The distance between avoidance and attention in customer service is also a brand impression that can go a long way in positive word of mouth. With more brands joining social media every day, the question of how brands should behave becomes more important.
This is not the kind of interactive a company is used to, although it can build on it. It's like a brand walking into a room with other brands - yes, people who publish online and customers who participate to forums and social networks, for example, are brands.
Yet these are not competitors' brands - the kind that companies are used to addressing. They may be people your brand upset at some point or another, when they were customers. Or they may be influential brands that can really boost your bottom line, if they choose to speak on your behalf. The difference between a welcome reception and a flop in social media depends on the brand's behavior.
As we propose to discuss in our session (if voted in) designed for SxSW, brands need to start learning some manners, just like the rest of us. What better way for brands that are in your life to demonstrate they are glad to be there than to travel the distance between avoidance and attention in customer service. That is the one area where the proverbial rubber meets the road.
Not every company has a culture that will allow it to participate in social media. Nor should every company answer "social media" to the question of customer service.
For example, if your products and services are in need of a serious overhaul, you may think about getting that done first. Good brand behavior also means providing a needed (and wanted) product or service.
One of the advantages for those who can and want to join are many. In my post at Fast Company Expert blog I outline a couple:
- Other customers and prospects now have the opportunity to evaluate whether they’d do business with you on the basis of your behavior - Jeremy Pepper has an extensive post on Twitter behavior and brands. Avoid things like having your PR firm set up a Twitter account. In my experience, it is hard enough to work with a firm that gets your business and its nuances. How are they supposed to be light on their feet about it in a fast response environment like a digital presence? Set up a way to track mentions of your brand, so you can address the issues or just connect, depending on the type of mentions.
- You can establish a credible channel to begin to address the areas in which you have come up short, according to your customers - the Dell team did this with their blog, Twitter presence, etc. You can also then build on that by providing a forum where the conversation switches to doing new ideas - like IdeaStorm.
- Customer service reps on the front lines can address issues in real time and become company and brand stewards, thus creating good will - Frank Eliason on behalf of Comcast on Twitter. We talked about how Comcast has put power behind its presence on Twitter: specific troubleshooting, live modem diagnostics, email resources, information on new features and, most importantly, a human voice.
- You can learn a great deal about what works - for your company and brand.
The old way in customer service rewarded avoidance - how quickly can you get off the phone? Customer service is the new marketing philosophy addresses that gap with attention. If you've been on Facebook, Twitter, blogs or forums you already know that these media are the true definition of 24/7.
The companies that are participating are creating a new baseline for customer service - a conversation that is personal, relevant, and memorable. Which are your favorite brand behaviors online?
[fall foliage in the hills of Modena, Italy]