wondering how to get started, use the three-question Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey:

 

  1. On a scale of 0 to 10 where 10 is "definitely," what is the likelihood that you would recommend us to a family, friend or colleague?

  2. Why did you give us that score?

  3. If we have not done so, what can we do to earn a 10? 

 

NPS surveys are a great way to begin a dialogue with your customers.

 

If you're going to ask your customers what you can do to improve the customer experience, be prepared to address their suggestions. And, thank them for their feedback.

 

Improving customer service may mean focusing your effort on interacting with customers via social media.

 

When you have an actual dialogue with your customers, ask them what you can do that's best, easiest and most convenient for them.

 

Anything you can do to save your customers time and make their lives easier will be remembered, appreciated and shared by your customers. You will also increase the likelihood that they'll be repeat customers.

 

There's no substitute for asking questions and listening intensely to your customers.

 

It makes them feel invested in the company improving customer loyalty and retention.

 

It also gives you the opportunity to get insights into the consumer that has never occurred to you or your team. For example, have you ever asked your customers who they consider to be your competition? Do it, you might be surprised by their answers.

 

Empower your employees to engage your customers as well. The more your customers know you and your employees care about them, the more likely they are to develop an emotional connection with your brand. 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: dialogue, customer experience, voice of the customer, empower employees, emotional connection, listen intensely, customer service

Voice of the Customer (#VOC) Isn't Just About Customers

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Sep, 15, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

voice of the customer insights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've used voice of the customer (VOC) research throughout my career to solve business problems.

 

However, don't let the term, voice of the customer, limit you to just talking to customers.

 

You can learn a lot by having one-on-one conversations with:

 

  • Your management team to determine is everyone is in alignment with regard to vision, mission, values and strategic positioning.

  • Your employees to understand if they know how they are contributing to the team or to learn what customers do and do not like about our products or services.

  • Members of your sales force to understand what elements of the sales process are working, where the process is breaking down, or if they're pleased with the quality of the sales qualified leads (SQLs) they are getting.

  • Channel partners to learn what you can do to make it easier for them to sell your products to their customers, as well as their perceptions of your products and service relative to other products they are selling.
     
  • Suppliers to understand how you can be a better customer and brainstorm on things you can both change to become more efficient.

  • Former customers to find out why they left and what you can do to improve your product or service to earn back their business.

  • Prospective customers to understand their perception of your brand relative to the competition and who they see as your competition.
I prefer in-depth one-on-one interviews for a several reasons:
  • It's more personal. Respondents can see and hear that you are truly interested in what they have to say and will open up and tell you more than you were expecting. 
     
  • People tell you what they are thinking rather than what they think is "politically correct" or what will make them sound smart to others in the room.

  • You can ask follow-up questions like, "Tell me more about that." or "Can you explain why you felt that way?" and get detailed answers to those questions that you do not get with open-ended questions in a non-moderated survey.

  • You can end the interview by asking, "Is there anything I haven't touched on that you think is important or relevant to the issue we've been discussing?" This gives the respondent the opportunity to answer a question that you didn't think to ask. It also gives the respondent the opportunity to add more detail to their answer to a question that you had asked earlier. 
Use surveys, use Net Promoter Score, use focus groups, use social media listening tools, use whatever methodology that makes the most sense to gather the information you need to make more informed business decisions.
It's amazing what you'll learn if you just ask.
 
The more you know, the more effective and expedient your decisions will be.
How have you used voice of the customer research to solve a business problem?
Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

Tags: dialogue, VoC, voice of the customer, vision, mission, values, listen intensely

Listen Intensely, Solve the Problem, Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 12, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

Listen intensely to solve customer problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Jim Gould, the General Manager at my local Chipotle, for finally coming up with an excellent solution to an ongoing problem.

 

I've been eating at Chipotle every day for the past seven years.

 

For the last four or five years, I've been buying $50 gift cards rather than having so many entries on my credit card.

 

It was very rare for the magnetic stripe on a gift card to last the entire $50.

