Chapter 10: Improving the customer experience: how social media can make a difference – Public Interest and Private Rights in Social Media

10

Improving the customer experience: how social media can make a difference

Urs E. Gattiker

Abstract:

By early 2012, Google + had 90 million users and was growing fast, but still far behind Facebook. This chapter outlines what these numbers could mean for your business. Specifically, we suggest four steps to ensuring effective social media use. In addition, we explain how quality management with actionable metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) can help you better engage with your fans or readers. We end this chapter with several practical implications, and possible trends, to watch out for.

Key words

actionable metrics

key performance indicators

trends

define objectives

sales

trust

assess

create

target audience

added value

listening

monitoring

engagement

key drivers

corporate strategy

monitor quality

measure performance

Introduction

You may likely share with me the belief that customer loyalty and retention are critical to the survival and growth of any business. The two-way conversation resulting from the addition of social media to the equation is the new kid in town that plays an increasingly important role in customer relationship management. Even so, making an impact in social media does not necessitate redefining the role of customer loyalty and retention. However, we all need to be aware that the quality of any related experience and service is the most important branding exercise. Basically, customers’ opinions matter in most companies, regardless of whom you talk to in the organisation.

Social media encompasses any tool or service that uses telecommunication technology, including digital media, to facilitate the production and exchange of information and action. Of course, how social media is used is influenced by context, such as your business’ industry and culture (e.g. language), as well as other factors such as gender and users’ age. For instance, female teenagers use social media differently than their male peers. To make matters easier, social media is often described using examples, such as:

 Facebook, where people connect with friends and family, and share images, videos and status updates;

 LinkedIn or Xing, both networks where professionals connect;

 Twitter, a micro-blogging platform that allows people to share ideas in up to 140 characters at a time with their followers;

 a corporate blog, where employees post information; and

 another platform, such as Orkut/Google in Pakistan and Brazil or Bebo in the UK.

We can discuss if a company should use social media, although that seems beyond the scope of this chapter. However, if a company wants to use social media effectively, it must evaluate its current position with the help of a social media audit (Gattiker, 2012). The resultant data can then be used to serve target audiences better with content they value.

Research based on 400 million Facebook fans indicates that only 3.5 to 7.49 per cent see your status update and only 0.25 to 0.90 per cent interact with the status update (Parker and Brian, 21 June 2011). To put this in email campaign terms, only 3 to 7 per cent open the message. Moreover, less than 1 per cent click-through on one of the links you provide in your email newsletter. Therefore, 50 000 Facebook fans (or email newsletter subscribers) represent just 3750 active Facebook likes (or newsletter subscribers). The rest is deadweight: fake user accounts or robots that certainly are not potential clients.

Does this suggest that we are producing content that represents added value for the client? It sounds more like a nightmare for any marketer, and implies that email campaigns and Facebook status updates are akin to broadcasting to an empty stadium. This chapter helps you to take these numbers with a grain of salt and proceed cautiously while crafting a strategy that best fits your organisation’s circumstances.

Define what you want to do and why

Remember the last time you purchased shoes? If you wanted stiletto heels you probably wanted to look taller and sexier. Accordingly, you would probably wear them for a night out on the town, but going for a countryside walk in them is unlikely. Similarly, the purpose social media has for you is the single most important factor that influences whatever you do with it.

For instance, you may want to use it to help improve the customer experience regarding the product, interacting with your company or brand, as well as getting help when needed. Therefore, this overriding purpose will drive how you use social media (see Figure 10.1 below). Yes, spreading your name, building brand recognition and so forth is important and helps. Nevertheless, the single most important factor is helping your customers.

Figure 10.1 Social media offers various ways to engage with the targeted audience for a better customer experience Source: CyTRAP Labs GmbH Note: Added value means additional benefits for the client (e.g. learning, fun, instructional). Content with added value might be an instructional video, blog entry or research study that can be downloaded as a PDF file.

So what tracks, connects and helps your customers? Regardless of how we go about outlining this, it absolutely must be defined, beginning with Figure 10.1 and pages 156–7. Figure 10.1 shows three facets of the process for using social media to facilitate a better customer experience. In most cases, a company’s interactions comprise a bit of all three types.

Such content helps grab the client’s attention, which is the most valuable and difficult commodity to acquire on the Internet, because most cannot keep up with the information flow as they risk data overload.

