First and foremost the social customer is a person.
This person would like to control the intensity and frequency of their interactions with you. They do not think of it in these academic terms however. Consider the person: a stay at home mom, 20 something with their iPhone glued to their hip or a business professional. Each has learned how to leverage the social web in their own way. The change from customer to social customer and now transitioning to engaged customer is fascinating to insiders. This shift in culture, which has been enabled by technology and peer influence, is critically important for your business to understand. In some ways it is all very new. In other ways, it is very old.
How do you have a relationship with the ‘Social Customer’ – give them control and they will give you their loyalty. I would add that you should give them (the person) value and they will give you loyalty. As a business, there is a balance, after all, businesses are in business to create value. At the moment, the social customer has a disproportionate amount of influence within your organization – fact. The reason is simple, they tweet, blog and share their opinions very vocally. Add to that the simple fact that your marketing and PR team are the one monitoring the channel. Does you PR team listen to all the phone calls in your call center? Didn’t think so.
How does a company prepare to engage with a social customer?
First, it is critically important to understand that the customer will choose his or her level of interaction and/or engagement. According to Paul, here is what we need to do (and I happen to agree).
- Create systems that allow interactions where customer want, which will then foster engagement
- Capture information at each stage, across each channel, so that you can later refine the process of engagement
The core capabilities of a system of engagement are two parts technology, one part process and two parts people. Systems of record combined with systems of engagement (interactions/channels). The basics are really about the ability and capability to interact in a meaningful way with the each and every customer. The process needs to include putting the right two people in touch.
How important is this anyway?
Viscerally, many people agree of the importance of the social customer, yet it is difficult to see where and how to influence the conversations that are taking place. What level of engagement is the proper level? As Paul discusses, your tem simply needs to present the options. However, just how to measure the return is really hard, for now realize it is important and get it done. The velocity of the conversations is tough to predict as well. They may occur over a weekend or over the course of weeks and months. They cannot be forced one way, or the other.
Customer Engagement is the extent to which an organization commits, both emotionally and intellectually, to communicating and interacting with their customers, relative to accomplishing shared goals driven by customer need. Engagement can be seen as a heightened level of interaction and ownership where the company wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of the customer.
In other words, proper customer engagement is the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.
Social media is the the protocol of the social customer cannot be treated as a passive activity driven by managers in marketing. Social media channels are a new set of channels that need to somehow fit into your existing processes or you need to adapt and create new ones. The social customer is extremely adept at curating knowledge about you, your products and your policies and procedures. They have very high expectations, and will make future purchasing decisions based not only on price, but service.
The implications for your company are very real. Systems of record have been the foundation of your organization for a long time. Systems of engagement are becoming increasingly important and will soon be on par with systems of record. The marrying of the two systems is what it is going to take; the problem is that systems of engagement live in marketing and systems of record live in IT and your customers are talking to customer service.
I have said before, what is really being described here is a maturity model; If Social CRM is about a company’s programmatic response to the social customer, then engagement is where the compromise occurs. Both customers and business need to mature and be willing to invest emotionally and intellectually. Since the customer will mature at his or her own pace, your organization will need to adapt to the rate of change, as driven by your customers.
The effects of the social customer have been felt by most industries and by most organizations in the developed world. This customer type will continue to impact your industry and can be felt directly by your company. An engaged customer will have an even greater impact to your organization, with your employees and on your products and services.