 

If the card was scanned too fast, the magnetic stripe was fried and the host would have to enter the number on the back of the card -- a time-consuming process for the host that also slowed the line during the lunch rush.

 

I'd raised this issue with a number of different people at Chipotle over the years. 

 

Last week Jim suggested I send myself an e-card, load it to my phone and then just load additional value to the same card.

 

Great solution to a nagging problem!

 

Now, I no longer have to carry a gift card. I'm able to use my iPhone to pay for my meals at Chipotle. And, I don't hold up the line.

 

Jim, thanks for listening to the problem and simplifying my life!

 

What can you do that will simplify life for your customers?

 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: customer satisfaction, accelerate sales, genuine interest, listen intensely

Use Insights and Knowledge to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 09, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

 Farm Bureau sign resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago, after creating a tremendously successful campaign for Blue Cross and Blue Shield that reduced negative perceptions by 38%, increased positive perceptions by 19% and doubled inbound leads, they asked us to see if we could help Farm Bureau do a better job of selling Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance.

 

Farm Bureau sells their own life, auto and home insurance and they are very well respected by their customers. 

 

At the time I began working on this project, Farm Bureau had 850 agents in North Carolina and those agents weren't coming close to making the annual sales goals that had been agreed to with Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

 

I recommended, and the client agreed, to let me have one-on-one interviews with 15 of their agents so I could better understand:

  • How they generated leads

  • How they scheduled appointments

  • What took place during an appointment

  • What worked and didn't work with regards to making a sale

  • Their perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance

  • Their customers' perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance

 

The one-on-one discussions with the agents were invaluable.

 

Each interview lasted anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes and gave me a much better understanding of the agents' mentality, how they went about their job and their perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance.

 

As I was presenting my findings to the vice president of sales, who had been managing the 850 agents for the past 20 years, he stopped me 10 minutes into my presentation.

 

He said, "How did you get this information? You've already told me two things I've never heard before and I've been managing these guys for 20 years."

 

I explained my methodology and hypothsized that his sales reps were telling me details they never shared with him, or amongst themselves, because they thought they were irrelevant.

Since they were all agents, they tought everyone was doing the same things and knew the same things.

 

While there were a lot of consistencies, they were also a lot of nuances that each agent had developed over time that helped them be more successful.

 

One, in particular, was an agent who only met with the husband and wife together at the kitchen table where he could see both of them simultaneously. He wanted to be able to see both decision-makers' reactions.

 

Based on what the V.P. of sales told me, this finding was subsequently added to the Farm Bureau agent training.

 

After presenting the findings from the one-on-one interviews, the V.P. of sales asked me to validate the findings, and see if we would learn any new insights, by conducting an online survey of the other 835 agents.

 

I created and implemented the survey. The results confirmed everything I had learned fromt he one-on-one interviews and provided no new insights since the online survey didn't allow for the all-important follow-up questions, "Can you tell me more about that?" or "Can you explain why you do that?"

 

The solution to the problem of Farm Bureau agents selling more Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance didn't come directly from any of the agents. 

 

The solution came from knowing:

  • There's a Farm Bureau agency on a major thoroughfare in all 100 counties in North Carolina.

  • Farm Bureau agents thought very highly of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance, even though they didn't receive as much compensation as they did when they sold a Farm Bureau policy.

  • Farm Bureau clients trust their Farm Bureau agents.

  • Everyone in the state of North Carolina recognizes Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance as the "gold standard."

  • Farm Bureau and Blue Cross and Blue Shield have tremendous brand awareness and equity. 

 

This knowledge resulted in the recommendation that Farm Bureau buy yellow plastic A-frame signs for every agency with a sign that says "Blue Cross and Blue Shield (logo) health insurance available here Farm Bureau (logo)."

 

The agents put these signs out in front of their office every morning when they opened the office.

 

Results: Farm Bureau met their 12-month health insurance sales goals in less than three months and spent less than $65,000 on the signs.

 

Today, you continue to see the A-frame signs in front of the Farm Bureau offices as well as car magnets of fans of local colleges and universities.