For those who believe customer experience is not critical, let us review. When compared to a dissatisfied customer, a satisfied one:

 is about six times as likely to recommend the product, service or company to another person or to make a repeat purchase; and

 speaks with about five people about their ‘great’ experience, deal or service.

In comparison, a dissatisfied client:

 discusses their dissatisfaction with about nine people (word-of-mouth marketing at its worst); and

 rarely tells us they are dissatisfied – only about 4 per cent of dissatisfied customers tell us so (e.g. by email, online comment, phone or letter).

This illustrates that focusing on improving the customer experience before, during and after the sale is critical to attaining and maintaining a brand’s desired reputation and image.

Help line

The help line can be described as various channels through which people can obtain support. For instance, I can visit coffee machine manufacturer Jura’s website (www.jura.com). Beyond a Facebook Like button, it offers little in terms of social media, but it does offer the opportunity to fill out an online email form. If I do so with a problem pertaining to one of their products, an agent will call the same day or early the next morning at the latest. The competent agent will have your coffee maker’s details, including repair records, on their screen. If necessary, they may ask you to stand in front of your machine and possibly help you fix the problem right then. If this works, I save time and money for the repairs I just avoided.

Other approaches are also feasible. For instance, fashion brand ASOS offers the ASOS Here to Help Facebook page. Its sole purpose is to ensure customer issues and requests for help or service stay off the main ASOS Facebook page (see www.facebook.com/ComMetrics/posts/166548693451713). However, 99 per cent of all companies in the EU have 250 or fewer employees. In the US, 96 per cent have 100 or fewer employees (see http://commetrics.com/?p=16). For such a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), maintaining two Facebook pages is not on the cards.

Sales funnel

The sales funnel is a systematic approach to selling products or services. ASOS’s main Facebook page keeps its customers informed about upcoming sales, incorporating social media into the sales funnel.

By contrast, Helsana, the Swiss health insurer, decided to establish a community on its homepage for clients to ask questions or discuss issues with others (http://forum.helsana.ch).

Another company may choose to offer a newsletter to which people can subscribe via email. Its monthly content might inform subscribers about new offerings, and how its products can be used more effectively. There are numerous options available, but considering staff time, costs and so forth, you must choose what is best for your organisation. Most important is that you are present where your clients wish to engage with you.

Trust builder

According to Figure 10.1, the last area we must address for improving the customer experience is to build trust with our audience. One way to do that is to offer content that is very useful, and valuable, to the target audience. For instance, a moving company such as North American Van Lines can offer an online checklist to help potential clients get ready for their move (see www.northamerican.com/household-moving/residential-moving-company-process.aspx).

For a software company, it might be a blog that addresses issues of interest to its clients, and those who might still become customers. It could also offer slides or videos of recent presentations given by its experts at industry conferences (see also Gattiker, 6 October 2010).

Of course, it is best if a person signs up to get their blog content or newsletter via email, because it represents an opt-in, whereby the client agrees to receive your content (remember privacy and data protection laws). However, abusing such trust by sending sales-related material may result in a backlash, so stay focused on content that is of value to your target audience, such as industry trends, regulations, upcoming law changes, tools and so forth.

Define, assess and create

Figure 10.1 outlined how to achieve a better customer experience by using social media:

1. to provide help and support;

2. to apply it as a sales funnel; and/or

3. as a trust builder with those consuming the content you provide.

Depending on context, most companies use each of these approaches. For instance, providing an insightful answer in a discussion forum helps build your reputation. Somebody might approach you based on your visibility in a group.

Put differently, it is extremely hard to determine what actions are critical for encouraging your customer to complete a purchase. You might give a speech, or write a chapter as I did here, which can result in a person wanting to connect with you on LinkedIn, sending you an email, or downloading a white paper you wrote. Some call such behaviour ‘micro-conversions’ or ‘actions’ that could eventually result in a sale. But remember what goes around comes around – you must treat everybody’s request with respect. This means that you must make the effort to acknowledge as well as reply to emails, comments on your Facebook page or a Twitter reply (an example of what not to do from Migros: www.flickr.com/photos/cytrap/6724819869). Now, we address additional challenges.

Who is my target audience?

If your focus is on a better customer experience, whatever clients need and prefer plays a key role. This means that you have to talk to your client to find out what content they would be interested in consuming, or what type of support would help them.

For instance, if I have a problem making an online payment using my bank’s software, I probably need the answer right now so I can finish the payment process. However, if I need cosmetic surgery, things are a bit different. Sending an email and getting an answer within 24 hours might be fast enough.

