Social media is altering the dynamic of business to consumer relationships, especially in the management of customer experience says Katie King, managing director of Zoodikers.
The Pew Research Centre has revealed that 72 per cent of individuals who use the Internet also use social networking sites in 2013 – a rise of 5 per cent on last year. The growth in popularity of these platforms is astonishing, but quite predictable. Such fast paced development is forcing many businesses with any kind of outward-facing façade to acknowledge the fact that the noise generated on social media should not be ignored.
Social media is altering the dynamic of business to consumer relationships, especially in the management of customer experience. Complaining has evolved from the days of people sending letters. Disgruntled customers can now broadcast a flow of complaints aimed at an organisation online.
One-to-one communications, such as letters or phone calls, used to allow for a relatively confidential discussion directly with a customer to resolve any issue. A complaint on Twitter is entirely the opposite – it is available for anyone to view, comment on or re-tweet to any of the 500 million users.
Complaints can quickly become seriously threatening to the reputation of an organisation. Quick reaction and implementation of considered, but crucially tailored, responses are required – similar to traditional public relations. It would be perilous to think that ignoring a crisis will resolve it. Momentum may subside, although it is a mistake to think that the issue will simply disappear without acknowledgement or strategy.
Traditional crisis communications is about creating comprehensive plans for conceivable eventualities but social media is about identifying relevant platforms to reach a target audience, allowing for two-way interaction. A customer service presence on all platforms is important to allow for effective monitoring and fast response to growing issues.
Social media platforms can be used to inform stakeholders of up-to-date information. This can lead to negative comments or sharing of feelings of frustration from customers. Although these comments do provide an insight into the mindset of consumers, it is difficult to plan responses for them. It is also not entirely necessary to reply to every single complaint on platforms such as Twitter or FourSquare, but serious complaints need to be dealt with in an open and honest manner. This works to reassure existing and potential customers that issues are being resolved.
It is also important to remember to maintain a personality online and not to appear too corporate. Acknowledging positive feedback can be equally as powerful for reputation and image. Social media is an appropriate platform for sharing words of recommendation, as well as complaining.
As a channel for open communication, Twitter is a divisive tool for feedback. Reponses need to be streamlined – to the point, minus any jargon. They also need to be fast and direct. There are many examples of organisations getting it wrong on Twitter and many such examples have become infamous. Contrary to this, there are many organisations that get it very right on social media.