Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Managing customer expectations using authenticity

Managing customer expectations? Authenticity? I thought this was a social media blog...

It is!

Consider the old business adage that exhorts us to "under promise and over deliver". I expect everyone has come across at least one company that has reversed that and under delivered on what they said they would do. We are so much more disappointed in a company if they promise us the earth and then let us down.

Like any form of communication, your social media needs to reflect what you actually do. However, unlike the traditional communication channels, social media can bite back - and hard - if you get it wrong.

I'm not talking about deliberate misrepresentation here, which is a whole other can o' worms, but about a mismatch in your online business persona and your face to face one.

So, how do you avoid getting it wrong? By being authentic.

Here are some points for you to consider about your authenticity on social media:

Consistency of customer experience
Are your social media "tone of voice" and service levels aligned with your website, email and face to face communication?

Will people feel that they are still talking to the same company when they telephone you or get and email response from you?

This is particularly important if the customer is dealing with several different people from your company. (It's not always the social media that needs changing!)

Being human
Your conversion from social media interaction to customer satisfaction will be far more effective if your communications appear to come from a human. Standard letters and emails are a boon to the busy business, but they don't have to be sterile and boring. Put some effort into your templates and add a personal touch.

Response speed
If you answer your tweets immediately but your answering machine is always on then, there's a mismatch in experience.

Make sure you have enough resource to cover the interaction across all your channels. If you can't afford the resource, then you should think carefully about having a presence there.

Crisis management
Sometimes, things go wrong. It happens to all businesses at some point. How you handle the incident will reflect on your reputation both on and offline. You may not want to play out the whole scenario on social media, but your response and handling will be noted by other people.

Bear in mind that emails can be copy and pasted onto blogs and even phone conversations find their way into the blogosphere.

If you're nice as pie on Facebook and apparently dismissive on email, it'll backfire on you. Have a response plan that includes social media, emails, phone calls, face to face,  PR etc.

Don't fudge (unless you're a confectioner!)
If you don't know or you aren't sure about a question you've been asked then say so. Of course, follow up with the fact that you're going to find out and come back to them. People would rather wait a short while and get the correct information than be fobbed off.