In addition, it is important to be and remain aware of the fact that once the purchase is completed at a clothing store, such as H&M or Target, the cycle begins anew: the person moves back to the pre-sales stage and a repeat sale might happen if the customer experience continues to be satisfactory (for example, how easy it is to get warranty work done on appliances).

What content represents added value for my target audience?

The more narrow the definition of your target audience (for instance, breast cancer patients), the easier it is to provide value for that particular group. Whatever definition you use, it is advisable to consider five things:

1. Share insights or help solve problems: Do not shill/push your product, but make sure that the content is helpful to your reader, such as by providing a checklist.

2. Show and tell: With the help of graphics, images and/or short videos, explain how the product can be better applied, or how surgery will reduce the pain, for example.

3. Surprise your audience: Do something unexpected to grab your audience’s attention.

4. Create wings and roots: Children need to see things in context to understand better. For instance, show the number of views for a video to get social validation, or explain how things relate to your corporate mission or strategy.

5. Re-imagine – create five new things from one: Do not recycle content, such as retweeting the same research paper on three different Twitter accounts over ten days. Instead, make a video about the research paper, pull audio from it and offer that as a podcast. Plus, write transcripts of podcasts and/or videos and post them to the web, or publish a blog post about the video, and embed the media files within it, and so on.

The challenge is that even if people subscribe to your content, it does not mean they actually consume it (remember our Facebook example – less than 1 per cent of your fans read and click on your status update). Getting people’s attention on the web is the most important and valuable commodity you can get from social media users (see also Figure 10.2 below). So use your social media activity wisely to gain your audience’s attention and keep it over the long haul.

Figure 10.2 Listening means monitoring what people say about you and what is happening on social media. The conversation about your organisation or brand happens with or without your participation Source: CyTRAP Labs GmbH Note: Joining the conversation means that you reply to comments on your blog, tweets mentioning your brand, or emails sent to you. Guide the person requesting information to those who can provide the required help. All this improves the customer experience.

A good example of value-added content is when it was discovered in late 2011 that women who had received breast implants from French manufacturer PIP could face a possible health risk. In response, many clinics and hospitals posted information on their blogs about this issue, which female patients eagerly sought out to learn whether their surgeon had used PIP implants or others (see http://mem.to/t/g/28hjXi311).

Where does our target audience want to engage with us?

As the above section outlines, our target audience wants content that is of value to them. If we are certain our content meets the criteria outlined on page 159, the next challenge is how we can get people to engage. To succeed, we must answer the following questions:

1. When does our client want to talk to us?

2. When does anyone interested in our product need to engage with us?

Often, people want to talk to you when they have a problem with your product (remember the e-banking example above). Twitter has become the agony aunt for disgruntled customers who take to the medium to complain about negative experiences. Of course, sometimes using a micro-blogging service (such as Identi.ca, Naijapulse.com or Twitter) is a last resort to get the supplier or seller to reply and rectify any problem (see also Figure 10.2 below).

As shown in Figure 10.2, attention is the most valuable commodity on social media because clients never have enough time to keep up with the flow of status updates from their friends and foes. Accordingly, one might click the Like button on a brand’s Facebook page to be eligible for the sweepstakes, or a discount coupon. Nevertheless, after having participated, or receiving the discount voucher, some people most likely will not come back to read content, or view a video.

And just because 50 per cent of your clients are on Facebook does not mean they want to engage with you that way. Instead, they might want to share Kodak moments with their friends, or family members. Others want to chat with friends or update their Facebook wall with gibberish.

In short, you must figure out where your clients will want to engage with you. It could be that they prefer to comment on one of your blog entries, instead of leaving a comment or clicking on the Like button on your Facebook page. Talk to your clients and find out where they want to meet for a conversation using social media tools. Do this before spending a lot of resources on, for example, Facebook, only to find that your clients want to engage on Google + − or worse, neither.

By the way, some people simply do not want to be friends with their sock, butter or soft drink manufacturer.

Link key drivers to corporate strategy

Unless you understand what your target audience values regarding content and services, it is difficult to engage them with the help of social media. To illustrate, by now many of us who travel a bit are members of several loyalty programmes airlines offer their customers. It took airlines a while to discover that their most valued customers – people who travel a lot in business class – are those least likely to appreciate getting free flights. In response, airlines offered people the opportunity to redeem miles for merchandise, such as travel luggage. Just as with a frequent flyer programme, we must have a clear strategy spelling out what we want to accomplish. Obviously, easyJet’s strategy is different than Ryanair’s and both differ from Emirates’ road map. Accordingly, these issues need to be addressed when developing a strategy for your organisation, regardless of whether it is for profit or not (see also Figure 10.2).

