Three ways to operationalise social media feedback

4th Nov 2011

Dan Wilson explains what 'operationalising' social media feedback means, why it's important - and how to do it.

As social media’s impact on commerce increases, organisations need to better manage customer feedback through those channels
We spend 7.6% of our time on traditional email and 23% of our time on social networks, according to And this isn’t just about getting minute-by-minute updates on celebrities - 53% of adults follow specific brands online, while just 32% of them follow celebrities. What’s more, 36% of web users posted content about a brand on a social network in 2011, according to Steven Van Belleghem of InSites Consulting.
In A Framework for Social Analytics, Susan Etlinger of the Altimeter Group identified six categories of business goals that can be furthered with investment in social media: customer experience, innovation, brand health, marketing optimization, revenue generation, and operational efficiency:

We believe improving customer experience to be most critical; this is where business owners can implement social media feedback systems to operationalise social feedback. If you’re using a monitoring tool that deeply embeds customer experience data into daily operations at the local and business-unit level, you’re making huge strides in the other five areas as well:
  • Innovation: When employees listen for customer insights, they can better invent new solutions for business problems.
  • Brand health: When customers have great experiences associated with your brand, they tell their friends.
  • Marketing optimisation: Strong word of mouth can substantially reduce marketing costs and make your messaging less of an uphill battle.
  • Revenue generation: Great customer experience usually means long-term brand loyalty and repeat business.
  • Operational efficiency: Allow employees to engage with customers at the local/business unit level rather than spend more on corporate customer service initiatives.
Because it’s such a new field, best practices for operationalising social media feedback have yet to be identified and tested. And for many large companies, the volume of feedback is too great to handle at the brand level.
What does operationalising social feedback mean?
To date, social media is still a largely neglected feedback channel in which companies struggle to respond to and engage with customers. Companies are developing listening mechanisms at headquarters, but the volume can be so great that a small HQ staff can’t respond and engage. Plus, most social media posts revolve around local issues. Some locations have proactively made their own Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts at the unit level, but this can lead to fragmented messaging.
So how does HQ make sure the frontline is responding consistently and effectively? Ideally, feedback should go to frontline employees so that they can act on it and constantly improve. Social media feedback isn’t only for data analysts to monitor behind closed doors - it should be shared with the people who can actually do something with it. In this sense, it’s very different from corporate-level monitoring of aggregate metrics and much more like surveys, the traditional component of CEM systems.
Technology and processes required

1. Funnel feedback to the appropriate place in the organisation

This is a key component of social CEM. It means that each property will need to obtain and manage its own Facebook page, Twitter account, or both, as well as following posts on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. If they don’t have these web assets set up, they can’t directly receive targeted feedback, get followers or “likes,” or stay top of mind in fans’ feeds. HQ should:
a.       Help properties set up their handles and pages. It’s important to have the right foundation and to know the basics before getting started. Some services allow local accounts to choose to broadcast certain corporate channels.
b.      Automate the distribution of any feedback that hits a central repository to specific frontline entities by integrating social media feedback into the overall feedback program.
For a great example of a local Facebook page in action, visit Four Seasons Maui on Facebook - the page has over 5,000 likes.

2. Build in ability to respond directly and authentically

If every entity has its own Facebook page and Twitter handle, you need to ensure a consistent brand experience and voice. A CEM platform can introduce response parameters that keep your frontline on the same page and speaking with the same voice, and can share those guidelines consistently across the brand.
It’s important to note a crucial difference from surveys: Template responses should not be used on social media channels. Every response is visible in stream, and it will quickly become apparent to followers that responses have been scripted.
The most important idea here is to support the people who will be responding to customers. That could be done centrally with a dedicated social team (NOT the PR team or call center, but a distinct organization that owns and understands how to treat social), but it makes more sense for it to be totally decentralised by providing the frontline with clear guidelines and policies for managing social feedback.

3. View social feedback in context with survey data in a single reporting application

Social feedback generates a lot of attention, but the sheer volume of actionable feedback is still far less than is accumulated in surveys. Recent research out of MIT shows that 96% of scathing social posts happen when companies ignore customers’ calls for help. Clearly, solicited and unsolicited feedback must be viewed in concert.
Take the insights from social and map them against what you are hearing from customers through other survey channels. Focus on the improved customer experience you can deliver with insights gleaned from both.
Just as important is choosing a provider that can fully integrate survey and social feedback in one platform for maximum cross-pollination. Most so-called social media tools monitor image and reputation only at the brand level. True VOC-level power - to close the loop with customers and eliminate customer pain points - comes from the marriage of CEM feedback with brand and location social media feedback in a single reporting application.

Dan Wilson is senior project manager for Palo Alto–based Medallia, Inc., a leader in designing customer experience management solutions that engage users with customer feedback. He has over 11 years of product management and engineering experience. Dan’s most recent endeavor has been developing Medallia’s Social Media CEM solution.

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