 

Use insights from your customers and your sales people to help you solve business problems.

 

 

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

 

 

Tags: dialogue, consumer insights accelerate sales, listen intensely, insights from channel partners accelerates sales

Accelerate Sales with Social Media

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 02, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

use social media to enhance customer engagement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use social media to build authentic engagement with customers and prospects throughout their customer lifecycle.

 

Open, transparent and honest conversations accelerate the customer lifecycle, as well as the sales cycle.

 

The more you know about your customers and prospects, the more you are able to help them by providing information of value that will simplify their lives.

 

The more you simplify their lives, the more loyal they will be, the more they will buy from you in the near-term and the greater lifetime value they'll have for your firm.

 

Strive to build relationships.

 

Facilitate conversations across all stages of the customer lifecycle. The person who is just considering your product or service for the very first time is very different than a previous customer or someone who has been researching for the past few months.

 

As an example, I’ve been evaluating marketing automation software for employers and clients for the past five years so I’m a fairly well-informed prospect; however, the features and benefits of the platforms change so frequently I need to get a demo every six months so I'm fully aware of what one platform offers versus another.

 

Know what your prospects know and then share with them what they need to know to make a well-informed decision.

 

Customer communities help build engagement and brand advocacy.

 

Prospective customers trust what other customers say about your product or service, twice as much as what the company says.

 

Empower your customers to speak to others on your behalf.

 

Encourage them to do so by providing "wow" customer experiences that they want to share with their friends, family and colleagues, as well as their social media followers.

 

You can drive engagement and activate revenue through persistent, discoverable and relevant conversations.

 

Make fleeting social interactions more persistent and long-term to build trust and credibility.

 

Relevant content drives conversion. Achieve this by prioritizing and contextually appropriate community topics.

 

Ask your customers and prospects what they want to know more about and then engage them.

 

Engagement = (Content + People) x Participation

 

Relevant answers to relevant questions accelerate revenue.

 

Know your customer's buying cycles.

 

Know what their questions are at each stage of the cycle.

 

Answer the question before they ask it.

 

You will earn their trust and make their lives simpler and easier.

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Tags: trust, integrity, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, authenticity, listen intensely, social media

Top 10 Voice of the Customer (#VOC) Best Practices

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jun, 30, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

listen to VOC to improve CX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Allegiance for the following.

 

I had the opportunity to attend Allegiance's VOC Fusion conference in May and earn my Professional VOC Certification.

 

Sadly, most of the companies I see today are very short-sighted and are only concerned with meeting this month's/quarter's sales goals.

 

They do not care about establishing a long-term relationship with the customer that will lead to greater lifetime customer value and lower marketing investment.

 

Here are the 10 best practices:

  1. Listen, and act on, the voice of the customer. Listen intensely. Let your customers know you care about them and what they have to say. Thank them profusely for giving you feedback -- both positive and negative.  

  2. Open the gates to customer feedback. Ask for customer feedback. Let your customer know you're committed to improving but you need their help to do so.

  3. Make VOC feedback collection part of the routine for you and your employees. Make sure your employees understand the value of consumer feedback, both positive and negative. Don't penalize employees for negative feedback. Empower them to address the problem.

  4. Know what the feedback says. Take the time to read comments and answers to open-ended questions. If you aren't clear about what the feedback is saying, reach out to the customer and have a conversation with them. They'll be shocked that you cared enough to reach out and talk to them.
     
  5. Take real and deliberate action. The management team needs to agree on what the next steps are based on the quantitative and qualitative feedback. Root cause analysis may be needed to understand why a problem seems to be recurring. Assign a team, including frontline employees, to map the customer journey, you'll be amazed at what's falling through the cracks between the silos of your organization.

  6. Close the feedback loop. Let your customers know you appreciate their feedback, you heard what they had to say and what you are, or are not, going to do as a result of their feedback.

  7. Tell the world. Tell them you are committed to providing an outstanding customer experience and then share with them what steps you are going to take to do so. What you've learned and the steps you are taking as a result of what you've learned are great blog topics.

