Social Media & Customer Experience - 1 Serious Question & 10 Truths

In the midst of client deadlines and work, a lot of us feel pressure to give more than we have --  provide more value than we might be currently capable of.  There's pressure to be everywhere at once,  friend everyone, attend every conference -- all while giving away lots of stuff for free. Because of my work schedule, and my family who needs me, I tend internalize a lot.  However, lately I've been walking away from meetings and interactions feeling a sense of unease. So, this is an attempt to process and purge some of those feelings and hopefully, to do something positive with them.

To put this in context, I started this blog in early 2005 to write down my thoughts on customer experience. My passion for CX stems from my love of people, combined with my roots in information architecture and design, as well as operations, CRM and business strategy.  This complements my natural interest in making make things better for people - inside and outside of the enterprise.

There's a lot of talk about customer experience today.  As I've said before, CX is an easy thing to become an evangelist for. However, delivering great experience isn't easy and the fact remains that very few companies do it well.  Even so, we continue to pile on more  -- do more...

This is relevant to the era of social media because the more channels and tools we use to communicate, the more difficult it is to create seamless, solid, positive customer experience.  Companies today become so enthralled with keeping up with the dizzying level of channel proliferation, they often lose sight of customer experience.  Facing a sort of "keeping up with the Joneses" pressure to engage actively on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, crowdsourcing sites, wikis and more -- they often proceed without proper planning or resourcing in place.

It's a mad rush -- and for some consultants and agencies -- it's a gold rush. 

But before we all rush ahead ... getting caught up in the frenzy, it's important to think pragmatically about what we're really trying to accomplish   To keep level heads, we should start by asking ourselves one simple question:

How will these activities improve my business?


In my opinion, if we are not making things better for employees, customers or prospects we are only adding to the noise.  If we're not applying these tools to make our business better and drive qualitative results -- we are also doing our companies a disservice.  Too many "social media experts" are pushing tools and "strategery" at the expense of common sense and solid thinking, contributing to perceptions about social media -- and ignoring the many best practices that have been established.

I was shocked recently, to hear Andy Sernovitz tell a group of  over 350 marketers that if they wanted to get started easily in social media they should do this:  "Go out and find the lowest paid person in your company who can type and put them on Twitter."  He later contradicted himself on that point, but the damage was done.  In my opinion, as stewards of knowledge and experience -- we can't afford to be talking out of both sides of our mouths!

So, to clarify what I believe to be some misconceptions about social media, here are what I believe to be:

10 Truths About Social Media
  1. If your base-level customer experience stinks, using social media tools probably won't help much.
  2. Social media isn't free. It is cost-efficient when planned for and managed appropriately, and like any investment that comes with a price, what you will yield is proportionate to what you invest.
  3. Web 2.0 and social media tools are merely a means to an end - what you do with the tools, and how you integrate them to improve the base business are what matters.
  4. If you are not using conversational media to drive some specific and measurable objectives you are probably wasting your time
  5. "Transparency" is an illusion. While conversational media increases visibility into your operations, you can maintain enough opacity to protect your sensitive underbelly.
  6. "Authenticity" is a terribly abused word. There are plenty of authentically bad companies and products out there. Strive to be authentically good and constantly improving and you'll win.
  7. "Influence" is relative term.  However, it generally belongs to people that consistently deliver positive, remarkable experiences -- across channels and over time.
  8. "Trust" is fluid and hard to measure. Deliver on every promise, exhibit high level of ownership / stewardship, be a mensch and gaining trust won't be an issue.
  9. If your senior leadership wants to relegate social media to an intern or agency -- resisting the notion that these tools may transform the enterprise, consider changing jobs.
  10. If you are looking for help, beware of snake oil. Strategists who can't execute are as dangerous as "one-trick ponies who only know how to use a single tool.  Find someone who can develop a solid strategic plan, execute, help your organization prepare, educate and stand by to help, if needed.
Going back to my roots, focusing on creating a better company, products, services and ultimately -- a better experience for prospects, customers and even employees is where we should focus.  Doing this well requires rolled up sleeves, attention to detail, a love for people and an understanding of best practices across an array of disciplines.  Pushing past the hype, and fixing our eyes on becoming better, wiser, faster, stronger, more responsive, authentically good  -- and using new technologies to accomplish quantifiable goals, we can drive success -- even in a rough economy.

