By now most companies realize that they are competing on customer experience.
What is not understood as well is the social imperative: social media is now perhaps the most critical component of your customer experience. In fact, it will make or break it.
How well is social media integrated into your customer experience?
A recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Survey found that companies that thoroughly integrate social media and customer experience offer vastly superior customer experiences than competitors do, which translates into stronger growth and dominant positions in their markets.
The survey found that only 34% of respondents felt that their organization has the tools and skills to deliver superior customer experiences. Furthermore, the leaders – comprising 12% of the survey respondents – were more aggressive in their use of social media than other companies. Going far beyond branding or product awareness, these companies focus social media efforts on bottom- line activities such as generating sales leads and mitigating brand and reputational risk.
The results are proof that the leaders are doing something right:
Leaders also have the strongest revenue growth—more than half report revenue growth of greater than 10 percent during the past two years versus 35 percent of Followers and 41 percent of Laggards.
What Makes the Difference
What makes the leaders lead?
I went back to ask a few experts:
- Elsie Maio, the CEO of Humanity Inc and Soulbranding℠ expert, had this to say: “It comes down to companies living their human values. These same human values resonate with their customers. Social media is no different. Leaders use the power of social media to surface those shared values and engage customers. Organizations will make a quantum leap in trust and creative collaborations when they legitimize, and even celebrate, their motivating social values. These are the deeply held human and social impulses that move people to act in their own and their communities’ best interests.”
- Philip Kotler explains his view: “We live in the era of consumer empowerment led by abundant information and networked communities. A brand must have a clear and consonant brand-positioning-differentiation-integrity standing. Inauthentic brands won’t survive when word-of-mouth becomes the new advertising medium and consumers rely more on acquaintances in their network community more than on what companies say and advertise. Only honesty, originality, and authenticity will work.”
- Javed Matin, a sales and marketing consultant, adds: “Companies that truly understand social media are also truly customer-centric. They understand the real needs of their customers and treat them like family. Social media is like talking to your mother: you can’t get away with anything, so you better be truthful.”
- Gaurav Bhalla, global educator, author, and speaker, tells us: “Getting better all the time are words from a Beatles song. They are also the cornerstone of the mindset with which companies that have thoroughly integrated social media and customer experiences approach serving their customers. Because the focus is on ‘getting better,’ these companies are not afraid of customer criticism – unavoidable collateral damage when a company steps on to the social media stage. They are willing to be vulnerable and naked. Literally. Additionally, they understand the importance of ‘social proof’ – showing not telling – which is why they are eager to raise their hands and show how they are ‘getting better all the time’ at designing, delivering, and innovating memorable customer experiences, as opposed to merely talking about it on their websites and in their promotional materials.”
Find Your Authentic Voice
How sincere is your social media voice? Seriously.
Here are five crucial points companies should focus on:
- Actually empower the front-line. Remind managers of the classic from Schlesinger and Heskett – Breaking the Cycle of Failure in Services. The model still works, even in the digital age.
- Be real. If you don’t know the answer say so. Then go find out. There’s no room for fakery.
- Be helpful. What can you do to make the customer’s job easier? Do it.
- Empathy. You can’t fight with the customer. What you can do is empathize. Walk a mile in their shoes. Now, how do you respond?
- Practice “micro-moments.” The best way to prepare is to practice various micro-moments on social media. Go over test cases. What’s the right response?
As the report points out, the customer journey is no longer linear:
The days of moving customers progressively from awareness to purchase and repurchase are quickly coming to an end. As social media and mobile devices come to dominate how customers acquire and share information about a brand, customer buying processes are increasingly made up of erratic “micro-moments,” where people search for product information and recommendations wherever and whenever they have a spare moment.
Have you mastered micro-moment engineering?
Christian Sarkar is the editor of this site, a writer, consultant, artist, and entrepreneur.