  8. Bring feedback to life internally. Share customer feedback and performance scores with your entire team. Empower and engage your team to share their stories and experiences. Your front-line employees can validate and add color to the feedback.

  9. Match employee behavior to discoveries. Encourage your employees to engage customers in a dialog to better understnad their needs and wants. Encourage and empower employees to provide an outstanding customer experience or to fix a customer's problem on the spot without having to go to their manager for approval.

  10. Celebrate success by sharing superior customer service stories with others in your organization. Nordstron and Ritz Carlton employees are proud to share their customer service stories, it's part of their culture of providing consistently outstanding customer service. What superior customer service stories are shared in your firm? 

 

Four additional steps you can take:

 

  1. Keep up steps 1 through 10 above. A commitment to provide outstanding customer service should never end. However, as c-level executives more concerned about making quarterly numbers and getting their quarterly bonus, they take their eyes off the commitment to, and the ultimate value of, providing outstanding customer service. Make customer service delivery as important as revenue goals.

  2. Measure. I find a three-question NPS survey to be very easy, very informative and very useful for creating a dialog and letting your customers, and employees, know you care. 

  3. Improve. Every company committed to providing an outstanding customer experiece understands that it's a "journey, not a destination" and that their customers will bring them new opportunities for improvement every day. 

  4. Engage employees to listen and provide feedback. Your employees have a better idea of what's an issue for your customers than you do. They interact with them daily. Listen, and act on, what your employees have to say about providing an outstanding customer experience.

If you want to have a profitable, long-term, viable business you can positively differentiate yourself from your competition by providing outstanding customer service.

 

The customer services bar is still very low.

 

Very few companies are listening intensely to the voice of the customer.

 

Companies that provide the best customer service, and make an emotional connection with their customers, will be more successful than those that do not.

 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book   

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, customer experience, customer satisfaction, VoC, voice of the customer, listen intensely

Engage with Customers in all Channels to Improve Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jun, 11, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

engage in social media for better customer experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your customers, and prospects, are talking about you, your products and the level of service you provide. Are you listening?

 

Thanks to Oscar Alban @Verint, Kristen Jacobsen @Calabrio and Mike Hennessy @IntelliResponse for an good disccussion of "How to Understand the True Voice of the Customer." 

 

I have been urging clients to listen intensely to their customers in order to meet their needs and expectations for years.

 

As the social and mobile playing fields continue to expand, listening has become more difficult -- let alone intense listening. However, it can be done and needs to be on your radar. 

 

Customer expectations are changing daily as companies like Zappos provide consistently outstanding customer experiences.

 

Customers now expect you to:

 

  • Know them as a result of their personal interactions with you.


  • Offer them targeted and relevant content and promotions based on their past interactions with you.


  • Know how they found you, what they like and don't like about you and how they want to do business with you going forward.
     
  • Invest in social media and mobile as service channels.


  • Let them control the shopping and service process.

Customer experience (#cx) will be the primary differentiator between both B2B and B2C companies in the 21st century.

 

What are you doing to provide your customers with a "different and better" customer experience than your competitors?

 

How well do you, and your employees, know your customers?

 

Millennials list the phone as their fourth channel of choice at 29% versus:

  • Email/SMS = 42%

  • Social media = 36%

  • Smartphone = 32%

For your business to remain relevant to your customers over time, you must be prepared to interact with, and serve, your customers across multiple channels and touchpoints in an integrated manner.

 

While your business may remain siloed for organizational purposes, customer data cannot.

 

Everyone in your company needs to have a 360-view of the customer at their fingertips to be able to provide the customer with an acceptable level of service.

 

Customer information must flow seamlessly throughout your organization.

 

The leading omnichannel challenges are:

 

  • Expectations -- customer expectations are outrunning companies' ability to deliver across channels. Companies that are successful at meeting customers' expectations will have a "first-mover" advantage.