Strategy is the process of specifying an organisation’s objectives, developing policies and plans to achieve these objectives, and allocating resources to get there. It can be for the outcome of the organisation as a whole, in which case we call it corporate strategy, or it might be for the outcome of using a particular resource, such as the IT, innovation or social media strategy.

Every strategy might state something to the effect that the company wants to be a leader in its industry, and take 20 per cent market share in some key markets. In turn, we need the operational goal that may point out that we plan to increase sales by 14 per cent and profits by 17 per cent this year, when compared to last year.

Now we must determine the key drivers that influence higher sales, lower customer returns, less warranty work, lower absenteeism and so on. Of course, social media will not affect your bottom line directly, but it can support your efforts to improve key drivers that do affect the bottom line.

Set up some key performance indicators (KPIs)

Once you have completed all of the abovementioned tasks, how are you supposed to score this to assess whether your performance is satisfactory? You do not want to end up ‘data rich and information poor’. In addition, we need to know what high-quality data helps us to improve our understanding at the customer level about where your performance makes money (not just generating revenue). Furthermore, we will want to know where we can forge new relationships, change our price structure and redirect marketing campaigns.

As we read about how well people are doing in terms of linking, and increasing traffic to their website or blog, we often tend to forget that some of these experts produce content as the vehicle by which to generate revenue from such things as Google advertising. For most companies, however, producing content is just one of several ways used to help improve the customer experience. Of course, attracting prospects is a desirable outcome, but so is producing and offering content that is valued by targeted users.

While traffic may be important, it cannot be the sole purpose of this exercise. Many companies also talk about KPIs, or high-level metrics, such as customer satisfaction, revenue growth and profitability. Typically, KPIs rely upon smaller metrics that relate to business processes. For instance, if an e-commerce company has a KPI of ‘percentage of repeat customers’, it will need to measure metrics related to:

 customer complaints;

 merchandise returns;

 website performance; and

 shipping performance.

This allows the company to understand the KPI measure better. It is ideal if KPIs come from the top down, reflecting company-wide goals but, typically, KPIs come up from ground level; sometimes, the act of measuring something in one department filters up to the top.

Corporate objectives are not always clear, or shared across the employee base, and such a lack of insight can slow the process. Unfortunately, unless something is part of (or linked to) the overall strategy, it is unlikely to be worth measuring. Accordingly, if 20 000 comments and Likes are set as a target for the Facebook page, this needs to be linked to the top-level goals, such as increasing sales by 14 per cent this year.

To illustrate this further, if an HR department initiates a metrics programme, its goals might include improving employee performance and reducing attrition. Those goals then link to a corporate-level KPI, such as revenue generated per employee. You must find the same purpose for your social media efforts within your own organisation.

Develop actionable metrics

KPIs include actionable metrics that help you measure social media activities in ways that trigger actions. Hopefully, those actions will help to improve operating metrics, such as customer complaints or returns.

Actionable metrics provide you with data that helps you understand the ‘why’ behind a result, while supporting your efforts to reach higher performance targets. Such metrics are the little heroes of the data world, because they deliver actionable insights to help you make smart decisions that positively affect your bottom line.

No matter what metric you develop, unless there is a link between it and some key drivers/operating metrics, such as calls to your client hotline, why should top management care?

The beauty of metrics is in the eye of the beholder – whatever you decide to use, you must use what is most important to you and your stakeholders while ensuring your stakeholders understand it all.

Watching the trends is your best bet, but not necessarily by financial year quarters. Comparing July 2010 with October 2010 makes little sense in the northern hemisphere, because most people vacation during the former time, meaning your traffic will drop. Instead, comparing July 2010 with July 2011 and July 2012 shows whether a particular trend is moving in the right direction. Since the trend is what matters, do not forget to look ahead.

Primarily using traffic or volume to measure potential success might not result in profits. When it comes to success or failure, it is critical to understand the most important drivers or operating metrics. Accordingly, you must address what contribution(s) for achieving the company’s operating metrics, such as higher customer retention, will come from social media efforts.

