LEADING THOUGHTS Earlier this week, we discussed the importance of both, increased awareness and an excellent customer experience, to your ability to get and retain customers, as well as increase trial, purchase and repurchase rates. We also discussed the ways in which social media engagement can help you achieve both of these goals. If you do these things well, your revenue will grow. However, revenue is the first step in business success. Making sure you remain profitable and have enough money to invest back in your business is key. Social media can actually help you do that as well. Right next to raising awareness and providing a better experience, driving profits should be a goal for your social media activities. Recall that a healthy social project ROI is a product of both: increased revenues and operational cost savings. Check out this great ROI framework created by Michael Fauscette, Natalie Petouhoff, Kathy Hermann, Erin Traudt and Mary Wardley.
1) Listening to social media helps you surface problems early. Oftentimes, if there’s an issue with your product, it’s voiced in social media first. If you listen for the right signals, you can figure out potential problems early, before they become bigger problems. Knowing is half the battle; the other half is addressing the issues. If this is something that can be fixed quickly and easily, go ahead and fix it. If the fix is more resource-intensive, then you need to communicate to your users that you are working on the problem and, if you can, estimate when it may be fixed. Taking this proactive step can reduce customer frustration and help them anticipate when they can use the product again. It will also allow you to come across as an organization that cares about its customers and is transparent in its communication.
2) Social support is cost-efficient. Providing support via social channels has a different cost structure than operating a call center. However, you need to be careful when you make the assumption that social media is cheap — it’s not! Even though social tools are less expensive than phone lines and oftentimes free, providing excellent service isn’t free. You need to invest in education, hiring the best possible staff, as well as investing and committing to better processes to ensure that the support queue doesn’t bottleneck in search for a person to resolve it. Make sure you spend some time and money upfront to ensure that you can deliver on the social support initiative. There’s nothing more counterproductive than exposing a broken process via social media.
3) Listening to social media helps you create better products. The best way to provide support is to not have to provide support at all — it makes the user experience better and saves you money at the same time, which is the definition of a win-win. How do you create better products? Ask your customers! In the past, the only way to figure out what your customers wanted was through expensive market research. Although I’m not advocating getting rid of traditional focus groups and surveys, you can do some quick’n’dirty evaluations of market needs just by tracking industry keywords. You can figure out what customers want, what the unmet needs are, and identify opportunities to outcompete the competition. Creating better and more intuitive products will make your users’ experience better, as well as save you money by reducing questions like “Where’s the login button?”
4) Collaboration helps you create better products. Expanding on #3 from above, you should ask your customers directly what they want. Make sure you invite them into an ideation community like Zendesk and UserVoice, and even invite some lead customers into a more private forum to flesh out more strategic questions. When makes sense, use offline methods like picking up the phone and asking them for feedback. This helps you create better products, make customer experience better and reduce service costs.
5) Community support is cost-efficient. Having a community support module, where users can help other users can be a tremendous asset to your organization. Sometimes, your most devoted users are so entrenched in the product, that they want to share their expertise with others. If you have that, hold on to it! These are your dedicated users, your champions. Treat them as part of your team, because that’s what they are. Their enthusiasm and expertise accomplish a couple of positive things. Firstly, it obviously helps other users solve their problems, as creative experts sometimes can think of valuable hacks and extensions to extend the product’s functionality. Secondly, observing these users’ passion can help incite passion inside other users. Of course, having users support other users has a cost-saving effect as well; however, cost-savings is a byproduct and not a reason to undertake a community support initiative. Your #1 focus should be on providing value to customers.
6) Social media marketing provides cost savings over traditional marketing. This one is also a bit tricky. Even though social media marketing can save you money over traditional marketing and other forms of internet marketing, please remember that the tools are free, while strategy and execution are not.
If your goal is to boost the bottom line, examine your social media strategy to figure out how it can provide cost savings. Make sure that the measures you take are not simple cost-cutting measures, though — they need to make your business smarter, better and of course, more Nimble!
Here’s to a prosperous and social year 2011! Tell us, how has social media helped you reduce costs, while providing outstanding value to your customers? The comments are yours!
Photo source: Alancleaver_2000