Mar­ket­ing

Us­ing so­cial me­dia to meet cus­tomer needs. Books: McKin­sey, Pixar

The Australian - The Deal - - Features -

THERE’S A DI­CHOTOMY in the world of cus­tomer ser­vice. Mar­keters and re­tail­ers are un­der pres­sure to cut costs, but cus­tomers’ ex­pec­ta­tions of great ser­vice are ris­ing.

Re­tail­ing pro­vides a great ex­am­ple. In store, com­pa­nies have cut costs by cut­ting staff num­bers, which puts enor­mous pres­sure on the re­main­ing few to deal with cus­tomers. To en­able more face-to­face cus­tomer ser­vice time where it re­ally mat­ters, some stores are au­tomat­ing ar­eas that don’t re­ally re­quire in­ter­ac­tion. This is why su­per­mar­kets have moved to self­ser­vice check­outs.

But the real break­through for mar­keters has been in us­ing so­cial me­dia. Twit­ter has be­come the go-to cus­tomer ser­vice tool for many brands. Staff from the shop floor, mar­ket­ing and the brand’s call cen­tre are trained in how to lis­ten to so­cial me­dia con­ver­sa­tions about that brand, and re­spond in real time. So­cial lis­ten­ing tools such as Ra­dian6 high­light when a brand is men­tioned on Twit­ter, Face­book, Google+ and In­sta­gram, and alert staff. If

some­body is com­plain­ing about poor cus­tomer ser­vice, then that brand can re­spond, just as one would in an email or on the phone. There are many great anec­dotes of a cus­tomer vent­ing their frus­tra­tion to their friends on so­cial me­dia, only to have the brand write back in­stantly, apol­o­gis­ing and ask­ing the cus­tomer to con­tact them so they can help. That cre­ates a huge swing from a neg­a­tive brand mo­ment to a pos­i­tive one.

Aus­tralian start-up Lo­cal Mea­sure is mak­ing an im­pact in its home coun­try and in Asia with its abil­ity to lis­ten to so­cial me­dia con­ver­sa­tions in re­tail en­vi­ron­ments, even if the brand is not men­tioned. It uses pre­cise geo-tar­get­ing to alert the brand’s cus­to­di­ans that some­body has an is­sue in a store. For ex­am­ple, if a cus­tomer posts a pic­ture of a rubbish bin over­flow­ing in a fast-food out­let, with a com­ment “Dis­gust­ing”, Lo­cal Mea­sure can alert head of­fice in­stantly and the store man­ager can be con­tacted to fix it.

An abil­ity to re­spond in real time is now just the cost of en­try. The new game is an­tic­i­pat­ing cus­tomer needs be­fore they arise. And con­sumers are be­gin­ning to ex­pect this level of ser­vice, be­cause they know brands have an in­cred­i­ble amount of data about them. For ex­am­ple, as you are view­ing a brand on­line, the web­site can sug­gest a spe­cial of­fer tai­lored just for you. Great. But as you click through to take up the of­fer, you are asked to fill in all your de­tails again. Very frus­trat­ing. A pos­i­tive ser­vice mo­ment turned into a neg­a­tive one.

Con­versely, some stores are an­tic­i­pat­ing cus­tomers’ needs by en­cour­ag­ing them to buy bulky, bigticket items on their mo­bile de­vice in store and have them de­liv­ered for free the fol­low­ing day. Bet­ter to pro­vide mul­ti­ple ways for a con­sumer to buy your prod­uct, and wear the cost of free WiFi in store, than to lose a cus­tomer who is wor­ry­ing about lug­ging that big item back to their car.

Proac­tive cus­tomer ser­vice is the ul­ti­mate goal. Again, Lo­cal Mea­sure is work­ing with Qan­tas in its first-class lounges around the world to pro­vide just this. A pas­sen­ger tweets to their fol­low­ers about their 24-hour flight ahead, and wishes there was a fresh juice on the lounge menu to pep them up be­fore they fly. Lo­cal Mea­sure “hears” this, and a few min­utes later the waiter walks over, say­ing they heard you were af­ter a fresh juice. Sim­ple but pow­er­ful cus­tomer ser­vice.

North Amer­i­can start-up In­side has built a plat­form al­low­ing re­tail­ers to see lit­tle avatars mov­ing around their web­site rep­re­sent­ing vis­i­tors. If some­body looks “stuck” in an area of the store, In­side can be­gin a con­ver­sa­tion with the cus­tomer. “You look a lit­tle stuck, do you need any help?” pops up in a mes­sage box.

The abil­ity to en­able great proac­tive cus­tomer ser­vice in store and on­line is here. Re­tail­ers that in­vest in these tools and skills are be­gin­ning to skip clear of their com­peti­tors. Andrew Bax­ter is chief ex­ec­u­tive, Publi­cis World­wide Aus­tralia.

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