For example, a restaurant’s Twitter followers might receive a daily code at around 10:30. If the code is used before 11:30, or after 13:30, to order lunch, a 10 per cent discount is given. Here, the idea is to satisfy regulars while enticing them to come before or after the lunch rush. The result is not waiting to be seated. In turn, lunch hour walk-ins have a better chance of getting seated right away. Accordingly, the percentage of clients who are forced to wait before getting a table during lunchtime – an important operating metric – is lowered.

Another example is business brochures: most businesses need a brochure to explain their products, services and/or mission. To reduce costs – an operating metric – a smaller number is printed. In one case, we found that beyond the 1000 print brochures, another 600 (a fictitious number) were downloaded from the Internet. Here, social media not only helped save costs, but it also increased diffusion of the information, resulting in more people looking at the product through downloads.

We can take a final example from advisory services. Many businesses start groups on social networks, such as LinkedIn, Xing or even Facebook. Unfortunately, building the membership of a social networking group, while supporting the company’s brand and reputation, takes time – as much as a few months to build a following, and hard work each week to provide valuable content that keeps the group alive and kicking.

As a consultant, one needs contracts (an operating metric), and social media can help to increase opportunities by increasing one’s visibility. However, rarely does one get a call from a group member to be invited to bid for a job. Often, it starts with meeting offline at a conference or networking event. These offline events facilitate building a better rapport that might ultimately result in the chance to bid for a job, or foster another subscription for one of our services.

Define objectives

As the third rectangle in Figure 10.2 suggests, once we have our actionable metrics, we need to do some more work. In fact, we need to develop SMART metrics that help guide us so that we reach our performance targets faster. SMART metrics are Specific, Manageable, Actionable, Relevant and Trending, making them ideal for creating a system to benchmark blogs and other social media efforts, such as Facebook or Google + pages. However, these can also be used to evaluate social media analytics, and media metrics systems that you might purchase.

SMART metrics include goals that provide a set of measurable objectives, such as that overall attendance of a cancer support group’s monthly meeting should increase from about 10 people in Q1 2011 to about 20 by Q1 2012. Of these newcomers, five to ten will be followers of our Facebook page.

This objective might raise a second, ‘so what?’ question before recommendations for action are made, and that is fine. However, if we get more than two or three ‘so what?’ responses in succession, we have the wrong metric and should therefore kill it.

Manage the process

You defined your target audience, know what kind of content they value and are sure where they want to interact with you (e.g. Facebook versus Google + or Twitter). Moreover, you developed a sensible corporate strategy, set up the KPIs and developed actionable metrics backed up with SMART objectives. Then it is time to consider issues regarding the managing of the process and quality assurance (also see Figure 10.2 above).

In this section, we address the issue regarding monitoring the quality of the process (see also part 4 of Figure 10.2). Accordingly, the focus is on finding out how to measure performance, and if our SMART metrics were accomplished or not. It is most important to use this collected data to improve performance in subsequent quarters (Gattiker, 2012).

Monitor quality of process

There are different ways to monitor the quality of the process and, for the sake of brevity, we provide here just two short examples to illustrate how this works in practice.

Quality exit survey on the web

In human resource management (HRM), the exit survey is sometimes used to find out from people leaving the company what they liked and disliked. Similarly, one can do an exit survey with visitors to one’s blog, or website. For instance, ask up to five short questions of every fiftieth website visitor, doing so just before they want to leave and with their browser window still open. Some will answer, and others will not. One question that must be asked is whether they found the information they sought.

For http://ComMetrics.com we do this to see what people might like and dislike. Of course, this information is just one indicator, but it can be very helpful. With all its limitations, it still tells you if the visit met expectations and what was great, as well as what (if anything) should and could be improved.

However, because a person answered anonymously and was selected at random (i.e. by chance), an exit survey does not allow us to reply, so beyond a ‘thank you’ at the end of the survey, there is little we can do to show our appreciation.

Follow up with email

Clearly, if someone unsubscribes from your email newsletter or blog, you should follow up, either more or less formally. In my experience, anywhere from 40 to 70 per cent of those who receive my less formal email when asking for help will respond with a reply. Mailed surveys and telephone interviews often generate a 10 to 25 per cent response rate. The rest of those who are sent the survey do not reply, or refuse to speak to the interviewer. Sometimes, the reply might be that they just had to change emails, or jobs, and unsubscribed only to subscribe again with another address. However, if the feedback suggests we post stuff that does not help our readers do better, we have a problem and need to reassess the situation.