  • Employee knowledge -- customers know more about your products, services and prices than your employees. Will you invest in your employees to ensure this doesn't happen. The average financial institution spends 30 minutes trainng a teller before putting them in front of a customer.

  • Unpredictable -- customers are using different, and multiple, channels to do different things. You need to be listening intensely online to know where your customers are and where they expect you to be. Don't forget about forums, blogs and online communities in addition to traditional social media channels.

  • Loyalty -- a good customer experience in one channel is not sufficient to maintain loyalty if you're failing to fulfill customers' needs in other channels.
It's critical that your contact center and your customer experience management teams (i.e., people, processes and technology) be completely integrated.
The solutions available to engage with customers across channels are improving daily.
Define your goals and objectives with regards to ensuring that your firm is delivering an excellent customer experience across multiple channels and then begin evaluating the platfforms and solutions that will help you achieve your goals.
Talk with your customers about their needs, wants and expectations with regards to research, purchase and service currently and in the future.
Engage your customers to understand what they consider to be an acceptable and an outstanding customer experience in this ever-changing landscape of content, product and service delivery.
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Tags: customer experience, VoC, voice of the customer, earn your customers trust, connecting emotionally with customers, customer engagement, listen intensely, social media

Practice Social Listening to Enhance the (#cx) Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jun, 09, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

social listening enhances the customer experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good webinar by Ken Griffin (@kengriffin1), Jaime Vignali (@DocJMV), Doug Busk (@dbusk) and Paul Dunay (@pauldunay) on the "Art of Listening."

 

I have written in the past about the importance of listening intensely to what your customers and prospects have to say to improve the customer experience, as well as the products and services you provide.

 

Ken provided five steps all marketers should take to engage in a successful social media listening initiative:

 

  1. Develop consistent messaging and content. By developing consistent messaging and content, you begin to see what you should be listening for. If there's incongruence between the two, find out why and address it to ensure your messaging and content are consistent.

  2. Source and refine your creative content. Adopt a content-sharing mindset whereby everyone on your team is on the lookout for information of value that will help your customers and prospects answer their questions, and solve their problems.

  3. Improve your media plan to ensure you are reaching your customers and prospects in the channels where they are most active and most interested in receiving your message.

  4. Identify key influencers of your brand and your industry and strive to engage them in a dialog so you can get to know them, their needs and wants, better.

  5. React to real-time opportunities and threats. Prepare crisis communications in advance. Engage legal and regulatory before you need them. It's difficult to respond in real-time is everything has to go through legal before you post it. 
Segment your customers and prospects so that you know where and how they want to engage with you and where they are most likely to be talking about you.
Identify all of the communities, blogs and forums where dialog about your brand is taking place. Do not limit your listening to the primary social media channels (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instgram, et.al.).
Use social listening to guide your messaging. You can be much more timely and relevant if you know what's currently being said about your brand.
Social media should be a part of your marketing ecosystem, not a separate channel.
Today, social media should be an integral part of your integrated marketing plan.
Jaime Vignali, of Novartis, suggested taking the following steps to monitor and assess your progress:
  1. Determine the goals of your listening program. Do you just want to know what's being said about you to monitor positive and negative sentiment or do you want to engage customers to build a stronger emotional connection to the brand?

  2. Identify key stakeholders for social media analytics. Who in your company would benefit from knowing what customers are discussing on social media? R&D might benefit from knowing what customers do and do not like about your products. Customer service would like to know of any concerns, or kudos, regarding how customers are being treated. 

  3. Kickoff and training. Introduce your social listening initiative to the key stakeholders within your firm so they understand what to expect and so you can agree upon how to respond to different situations.

  4. Share case studies and examples throughout the company. Once different departments see the types of insights you are garnering from your social listening initiative, they're going to want to participate.

  5. Iterate and refine. Always be learning, testing and improving. Don't be afraid to actively engage brand advocates online, or offline, to discuss how you can do a better job of meeting their needs in person and on social media.

You'll be amazed what you will learn from your customers if you listen intensely.
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Tags: customer experience, dialog, VoC, voice of the customer, listen intensely, social media