The changing face of customer relations
Customer relations is changing and changing fast. Whether it is driven by cost savings or a recognition that audience habits are changing, there is no disputing that the way organisations interact with their customers is very different to 5-10 years ago. Social media has simply speeded up the change. Customers now expect instant responses and want their views expressed on a public platform. The most savvy businesses know this.
I recently lambasted the driver of an international delivery company who overtook me and two other cars on a bend in a village in Lancashire. He didn't care for the fact that children were on their bikes next to the road or that the speed limit was 30mph. Disgusted with the fact that he saw it more important he meets his delivery deadline than mine and others safety, I said as much on twitter later. I was then contacted by theUKmanager of the company in question who asked me to email him the details to pass on to the driver's manager.
I'm not suggesting the driver changed his ways or that it altered company policy but their swift response to my concerns in a channel I use meant not only did they spot some criticism and acted upon it, they created an ambassador for their company ie me - something much more valuable to them than a press release.
It is claimed that a positive customer is likely to tell at least six other people on average about their positive experience - something I am doing in this post. Social media makes it much easier to. Positive customers are worth their weight in gold as they become brand ambassadors. Their opinions carry more weight than any PR could muster.
This brings me on to my other point which relates to the negative risk. I've been working closely with the NHS Choices website in recent months and the more I do the more it frustrates me. If you haven't been on it before it is basically an information portal for your GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists but the most important aspect is it allows people to comment and score their quality of service. All very well, but how many people do you know who would go to their GP with a problem, get given a prescription and then think to go home and post a nice comment? Not many. What tends to happen is the person who feels they've had lousy treatment, waited too long or felt the GP didn't pay them enough attention then posts a negative comment and scores them accordingly. If you see these comments they can be very damaging. Any person new to an area looking online for a GP or dentist will give anyone with a negative comment a wide berth - even if the said practice treated thousands of happy customers each week.
The difficulty with this site is sitting behind it is a clunky bureaucratic infrastructure that makes it difficult for the practice to do anything but put a line under the comment asking them to get in touch. In essence this is a national solution trying to meet local demand which is impossible.
It is crucial that if an organisation is serious about using social media as part of a channel shift strategy it needs to fully understand what it is striving to achieve and whether the channels being used are appropriate. Furthermore, they need to be clear who is responding, have agreed the nature of the tone and language they will use and that any enquiries are linked to their customer interface so that if someone does complain it will be acted upon and logged as opposed to sitting in someone's inbox or wall for days or weeks. It isn't rocket science, simply an understanding that social media involves a conversation and as such needs to be too-way. If an organisation doesn't realise this and carries on regardless it has the potential to join the ever growing list of social media bloopers we all enjoy reading about.