Measure performance

As the fourth part in Figure 10.2 suggests, we have to measure our performance. There are three strategic reasons for measuring performance:

1. Assess whether objectives are reached. Know where you are, and know where you are going. Benchmark ratios are inherently measurable and comparable. They help you to focus your attention on the most controllable aspects of your online and social media activities (such as blogging for results). Success and failure can be evaluated clearly.

2. Monitor your performance. Keep your eye on the ball. Benchmark ratios provide an objective standard by which to measure your website or blog’s performance. By tracking key measurements at regular intervals, you can pay closer attention to those key factors that affect your firm’s performance. Follow the numbers, and the numbers will set you free.

3. Share the results. You should communicate your results internally and externally. Benchmark ratios enable your investors, owners and clients to evaluate objectively your online media efforts and positioning (as per branding). Clients and business associates can use them to understand better your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to social media and the web. Use your ratios to manage your online efforts better, securing your annual marketing budget, while spending it more wisely to improve your bottom line.

All of the above is done because we cannot just make buzz, we must make meaning – make money, not just web traffic.

Improve process and performance

In some ways, this is easy because all we need to do is appreciate the client, and acknowledge that they are important to us. But how does this work in practice? Today, the challenge is that people want to consume your content or service using whatever channel or platform they prefer, whether Facebook, Twitter, Quora or whatever. Most important is that many people expect an instantaneous answer to whatever question they might have fired off in your direction (Gattiker, 11 August 2010).

Joining the conversation means that you must carefully monitor and, most importantly, contribute to the discussions involving your company, brand or the group of which you are a member. Consider the out-of-sight, out-of-mind phenomenon. And when people take the time to share their ideas and insights on your platform, group or blog, they expect – if not demand – that you pay attention. In fact, you must show respect in terms of a polite and thoughtful reply. We illustrate this with four examples as follows.

Xing or LinkedIn

If you run a forum, please do it properly and do not misuse it for broadcasting and/or neglecting your duties as the moderator (see www.flickr.com/photos/measure-for-impact/6105729213). Not even those who should know better always behave in a proper way by taking the time to answer questions thoughtfully (Monster’s example of how not to do it: www.flickr.com/photos/cytrap/6311228553).

In addition to cheering on members and ensuring everybody gets a reply, sometimes group moderators must be taskmasters and remind people of the rules (see this example from the LinkedIn group called Philips – Innovations in Health: www.flickr.com/photos/measure-for-impact/6170495976). Other times, it might be necessary to remind someone that posting an ad-like contribution in the forum is not the way to get a discussion going (see this Xing group regarding brands and image management: www.flickr.com/photos/cytrap/6755127925).

Also, as a group moderator you cannot go on a two-week business trip or holiday and be unavailable. You must designate somebody else to respond to any issues that may arise in your absence. Hence, you need a team of moderators.

Performing all of these tasks requires motivation, time and effort. It also means it is best to have several people share these duties for the company, and their job description must in turn include this responsibility. Additionally, enough time must be allocated to do it properly.

When addressing and evaluating the above issues, it is clear that you quickly get an idea of whether the group is working. Having a stream of posts without any replies means the group is used for broadcasting, not for conversation. That is not the way to use social media effectively – get it fixed!

Facebook or Google +

For a consumer brand such as ASOS, having the ASOS Here to Help Facebook page is a good way to keep customer issues and requests for help or service off their main Facebook page (see www.facebook.com/ComMetrics/posts/166548693451713).

In our case, we have found the Google + page is a bit better than Facebook for our B2B (business-to-business) activities. Nevertheless, our Facebook and Google + pages are used primarily for our own purposes – namely sharing and gaining insight into matters of direct interest. Rarely, if ever, have we had a customer ask for support through these channels. Instead, it has happened on a Xing group, our blog or via the web-based form.

In short, discover how this plays out best in your organisation. Then, think about how to improve it, simply by making it easier for clients to get in touch with you. Of course, you must provide timely and constructive feedback, as well as generous appreciation of your clients’ online comments, replies and other online communications.

Twitter

US media giant Comcast was probably one of the earliest companies to start using micro-blogging service Twitter to offer customers a channel of last resort (@ComcastCares) Many more companies now offer a similar service, such as BankofAmericaHelp (see Gattiker, 6 October 2011). But as other examples indicate, Twitter is far from ideal for providing customer service that outscores other channels for user-friendliness and usefulness of replies (i.e. Deutsche Bahn or Swiss Federal Railways – see Gattiker, 12 February 2012).

