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The three types of social media conversations you must consider

12th Apr 2012
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David Parcell looks at the loopholes in social commentary and explains how to encourage positive social media feedback.
We are not strangers to the fact that receiving negative customer feedback via the social networks can damage the reputation of a company within hours. It’s essential to monitor these channels in today’s competitive market, because social media has the power and potential to positively and/or negatively impact product brands, and the service they provide. The question most tend to ask is: “how do you monitor and evaluate comments and postings, and then proactively respond to these public customer remarks?”
Identifying the loopholes in social commentary
Let’s take a closer look at the journey most embark on once the decision has been made to actually track social media in a corporate environment. The following identifies common roadblocks for anyone who’s actually tried “mining” the conversations that take place on the social sphere:
  1. Useless information. Social media is the megaphone for the “Voice of the Customer” (VoC). When negative postings go viral on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, companies tend to become more “reactive” rather than “proactive.” The issue many organisations face when trying to monitor social media and identify what postings are most useful is the sheer volume of conversations that take place – many of which are not even relevant to the business. Identifying and separating the real issues from various outliers that may not reflect the feelings of a vast majority of your customer base is quite difficult.
  2. The viral effect. Once something emerges as a clear trend above and beyond the static noise, it’s usually too late. The infamous YouTube clip by Dave Carroll about United Guitars is a great example of a customer service issue ‘going viral’ - , it received six hits the day it was posted and this rose to two million hits within just one week. By that point, the impact it made was irreversible.
  3. Lack of context. Postings on social media are getting shorter and shorter. A typical tweet has only a handful of words or abbreviated acronyms. Without a clear understanding of events leading up to a negative outburst, it is difficult to truly discern the root of the problem and therefore strategically determine a path to resolution.
  4. Biased sample. Although more people are participating in social discussions, what appears on social media may not always accurately reflect all of your customers’ opinions. Using valuable resource to put out fire after fire voiced through this medium can distract from what many of your other customers really want in terms of products, services and/or even general communications.
Building an effective strategy
In order to build a better picture of what your customers want and identify the best resolution to keep them happy, companies need to apply a more holistic approach. By doing so, they will be able to address the challenges mentioned above and also provide a comprehensive VoC programme that means resolutions are reached quicker and more effectively, and customers remain loyal. To achieve this, companies will need to rely on more than social media alone and consider all customer feedback sources to streamline insights and trends.
There's no question that social media can no longer be ignored and has to play a key role in a VoC strategy for most global organisations. Because social media is open to the public, there is a good possibility it will or can influence customer decisions. As a result, monitoring these discussions is mandatory in order to stay ahead of your competition. The key, however, is to absorb content from more than just social media channels. Look to your contact centre, product management and marketing teams -these are the departments and disciplines that also receive useful feedback direct from customers.
Companies should take three types of key customer conversations into consideration, which helps build out the broader view into real customer issues and has the ability to feed into a unified VoC programme. These include conversations that are:
  • Initiated by customers via email, chat and phone;
  • Initiated by your organisation, such as a survey campaign conducted via web, email, phone, IVR and mobile applications;
  • Taking place on the social space including websites, blogs, forums and more.
Another tip is to learn from industry authorities and leading companies that are already doing this successfully. Customer-centric organisations proactively collect feedback throughout the customer journey and across different touch points and then effectively communicate this feedback across the enterprise and to different departments. These teams then use the insights to fine tune existing processes, marketing campaigns and promotions, products and services, as well as to measure and refine these changes.
According to research conducted by Gartner, 95% of organisations collect customer feedback, 50 percent effectively communicate this feedback, and 30% use the insights in some way. On the flip side, only 10% actually make specific process improvements based on the feedback, and a mere five percent actually measure the improvement from these process changes and further refine them. Customer perception in the UK also reflects this as according to a survey we recently conducted with the Customer Contact Association (CCA), almost 90% of customers complain to companies when they don’t get the service they expect, but nearly half don’t actually think companies heed, or care about what they say. This is while 62% of businesses also admit they would benefit from a better understanding of what customers say on social media.
Social media provides valuable unstructured feedback, but it needs to be validated and, when possible, correlated with structured data from surveys, panels and communities to adequately pinpoint next steps. With a multichannel strategy and comprehensive model for customer service, global companies can identify early warning signals before things go viral allowing them access to the relevant context and understanding the root cause to be able to take effective actions. Listening posts should include a combination of email, chat, contact centre calls, and structured and unstructured survey feedback in addition to social media monitoring. The correlation of this data can be achieved by using a unified VoC analytics platform which monitors recorded voice conversations, social media discussions and direct customer feedback via surveys and more which can pinpoint problems before they go viral and negatively impact the company’s bottom line.
Once you have a fine-tuned VoC programme, you may find that social media becomes a positive word-of-mouth megaphone rather than a potential threat to your brand.
David Parcell is managing director EMEA and corporate officer at Verint Systems.

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