8 comments:

Kevin Fenton said...

Amen. My only even tentative caveat is that a good agency can help you outsource certain social media functions. I know Mono is doing some wonderful work for blu dot.

I am a fan of social media and a user of social media, but the rush to just get onboard I sometime here, and the dismissal of any qualifications as ludditism concerns me. I love billboards and trade shows but they may not be for every company in every situation.

AnnaB said...

Excellent post Leigh. I agree with every word. There is that pressure to "keep up" but like yourself, I have the classic belief that if the infrastructure of an organization isn't doing basic things right (like taking care of their employees and customers) then they are NOT ready to amplify that with social media or anything else for that matter.

I'm a social media fan but I'm also practical and have to feel it's right for my organization at this point in time.

Beth Harte said...

Leigh,

Okay, first a chuckle: "strategery." Too funny! ;-)

"...if we are not making things better for employees, customers or prospects we are only adding to the noise. If we're not applying these tools to make our business better and drive qualitative results -- we are also doing our companies a disservice."

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I think we are coming to a point (those of us who use social media every day to enhance or grow our businesses) where we understand the value and now we are heading towards integrated social media tools and the concept into a viable business methodology. As such, it needs to be looked at from both a quantifiable AND qualifiable perspective.

There are some intrinsic values that come from conversation that don't immediately impact the bottomline, but eventually will. But NOT if you don't plan for it! As well, if a company has built up value capital (on- or off-line) they need to understand it can easily chipped away or taken away in one swoop. That's why a focus on being consistently good (or even great) comes to play every single day.

I know people are tired of hearing about them, but I think Zappos excels at the customer experience. People pay their prices (which are often higher) because of the service and experience.

Thanks for making the ol' wheels turn this morning Leigh!

Beth Harte
Community Manager, MarketingProfs
@bethharte

Diane said...

Hallelujah! So true true true! Well-said. I might add another point: Social Media only works when you engage with your audience...too many companies are using these tools to spray and pray, with hardly a dialogue in between.

Diane Horton
@dianeincanada

LivePath said...

@Kevin As a consultant that provides these services, i agree with your point about finding a good partner to help. And I agree that just because an individual or business may not use a tool, doesn't qualify them as a luddite (and not a term I would use related to you).

@AnnaB - Agreed. None of us are perfect -- but getting the fundamentals right is a stewardship issue many companies unwittingly ignore. This isn't for lack of good intention -- and usually a result of having silo vision.

@beth - I did a CX workshop recently with a statistic that 58% of customers said they'd "always or often" pay more for better experience, even in a down economy!

@diane - I agree and what's often missing is engaging in a manner that drives a desired outcome. This ties to PURPOSEFUL engagement. P.S. I love spray and pray - that's funny!)

Jak said...

To me this "if we are not making things better for employees, customers or prospects we are only adding to the noise" is so so key.

It comes right back to the strategy vs tactic conversation for me. Most companies, much less the throngs of social consulting/advising, do not spend any time on strategy past their founding days if at all. This is true for all advertising, for all marketing. It is just magnified and broader in social media.

It will always exist. The only thing we can do is to continue to ask the smart questions above, do our damnedest to provide quality and improve the companies we work with, and watch a better balance emerge.

AnnaB said...

I'm with Jak! Asking "smart" questions of customers is where the success is! Instead of spending countless hours on pontificating about social media (don't get me wrong I'm a believer) we spent time on generating a list of smart questions to clients and prospects to put a stategy together before diving into tactics and tools.

AnnaB said...

I'm with Jak! Asking "smart" questions of customers is where the success is! Instead of spending countless hours on pontificating about social media (don't get me wrong I'm a believer) we spent time on generating a list of smart questions to clients and prospects to put a stategy together before diving into tactics and tools.

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LEIGH DURST

LEIGH DURST
I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.

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