Are you a bit player in your customers’ conversations about you?

A while back, I wrote a very long piece on the idea of using social media for service. One of my star sources with Brent Leary. Brent is a star when it comes to helping small business with CRM; it’s too bad that we can’t clone Brent and put a copy of him in every city so that his energy for the topic can spread to more and more businesses.

One of the cagier things Brent said touched on where customer service is today. We all hear about things like Comcast Cares, in which complaining customers on Twitter are handled via social media. Ooooh! Neato!

Well, not that neato. See, the social media service channel is still largely disconnected from the regular service channel. Customers go to Twitter because the regular service channels have utterly failed them. Instead of service via social media, Brent called it “social PR” – it’s a reaction to the customers’ ability to broadcast their dissatisfaction, and an effort to silence the squeaky wheels rather than improve the overall quality of service for all customers.

I see a similar trend happening with larger social CRM efforts, or at least efforts to engage in a two-way conversation with customers in social media. Instead of really building processes that make social engagement part of the daily plan for employees, there’s a band-aid attempt to engage with people at the extremes – either really angry or really happy – and then only when there’s a lull in business. In other words, the person in charge of social media has other tasks, and engages when and if he can, starting with the most intense customers.

That degree of engagement is better than nothing, but it creates what I call “the cameo appearance effect.” Instead of being truly present in discussions about your business, you play a walk-on role, like Jack Benny in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World.” Your presence is more than welcome, but you’re there and gone – and people are left wondering where you went.

If customers choose to take it personally, it can seem as though you don’t consider them sufficiently important to talk to. Sure, you posted a response to Texasarmadilloguy when he had a problem with your product, but you can’t be bothered when Jellomonkey13 asks about something similar shortly thereafter? That just seems rude. The customers aren’t privy to your back-story: the guy who monitors Twitter and Facebook and all your other channels has meetings all day that pertain to the other aspects of his job (which are often considered more important than social media) and gets mere snippets of time to read and respond, and so he never saw Jellomonkey13’s post in time to react to it.

How do you avoid the cameo effect? You have to choose the right people, processes and technology (sound familiar?) to do the job, and then make sure social engageacment efforts are funded as though they are serious aspects of your CRM efforts – because that’s what they are.

Which would you prefer:  a conversation in which the other party is half-present, or no conversation at all? If your customers would opt for the latter option, you need to up your social game or cut your losses. But with customers becoming more social, abandoning social is not really an option.

What is your business doing to try to stay engaged, and how do you find the resources for doing it well? If you’ve figured out a solution, send it my way.




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  1. Pingback: Be a Part of Customer Conversations | Simply Text Marketing

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