Depending upon your Twitter account’s primary objective, look at what can be improved. In our case, it is to gather intelligence from knowledgeable people whom we follow, and to share information with those that follow us. I do not advocate our using Twitter for customer service; instead, we use Google Chat (for example, commetrics [dot] voip [dot] support [at] gmail [dot] com) to accomplish this and many other objectives.

Nevertheless, we are currently trying to improve our click-through rates for shortened URLs that we send out with our tweets from about 15 per cent to over 20 per cent, but we have discovered that this is getting tougher to achieve with Twitter. This is because people follow far too many people to read carefully all the tweets that they receive each day. Just imagine following 120 people, and that each writes two tweets every day. How can you get your job done or have a life if you read them all?

Remember, between 1 and 3 per cent of a person’s Twitter followers usually click on a link they tweeted. You can often check the statistics for a shortened URL by adding a + sign to the URL, such as http://goo.gl/zsT8q+.

Corporate blog or web page

The corporate blog and/or webpage can be used to share ideas, reviews and more with customers. However, it also requires time and effort. Customers expect you to treat them with dignity and respect. Of course, this means that you should answer their comment within 24 hours, every day of the week, including weekends (for an example of how not to do it, see www.flickr.com/measure-for-impact/6144250565).

Naturally, the corporate blog should be on your corporate domain, thereby making it easier for people to find. In turn, its traffic and links will contribute to the main webpage (see Gattiker, 8 July 2009). The more relevant the blog content, the more valuable the blog will become for the company. It will attract comments by readers, your replies and so on, thereby allowing you to engage with readers who might already or soon will be customers. Nevertheless, do not forget that, like building a high-quality car such as a Ferrari, building a high-quality blog post takes effort and time. Serving your customers a Happy Meal will not do (for more on what this means, check @KarenDietz’s comment here: www.flickr.com/photos/measure-for-impact/6755319795).

Relevant content lets others link to you from their website, blogs and Tumblr accounts, or include your story in their stick.it account. All these links further enhance your chances of being found by those who could become your clients.

So, how are you doing with regard to your blog’s incoming links from relevant and credible websites? What about comments, resonance and much more? We have some indices and statistics that go beyond Google Analytics. You should take a look, and see how much they can help you improve accordingly (see http://howto.commetrics.com/bang). You will see positive changes within 30 days, guaranteed. Just use our template to track your blog and improve at http://My.ComMetrics.com.

Conclusion

The reality, unfortunately, is that social media measurement is a very public click-measuring competition. Worse still is that we buy it, hook, line and sinker. How else could Newt Gingrich – a Republican running to become President Obama’s opponent in the November 2012 US election – allegedly not only pay to build a following that dwarfs the other candidates, but then have the audacity or naivety to brag publicly about the advantage this brings. I doubt it, and unfortunately, this illustrates how illiterate he, and others, can be regarding social media (http://gawker.com/5826645/most-of-newt-gingrichs-twitter-followers-are-fake).

In Figure 10.1 we graphically illustrated our need to use social media to improve the customer experience. Customers remain as important after the sale as they were before. Their sharing of how they experienced the purchase process, warranty work and after-sales support is critical. Of course, thanks to search results and people who share on the web, everybody can see when we have failed or not delivered as promised to a customer. And once it is online, there is no getting it back, no matter what ‘it’ is.

We believe that delighting customers does not increase loyalty to your product or service beyond average levels. However, reducing the effort required by customers to get their problem solved significantly improves loyalty. Therefore, we must act deliberately on this insight to help improve customer experiences with our product, service or brand, reducing costs and customer churn (see Dixon et al., 23 January 2012).

This chapter focused on how social media and any other technology-mediated communication can help you in your efforts to improve customer experience. Delivering the basics is the best path to do no harm, if nothing else. Providing social media services and communities that do not improve customer experience are both a waste of scarce resources and may upset the client. One fundamental action for improving customer experience is to resolve the client’s issue in their favour, in such a way that the result neither takes too much time, nor is too difficult to achieve. Of course, patronising clients or making them jump through various hoops to get what they need is a sure way to cause dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, clients may choose to go public these days and let it be known among their many online friends.

