Social media has continued to grow as a customer service platform, making it an essential aspect of the overall customer experience. We had a few questions on the topic, and we were lucky enough to catch up with Dan Gingiss – @dgingiss – to get some answers.
Dan is an author, podcast host, and a keynote speaker, focusing on customer experience and social customer care. Here are some of Dan’s thoughts on everything ranging from online brand personas to customer loyalty.
How did you get into your line of business? What inspired you to enter the customer experience industry?
I have been a marketer for 20 years and not until 2013 did I have a role that formally focused on customer experience. My new boss at the time had observed that I was always thinking from the customer’s point of view, so I’d be good at a digital role that managed the website experience of a credit card company that had 48+ million logins a month. While I was in that role, Discover won the J.D. Power award for best credit card experience, a large part of which was due to the website experience. I was hooked on customer experience from then on!
You’ve connected customer experience and marketing, how can marketers utilize customer experience to enhance their brand?
It’s becoming harder and harder to compete on traditional marketing dimensions like price and product. Competing on price means you’re not making any money, and almost any product or service these days can be copied. But the personalized customer experience you offer your customers is almost impossible to duplicate, and therefore can become the ultimate competitive advantage.
In your opinion, how does customer experience influence brand loyalty?
I believe that customer experience has become the last true differentiator in business. People like doing business with companies that treat them well, are there for them when they need help, and value their business. A great customer experience leads to longer-tenured customers who aren’t shopping around every year to save a few dollars. It leads to more customers telling their friends and family about your company. And it leads to that psychological confirmation that the customer made the right decision to do business with you. Once you have that, the loyalty part becomes natural.
What can brands do to make themselves stand out on social media?
Engage with everyone who engages with you. Whether someone is asking a question, registering a complaint, or paying you a compliment, they deserve to be heard and responded to. When consumers are looking at new companies, they want to know what it’s like to do business with that company, and a quick scroll through a Facebook or Twitter feed can show a lot.
How can brands make positive experiences ‘worth talking about’ online?
Pay attention to every single interaction that a customer has with your business. In most companies, different people own different parts of the experience, but no one is looking at it in its entirety. In particular, transitions from experience to experience (think signing a mortgage to paying the first bill) can be tricky and confusing to customers. Also, look for opportunities to make a small piece of the experience remarkable. I love it when there’s a surprise piece of chocolate in my hotel room when I arrive, for example.
How is tech being used to enhance the customer experience on social media?
Technology like AI and chatbots can enhance the experience if the result is a faster, more personalized experience. It’s important to remember that most consumers want a relationship with their favorite brands these days, so technology cannot take the place of a human-to-human experience.
How do you think chatbots and auto-response bots will help marketers and social media managers in the future?
Bots can be extremely effective in making agents smarter, by sifting through and filtering tons of consumer data into a digestible summary that the agent can use to solve an issue. The result of both of these use cases is that agents have more time to answer more complicated questions and engage directly with customers.
As social media grows as a platform for customer management and brands are moving more towards automation, how is this affecting the level of personalization for each customer?
It should make personalization that much better. If I request a hypo-allergenic pillow from a hotel via Twitter DM for my upcoming stay in New York, it’s not unreasonable to believe that when I’m in London later that year, I get the pillow without having to ask again. The problem is that many chatbots are the opposite of personalized — they say the same thing to everyone, and can’t adjust to individual needs.
Some brands have given themselves very identifiable personalities, would you say this is a good tactic to engage customers? If so, how can other brands push the boundaries on social media without alienating customers or creating negative PR?
Brand voice has always been important in marketing. As with most things, social media tends to amplify it. I believe that all brands should be friendly and appreciative of the customers that keep them in business. Whether or not a brand wants more of an “identifiable personality” in social is really an individual choice. Sometimes this personality is the same as we see on TV or on the web, and other times it’s social-specific. Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Red Bull, and others, have done this with a certain amount of success. When that personality includes things like humor or sarcasm, companies have to be careful because what’s funny to one person may be offensive to another.
Do you think brands are putting enough time and resources into their social media presence? If not, why do you think social media is still being undervalued?
For a long time, social media was undervalued because it was so hard to demonstrate a true ROI. But with the targeting and tracking capabilities of especially Facebook, this is no longer an excuse on the marketing side. For customer service, social media should be held to the same standard as other channels as well — both from a cost and a revenue perspective. The best companies have figured out that social is an ideal place to convert brand detractors into advocates just by responding to them and engaging. This is worth real money, and when that’s demonstrated to management, the resources should follow.
What are some of the biggest mistakes brands are making in regard to how they handle customer complaints on social media?
The #1 mistake is ignoring comments. When customers take time out of their day to ask a question, give a compliment, or explain how their experience wasn’t as expected, the least we can do is respond to them. The second mistake is constantly trying to move people offline — we never tell a telephone caller to please tweet us, right? So why do we do that in reverse? And more broadly, brands should stop being afraid of complaints. People often complain because they care; if they didn’t, they would have already moved on to your competitor. Complaints also help you improve the customer experience by removing customer pain points and/or identifying new product/service capabilities that consumers are pining for.
Treating customers well seems to be common business sense. Why do you think so many brands are missing the mark on customer experience?
Mostly because too many companies are focused exclusively on the sale, and not what happens after that. Study after study shows that it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one, yet most companies spend the vast majority of their marketing/sales budget on acquiring new customers. When that inevitable shift happens, we’ll see more resources being dedicated to ensuring happy and satisfied customers, resulting in less customer churn and more of that elusive word-of-mouth marketing that so many brands crave.