Saturday, March 12, 2011

Social Media - The New Customer Service?

Social media is intended to be two way communications. Too many times, businesses use social media as a one way communication tool. These companies usually have very little success or no success with social media. In a two way communication model, the customers have an opportunity and are asked to participate in a conversation. This is very scary for many businesses because they are afraid of what the customers may say about their business.

Let me tell those businesses – if you have unhappy customers – they are telling somebody about the bad experience and you just don’t hear it. Wouldn’t you rather give the customer a venue and opportunity to voice their dislike where you can respond and turn that angry customer into a ‘fan’? There is no doubt if you care about growing your business, you will choose to have the opportunity to respond.

Customer service is to create a memorable experience for the customers so they will come back and make another purchase. If customer service did not succeed the first time, they must get a second chance to win that customer. Social media has become a great place to make that first impression and to get that second chance. This will significantly add to the bottom line. A 5% increase in retention yields profit increases of 25 to 100 percent. Repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new customers. Source: Bain and Company

I am sure you can see where I am headed with social media being the new customer service. According to industry research carried out by customer experience research consultancy Technical Assistance Research Programs Inc., customers that complain to you, and then see the problem solved, are up to 8% more loyal than those who didn't even have a problem in the first place. (Increasing Customer Satisfaction, U.S. Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, CO, 1986)

If you do not have a loyal customer base that continues to come back and purchase from you, then you are spending a lot more money in generating new customers than it costs to maintain customers. Customer service plays a big role in this, so if you are having problems getting customers to purchase from you more than once, evaluate your customer service policies. “The cost of acquiring a new customer can be as much as 5 times the cost of keeping an old one.” (Source: Peppers and Rogers)

By having conversations with your customers and potential customers, it gives them a level of comfort to post comments without feeling in the spotlight. It takes time and effort to build that environment on a social media page. The worst thing a business can do is not respond to a comment on their social media page. That is just as bad as ignoring a customer in your physical store. Bad customer service.

Just like in traditional customer service, you may not always make the customer happy; however, you always make a very strong attempt to resolve the issue. One thing to remember, always ask what will resolve this problem. Then as a business, you must determine if you can meet the request. Be honest and open, in the worst scenarios, others will many times see the customer is being unrealistic and you are trying to make it right. This will go a long way for those watching the conversation.

Create an environment on your social media business pages that encourages others to comment (good and bad) and you respond openly and honestly. You will then have taken your customer service to a new level on social media.

What experiences have you had with customer service in social media?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What are the keys to Facebook success?

Business owners are always asking what they need to do on Facebook. You need to set goals and have a plan, to just post randomly will not produce the best results. Take opportunities to test different things and monitor the results and repeat what produces the best results.

Here are six things for businesses that are the basics to success on Facebook:

1. Daily posts – you have to post something everyday to keep information flowing and keep your name in front of your fans. How many a day? If you have something to post about, post it. It could be once a day or sometimes 5 times in a day.

2. Variety of types of posts – don’t post about the same thing every day. Don’t post the same type of post every day. Questions, current events, articles, quotes, videos, special deals, contests and product/service features are just a few different types of posts.

3. Shock’em every once in a while – post something off the wall or outside the box. Do something to get their attention and have your fans wonder why did you post that. Be careful and do not do anything too controversial and offend your fans – but shock’em.

4. Create discussions – don’t just post information. Ask for information and create a forum for your fans to ask questions and get answers concerning your products and services. The best way is to ask open ended questions that will require at least a one sentence response.

5. Continue discussions – always respond to a comment on one of your posts. Treat it like you are having a discussion with that individual – you would not ignore that person if they were standing in front of you. Don’t be afraid to respond to a negative comment – those need a response more than the positive comments.

6. Perseverance – be patient. It will take time and effort to meet your goals. You cannot be successful on Facebook in a few weeks. Keep working and test several different ideas and see which one gets the results you want.

Facebook should be an important part of your total marketing plan. It should fit with what you are doing and link to all other marketing strategies. Set goals, work hard and test different strategies with your posts.

What do you do on Facebook that you have found to be successful?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Email Marketing – Is it taking a back seat to Social Media?

Not with my clients!! They are realizing the strength in a well planned email marketing program. Social Media and email marketing should work together to reach the goals of the business. Properly used, they can both complement each other and make the other more effective. If you are seeing a drop in your email marketing numbers, you should evaluate your plan, because you are doing something wrong.

To ensure that your email marketing program will be a success, you must first determine who is the audience. Segment your email list into different categories – i.e.: if you are a clothing store – you would want to segment your list at least by gender and age. If you have the capability of tracking purchase habits – this is another very effective segmentation. You are able to get more valuable information in an email to that individual by segmenting. This also enables you to target market throughout the year depending on the time of year. For instance – before Mother’s Day – you would send an email for women’s clothing to all the males and those under age 20 – these are the groups shopping for Mother’s Day gifts.

After segmenting your lists, you must then determine what is considered valuable information to these individuals. Retailers are sending sales, specials and new product arrivals. B2B is sending information that is of value to their customers and potential customers. The information should be different for customers and potential customers. You do not try to sale to your customers – just provide them information about updates, upgrades, how to, new products, etc. This will give them information of value to them to improve efficiency and productivity with the products/services they have already purchased from you. For potential customers, you are selling a little. Don’t go overboard like retailers, but you need to let them know when you have special deals. It is still about educating and providing value so you are seen as the expert. Then when they are ready to purchase, they come to the expert.

Another effective use of email is to provide information and/or deals to your email customers only. This will help in building your email list and gives the members a sense of being a part of an exclusive group of customers. Everyone wants to be a member of an exclusive group.

Integrating all of your different marketing tools is a must. You should have links to your website, social media, landing pages and blog on all of your emails. Vice versa – all of these mediums should publish your email when it is sent. By integrating all of these tools, they all become stronger together and provide a seamless stream of leads and new customers.

Any small business that is not participating in an email marketing campaign is missing out on generating leads and building a loyal customer base.

Is your email campaign generating leads and providing new customers?