I have been chasing a few clients for a decision over the past few months. They appear not to be able to make up their minds about whether they want to go ahead with a social media project. My hunch is that they know that it will change everything and they cannot stop it but are somewhat reluctant to dive in and get on with it.
I can rightly understand their hesitation. As I pore over the postings for the client I’m working with I realise that you have to respond in a special way that call centre staff are unaccustomed to. Most call centre managers shudder at the spelling skills of their teams and know that they are going to need significant training to handle the posts in the most sensitive way.
In addition companies know that they cannot set their PR managers loose on social media or customers will be turned off straight away as customers don’t want to receive any broadcast messages but most importantly they want to be listened to. This is where social media guidelines and training are essential to ensure that the right response is given. I’ve seen too many interventions on sites like Trip Advisor that have damaged company brands.
I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a lot of reading and my conclusion so far is that customer postings highlight the unmet information needs that customers have. If they cannot find the information they need easily they can’t be bothered to trawl through website FAQs if they don’t have any search facility. They also don’t want to pay to get through to a call centre where they may not trust the call agent to give them an honest answer so they post a question on a customer review site. This means that you are not only dealing with the postings but are having to take a hard look at how you organise and disseminate your information.
The speed of response expected by customers is another challenge that social media throws at an organisation. Gone are the days when they have to use snail mail if they have a complaint and you’ll get back to them in 30 days. Companies cannot afford to ignore complaints as reputations can be damaged in a “tweet”. I was doing some research on what is the norm regarding response times to posts and although those companies that are using Twitter as a concierge type service aim to respond in real time, most companies are now looking at 1-4 hour response times. This is a huge shift from current promises and explains the current state of indecision about diving in to social media.
My conclusion is that companies have no choice and they have to start listening and setting up their processes to interact with customers via social networks. Time spent on social networking sites has increased from three hours a month to 5.5 hours in the last year, representing an 82% increase in the use of social media, according to a NielsenWire report.
If companies don’t get involved there are plenty of other players out there willing to have an online conversation with their customers.