December 16, 2009

Social Media – The New Word-of-Mouth

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Get Elastic has an article about how consumers use Social Media. This prompted me to think about how businesses and customers communicate with each other. The article and the study it cites brings some insightful statistics showing how important your customer’s experience in communicating with you really is.

“74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer-care experiences shared online.”

I have to admit, I was a little surprised by this statistic. After giving it some thought, however, it really isn’t that surprising. After all, Social Media is the new version of word-of-mouth advertising. How a business responds to the needs of their customers will be talked about online, with a potential audience in the thousands.

“84% consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company”

This statistic was not surprising, maybe a little low in my experience. Customer Care is the way your customers connect with your company. Each call, email, chat, and visit is an opportunity for both customers and businesses have a conversation with each other. Your customers want to be heard, and your ability to listen and respond to this need will leave a lasting impression of you with your customers (and their friends, family and probably people they will never know).

“81% say blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33% say they believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously”.

Let’s look at this again… “Less than 33% say they believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously”. Some of this is probably an issue of perception. That is, if you cannot provide what your customer wants (a discount, an out of stock item, a refund, etc.) they may come away with the impression that you don’t care. However, I think a large part of this feeling is how we interact with our customers. Customers want to be heard, we all need to show we are listening.

Some actions you can take that shows you are willing to listen are:

  1. Respond quickly – Email within 24 hours or answer the telephone within three rings.
  2. Acknowledge the question or request asked – This shows you are paying attention.
  3. Reply with a positive – Even if this means providing information on another product/ service that isn’t yours.
  4. Be understanding – Your customer may not know exactly what it is they want/need, you can help by listening and offering suggestions.
  5. Remain calm – Not every customer will be happy, calmly addressing even the most irate customer will give you a better position to listen to and address their needs.

This is not intended as an exhaustive list of tips. Actually, I’m sure you can think of a few to add. One thing to keep in mind is we are both customers and businesses. When talking with your customers, think about how you would want your issue addressed if you were the one making contact.