Have customers finally found their voice?

According to a customer channel report from Fisher Hedges, when it comes to customers having a voice, over 2/3rds believe social media is a channel which allows them to really get their voice heard, ahead of the call centre.

The report also highlights that consumers, of all ages, are turning to this channel to report gripes and steep praise. Having read the report on Friday, I considered where I might find examples to back this up. I only needed to wait until I had a conversation with my stepfather on Sunday. He gifted me two ideal examples, illustrating the point that social media is a more powerful channel than others when it comes to getting a business to take action on behalf of the consumer.

Tesco – Socially Responsive

My stepfather replayed to me how Tesco responded brilliantly to his recent concern that there is collusion in petrol pricing from town to town. He’d noticed that the petrol where he lives is 5p more expensive than that in the next town.

petrol

He picked on Tesco, because he found their two stations and could compare the prices. He sent a message socially on the subject to Tesco. Within 15 minutes this resulted in a phone call from Tesco (on a Saturday night) about the issue. The Tesco rep explained the reason was driven by competition at a local level. Unhappy with the response he requested a more senior investigation. By Tuesday he’d received a letter with more a detailed explanation of the point from a senior rep. During our conversation his focus shifted from the petrol issue to how amazed he was at the speed and the personalisation of the response after his social bark. Tesco definitely went up in his estimation. And although he didn’t mention it to me, they’d managed to make his public display private.

As an aside, I found a website called http://www.petrolprices.com/ where you can make you own comparisons. I found the variance between petrol prices in our town and the next, four miles away, is actually 7p on petrol and 5p on diesel. It pays to drive around!

Everyone Active (except the customer experience team)

My stepfather also mentioned an on-going issue he is having with Everyone Active (the gym company who manage local government facilities). They seem to let their customers down at every conceivable point. From broken disabled shower facilities, to taking money from customers for a public swim when the pool is booked for a private session, the list goes on…

He attends two or three times a week, so a social media rant would seem unnecessary when he can speak to them face-to-face. As a voice of one, with no one listening in, he tells them of the problems each time he uses the facilities. But the conversation is always the same…

  • He lists the problems still outstanding.
  • Their initial response is: ‘we know’.
  • When challenged as to what they will do about it, the response is: ‘the person who does that is back tomorrow. We will tell them’.
  • When challenged with the comment that it needs immediate attention, the more senior response is: ‘we know that needs fixing. Rest assured we will get on to it very soon’.

But like a scene from Groundhog Day, the problem is there when he returns each time and so the conversation begins again.

It shows the power of customer voice where people are listening versus an intimate conversation. Even though from the brand’s perspective, the intimate conversation is more considerate to them. BT Care get this…

btcare

BT – Social Care 

I’m a big fan of straight talking Warren Buckley of BT Care. I’ve seen him speak using a live twitter feed playing behind him. Brave – he informs the audience what’s happening and why on screen, while explaining that social media is the customer service tool at BT Care. He understands why social media has become more important, as he states: “One person with no ‘followers’ can very quickly become 10,000 people”.

All of which gives credibility to the change I believe will come as analysts find their feet with ‘big data’ – a shift from valuing customers based on their commercial contribution to their ‘Brand Impact’ (BI = combination of social media reach, impact of message, advocacy and contribution).

Klout already allows individuals to see the value of their ‘social voice’ online. Whilst I mighkloutt argue that the algorithms are not yet sophisticated enough, I can’t deny the concept is a strong and interesting one.

Appending BI scores to customer segments would change the way brands engage with customers altogether. It’s still an unordinary thought, but one I see getting more airtime as social media becomes more mainstream. If brands move to appending BI scores, social media will be encouraged as a primary means by which customers can interact with them. In turn that will evolve our definition of what social media is. And so on.

What I have learnt

The key take out for me is that the complainant has found a way to jump the queue as social media, as a means to gripe, grows in popularity. So brands and businesses must learn how to manage the impact and coordinate responses across their channels. For further clues on how to do this see Warren Buckley speak, follow @BTCare, or have a chat with my stepfather when he’s not having his say socially.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Director, Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency. We put customers at the start and the heart of the business strategy.

We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers. We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

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For a discussion on how we may be able to help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

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