As published on Forbes.com
For years I thought “I don’t care about social media. My business isn’t one of ‘those’ businesses.” Maybe you’ve been thinking the same thing. Perhaps you decided to dip your toes in the water, but you’re certainly not going to make a serious investment. How would you calculate the ROI anyhow? I’ve had some good and not-so-good interactions with companies through a variety of channels in the past month or so. It was shocking to see how differently each company chose to embrace (and in some cases ignore) social media.
The Evolution of Social Media
A really long time ago, a junior employee approached the CEO of a company and said “There’s this new technology that people are starting to use. My friends and I all use it, and I think that as a company we should allow our customers to use the new technology to communicate with us.” The CEO dismissed the young employee and his crazy notion that customers expected someone to answer them using that silly device called a telephone. The CEO was probably thinking, “Why do we need telephones? Our customers come into our office or store if they need something.” A similar discussion certainly happened decades later around email, after all why support customers with email when they can just call. Though technologies have changed over the years, essentially telephone and email were the channels to communicate with customers then, just like Facebook and Twitter are the channels today.
Fresh Perspective From Traditional Companies
I had a reason to contact Honeywell regarding a new thermostat we installed as part of a home renovation. Their response via social media was so swift and impressive, that I felt compelled to ask them some questions about how they chose to adopt social media. I was candidly shocked to get a quick response from someone who makes thermostats (since my preferred airline, a business where timeliness really matters, took days to respond to a request for help via Twitter). I spoke with Dane Hartzell, Global Director of ePresence for Honeywell and here is what he had to say:
“Our objective is to engage with our customers — and potential customers — on their terms. Whatever way is easiest for them, we will support. Social channels are great because sometimes people use it to say what they are thinking. Social listening tools allow us to pick up on that, and engage with customers without them even directly asking for help.” Dane also commented at how with social media, since it is not a real-time like telephone, allows them to serve multiple customers at a time and be responsive to all parties.
Dane continued, “A year ago, getting back to the customer the same day seemed acceptable to the customer and they even seemed surprised to hear from a company at all. Today, we feel if we don’t acknowledge the customer within five minutes, and let them know we are working on their issue, they have shorter patience.” What most impressed me about Hartzell’s thoughts was about how Honeywell sees social media. Since in the past they worked through channels, they did not have much direct interaction with customers. “Now with social, we get first-hand interaction that is creating sincere excitement in the company. We parse out the interaction data and help each team understand what it means for them as a daily recap to everyone from executives to engineers.”
Honeywell has embraced customer service with social media, and they see channels like Twitter as a new way to build a community with their customers.
It’s About More Than Shouting
Twitter and social media is not for shouting your ideas. Rather, think of Twitter as a great vehicle to listen to, engage with, and demonstrate compassion for your community. During a recent negative interaction with an airline, I shared the negative experience via social media. Another user in turn shared his negative experience with a toy store. I replied and said “That’s unfortunate. I wonder what good companies like @Zappos and @Marriott would suggest.” To no surprise, Zappos responded within minutes saying, “Thanks for the love, Ian. We’re sorry you’re experiencing that elsewhere!” Ironically, the airline and toy store have yet to reply to the posts. Zappos is the benchmark for customer service and brand loyalty.
When I asked about timeliness of responding to Twitter requests, Honeywell and Hertz responded within minutes. I recall being stuck in line at a Hertz location. Reached out to Hertz via Twitter and they solved my problem and I was able to exit the line and drive away in my vehicle.
The Risk Of Waiting
In his much anticipated, upcoming book, Hug Your Haters, Jay Baer shares Edison Research data that 39% of people who complain and expect a response expect that response in sixty minutes or less.” Sadly, their research shows that the average business response time in social is about five hours. ” When you fall short of customer expectations, good stuff rarely happens. In social media, the “not so good stuff” happens quickly.
What do you think happened to the last company in each industry that adopted the phone as a channel to communicate with customers? How about using email? My guess is they became irrelevant. Their customers went elsewhere to get the interaction they expected. The beauty of social media, if done properly, is that you can be responsive, interact with customers in ways you had not envisioned, and build a community of supporters. Or, you can sit by the sideline and wait for your competition to take the lead and then you get to try and chase them. More importantly, if done properly, you can shift customers from phone to social, and service more customers with fewer resources than you can via the phone. I’m not suggesting you abandon the phone. But, recognize that ROI can be simple if you go all in.
History is repeating itself. Only instead of “phone” or “email,” we call it “Twitter” and “Facebook.” If you ignore customers on social media, it’s like not answering your ringing customer service line.
It’s Your Turn
When have you walked away from a business because they were late adopting something important to you? How long do you expect it to take to get a response via social media? Take the discussion to Twitter and LinkedIn and share your thoughts.