Marketers currently have no standard measurement of social media success. Many believe that social media benefits their business. Often, what we come across are metrics that are easy to collect, such as social presence, as measured by the number of followers and fans on Facebook, Twitter or Google +. Unfortunately, asking how these affect the key drivers that top management cares about usually garners silence as a response. However, while we may neither like nor want to admit it, the number of Twitter followers or people putting your Google + page in one of their circles has an impact on how your organisation will be viewed by the public. Of course, it is not a key performance indicator. Nevertheless, it is a key popularity indicator.

Regardless of whether your focus is getting more followers, or to be more down to earth in linking social media activities to your bottom line with the help of KPIs and key drivers, the schemata presented in Figure 10.2 will help you. Managing the quality management cycle of your social media process is a helpful tool for getting started. It enables you systematically to go through the process of improving the way you use social media for achieving a better customer experience. By methodically analysing the process, we can access data we need to gain valuable insights, allowing us to make changes that further help our clients, thus improving their bottom line as well as our own.

As a final note, let me ask: how many fans actually bother to have a conversation with brands on Facebook? One metric we can look at is Facebook’s People Talking About This, the awkwardly named running count of likes, posts, comments, tags, shares and other ways a user of a social network can interact with branded pages.

A recent study used this metric as a proportion of overall fan growth of the top 200 brands on Facebook over a six-week period in October 2011. Data revealed that the proportion of overall fans who were People Talking About This was 1.3 per cent. But it gets worse: if one subtracts new likes, which only require a click (somewhat akin to TV ratings) and focuses on the forms that suggest greater interaction, one is left with only 0.45 per cent. Accordingly, less than 0.5 per cent of Facebook fans that identify themselves as ‘liking’ a brand actually bother to create any content with regard to it (Gattiker, 5 February 2012).

Also, Facebook fan bases skew toward heavy buyers rather than the more casual shoppers that your company has to reach in order to grow. Moreover, to expect that a Facebook page for your butter company, handyman business or bakery will change the way people interact with your company or its brand overnight is not on the cards. This means that putting a disproportionate amount of effort into engagement and strategies to get people to talk about a brand on Facebook is not the way to go. Believing that your comment or note will go viral on Facebook or Google + is wishful thinking (ComMetrics, 25 January 2012). Instead, spend more time attracting new light buyers by giving talks at conferences, being interviewed on traditional media and having a webpage with content that your target audience values.

Good luck and be social. @ComMetrics

References

ComMetrics. Sainsbury – customer service example goes viral on Facebook. [Google + post] Retrieved 25 January 2012, from https://plus. google. com/103400392486480765286/posts/Arrdw5PKVjp, 2012.

Dixon, Matthew, Ponomareff, Lara, Milgramm, Anastasia. Stop trying to delight your customers: The idea in practice. [Blog post – HBR Blog Network]. Retrieved 25 January 2012, from http://blogs. hbr. org/cs/2012/01/stop_trying_to_delight_your_cu. html, 2012.

Gattiker, Urs, E. Increasing blogging effectiveness: Step 3. [Blog post – HowTo. ComMetrics]. Retrieved 15 January 2012, from http://howto. commetrics. com/?p=79, 2009.

Gattiker, Urs, E. Social media DO’s and DON’Ts: 6 remedies for any emergency. [Blog post – ComMetrics]. Retrieved 15 January 2012, from http://commetrics. com/?p=9456, 2010.

Gattiker, Urs, E. 4 ways to foster dialogue with corporate blogs. [Blog post – ComMetrics]. Retrieved 15 January 2012, from http://commetrics. com/?p=10356, 2010.

Gattiker, Urs, E. My bank loves me NOT. [Blog post – ComMetrics]. Retrieved 15 January 2012, from http://commetrics. com/?p=16836/#comments, 2011.

Gattiker, Urs, E. Facebook: Why do so many brand pages fail? Retrieved 15 February 2012, from http://commetrics. com/?p=18203/#comments, 2012.

Gattiker, Urs, E. Social CRM: Kundenservice mit Twitter. (Social CRM: Customer service with Twitter)? [Blog post – CyTRAP] Retrieved 13 February 2012, from http://info. cytrap. eu/?p=3122, 2012.

Gattiker, Urs, E. Social media audit: Measuring for impact. New York: Springer more at http://info. cytrap. eu/?page_id=35, 2012.

Parker, Brian. SHOCKER: 3% to 7. 5% of fans see your page’s posts. [Blog post – All Facebook]. Retrieved 25 January 2012, from www. allfacebook. com/shocker-3-to-7-5-of-fans-see-your-pages-posts-2011-06, 2011.