Natalie L. Petouhoff, Ph.D. By Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

Hot off the press… Five best practices for social media in real companies!

As consumers are rapidly adopting social media to voice their disdain about companies, many of my clients are wondering how best to harness the power of the “cloud” to transform those customer experiences. In developing the ROI of Customer Service Social Media, I interviewed a lot of end-user companies. I used that information to look for trends for benefits, costs and risks. Another one of the outcomes of those interviews were 5 best practices that these companies used when they deployed their social media customer interaction strategy.  I decided to put together a report that not only summarised the top findings, but also provided detailed information around how the companies deployed these best practices and what their results were to inspire other companies to take the leap of faith and join the social media revolution.

When I talk to firms that have not deployed social media, they are:                        

  1. Worried about cultural readiness and ability to adopt to a new way of doing business  
  2. Unclear on who should lead the social media customer interaction initiative
  3. Confused around the “right” social media software solutions to use   
  4. Fearful around proving the business value of social media to executives 
  5. Uncertain around whether social media could change the customer experience.

Successful adopters of social media use 5 strategies to capitilize on social media; they:             

  1. Take Ownership
  2. Determine Their Goals
  3. Focus on the Customer Experience 
  4. Understand the Technology Landscape
  5. Build the Business Case.

At first glance there is nothing earth shattering about these. They are the typical things that one should do when you decide to make a project successful, right? The expertise of these companies in the actual execution of these 5 priniciples and that is what makes them such great examples. Here’s a couple of examples from the report, Best Practices: Five Strategies For Customer Service Social Media Excellence.

Taking Ownership. Here we are looking at the process of awareness, buy-in and ownership in the sense of taking the leading role in the social media initiative. The Director of iRobot’s Global Technical Support took the leadership role in her organization. She told us she holds weekly cross-functional department meetings to present customer data and feedback garnered by their customer service online community to other parts of the company. She is empowered by executive management to prioritize and assign actions items to team members. The result? Everyone in the company now has actionable information to improve their part of the business. This information is based on customer feedback, with customer service leading the organization to a new way of interdepartmental collaboration, product improvement, reduced costs and happy customers!

Determing Your Goals. No two companies will have the same business objectives for their social media initiative. What’s important it to decide what your goals and objectives are. For example, Linksys’ business goals included decreased customer service costs, enhanced business continuity,and increased customer satisfaction and repurchase probability.NetApp wanted to meet their customers’ needs and expectations around online support communities, providing a place where likeminded people could solve problems together; make professional, and even social, connections; and earn highly-prized status among their peers. on the other hand, sought to provide education, reduce customer service costs, and provide a destination site for their customers to return time and time again. Comcast’s objectives were to listen to customers, help them when they could, and serve them via the channels that they use most. Intel wanted to reduce the costs of product ideation, resolve customer issues faster, and make sure company decisions were customer driven. What are your goals for social media?

Focusing on the Customer Experience. ACT!’s team, for instance, sought to understand the critical “moments of truth” when customers interacted with ACT!’s products and services. So ACT!’s customer loyalty department mapped the entire customer experience from the customer’s perspective. They found the best way to most effectively appreciate and transform the customer experience was to deploy online customer service communities. With in the community they could have ongoing, honest, genuine, and authentic interactions between the company’s executives and customers, providing the feedback required to revolutionize the customer experience.

Understand the Technology Landscape. Airlines like JetBlue and Virgin America use Twitter to monitor customer reactions to their travel experiences. Some companies have sites on Facebook or MySpaceP&G and are using to answer customer questions, solve customer problems, increase product ideation, and gather marketing data. Facebook, Blackbaud, & Neilsen are using to capture and aggregate feedback from users, customers, and clients. ACT!, Lenovo and iRobot have Lithium-based communities. InfusionSoft choose Helpstream for their online community. And many of the typical customer service applications like RightNow Technologies, and SAP are integrating Twitter feeds into their contact center applications. Intuit built their own online community software platform and embedded links to the community into their software products.

Building the Business Case. As with any initiative, one must weigh the costs, the benefits and the risks. deployed a customer community, whereas iRobot deployed an integrated community/contact center solution. Carphone Warehouse is using Twitter. Whether you go big or small, make sure to understand all the costs. In terms of benefits, if you’ve determine your goals, then you are well on your way to determining your benefits. For instance, iRobot reduced customer service agent phone calls by 40%. experienced not only a reduction in call volume, but had an unexpected increase in sales because of the peer-to-peer recommendations in the community. There are risks with social media. The best way to deal with them is straight on. ACT! found it important during implementation to have weekly cross-functional department meetings to assure alignment and keep the foucs on the customer. Another risk is not actually measuring the “health” of your community. used Lithium’s Insight analytic package. Intuit uses Radian 6. And other companies are looking at Visible Technologies.

I know that this is only the tip of the iceberg of what you want and need to know. Make sure to download the whole doc, curl up with a hot cup of tea, sit back and relax. There’s alot in this report! And let me know if you have questions!

If you want to hear more about this report, sign-up for the teleconference on Aug 18th, 2009 at 1-2PM EST!

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