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How to Get the Most from Social Media

In last week’s blog, I shared results of the 2014 Voice of the Customer Challenges and Practices Survey recently conducted by Maritz Research. I focused on a rather interesting finding that having an effective method of monitoring social media—in and of itself—is not strongly related to VoC program success, at least not when the measure of success is an organization’s ability to use the VoC to drive actual improvements in customer satisfaction and retention.

Still, it is quite clear that organizations will continue to invest in monitoring social media to understand and deliver or co-create better customer experiences. So, how can these organizations ensure they get the most from their investments in social media monitoring?

For starters, they can use social media to identify opportunities to manage relationships with individual customers.  Some companies increasingly are thanking and creating advocates among customers who have posted about positive experiences. They also are acknowledging and trying to “make things right” with customers who have shared negative experiences.

Results of the 2014 VoC Challenges and Practices Survey (see graph below) reveal that, among firms that have been either somewhat or very successful in using the VoC to drive improved customer satisfaction, the percentage using social media to manage relationships with individual customers is significantly higher than it is in firms that are not very successful. In other words, using social media to manage relationships with individual customers is a practice that contributes to VoC program effectiveness.

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Another very powerful practice is to integrate social media with other VoC data sources to build a comprehensive perspective of the customer experience, and to set priorities for improvement. Results of the 2014 VoC Challenges and Practices Survey (see graph below) reveal that, in firms that have been very successful in using the VoC to drive improved customer satisfaction, the percentage applying a formal process to integrate customer survey data with social media and other sources of customer feedback is significantly higher than in firms that are only somewhat successful. The percentage applying this same practice in somewhat successful firms, in turn, is significantly higher than in not very successful firms.

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The power of this “VoC Integration” practice lies in its usefulness in building a strong case for giving priority to select customer experience elements based on the convergence of findings and conclusions drawn from multiple sources of customer feedback.  For example, if customer surveys, social media posts, and inbound customer communications all point to “ease of using the company’s website” as a source of customer dissatisfaction, that element of the customer experience probably should be addressed as an area for improvement. This is especially true if this element also happens to be a key driver of overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. (For more on VOC Integration, check out my presentation, “Voice of the Customer Integration,” given at Institute for International Research Total Customer Experience Leadership Summit in 2013.)

In summary, our research clearly shows that an effective VoC program does not turn on a firm’s ability to monitor or capture data from social media. Rather, it turns on the ability to use social media to support at least two practices:

  • Leverage and/or repair relationships with individual customers.
  • Integrate data from social media with other VoC sources to build a comprehensive perspective of the customer experience, and to set priorities for action and improvement.

Does your organization currently engage in these best practices? If so, can you demonstrate how these practices have positively impacted customer satisfaction, retention, and advocacy? If your organization is not using these practices, are there good reasons for not doing so? If not, what must your organization do to ensure these practices are implemented?  I invite you to share your answers and “lessons learned” through comments on this blog.

That’s enough about social media. What other practices contribute to VoC program effectiveness? I’ll have more to share about that in next week’s blog. Stay tuned!