Can Social Media Build Long-Term Customer Relationships

originally posted on Concept Hub

I have the great privilege to be one of the speakers at the upcoming CRMA National Conference. Last week several of the speakers gathered for lunch and a video shoot to promote the event. It was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by so many people that were passionate about serving people.

The conversations at lunch varied from how the internal corporate culture affects how customers are treated to the relationship between marketing and customer service, to the reality that every person in an organization is responsible for the experience that a customer receives to how technology has played a role in the decline of customer service to how humanity might be saved because of technology (OK that was the point I was making.)

What a Concept! has enabled our clients to leverage social media tools for internal communication and collaboration so that relevant knowledge is shared between different departments and dispersed locations. With access to this knowledge and an understanding of what is happening within each department companies are able to provide seamless and comprehensive service to all of the people who depend on them, both internally and externally.

For external communications, What a Concept! has enabled our clients to “listen in” on online conversations about their company and their industry and to spot trends that enable them to know thy customer and what their needs are. Our clients have even benefited by participating in the online conversations by saying thank you and asking for specific suggestions from a community of consumers.

But can Social Media build long term customer relationships? Well, the very important point that was brought up during lunch is that technology was not meant and never will be meant to take the place of the people. While discussing CRM software, we explored how many companies implemented these tools that collect information and follow trends and schedule tasks and then somehow expected the software to take off and provide a level of service to the customer. It is never the technology that provides the service it is always the people that provide service. In an ever accelerating and expanding world, it is the technology that helps us to organize our tasks and to keep the center of focus on our people but more importantly on the individual needs and expectations of each person.

Chet Meisner shared with us a story about how when he was a child he would ride his bike past a little store every day and buy a Fresca and some licorice. After a while the store owner would have his Fresca and licorice waiting for him. Now if the store owner was not able to be at the store one day he would be able to leave a note for the person in charge to have Chet’s Fresca and licorice ready for him, thus providing seamless and consistent service. The result is knowing Chet’s behavior and being able to communicate it to others that are involved in Chet’s experience.

Interacting with people on an individual basis may seem like an outdated idea in this world of mass production and mass consumption but the reality is that when we take the moment to know an individual and provide exceptional service we reap the rewards through word of mouth or peer to peer marketing. The result is a shift from one to many communication to many to many communication.

Steve Cohn and I talked for a long time about the role of emotions in sales and service. In his training classes and workshops he often ask people who they believe the customer is and who is the most important person in serving the customer. As we were discussing, many people in organizations focus only on the buyer as the customer and they miss the important influences of peers, family, friends and even the ultimate user of a product or service. We also talked in depth about the role different people in the organization play in providing exceptional service. He is a transplant to this southern state from New York, and like most people from New York, he loves his state. He once asked a moving company who the most important person was in providing exceptional service during a move. The company believed it was the coordinator. He then told the story of his move from New York to Atlanta and how the movers came and packed up his life and put it on a truck and drove away. That was an emotional time for him and it was the movers who were his direct contact during this experience, he did not even know who the moving coordinator was.

As companies begin to embrace or even investigate social media, often times they narrow in on who the “professionals” are or the “target market” they miss the idea that there are communities of people interacting with each other on many different levels.

Social Media is yet another new way to communicate, interact with and know your customer. Social Media does not build long term relationships just like CRM software does not build long term relationships. It is the people behind these tools that build the relationships.