Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Deep Sherchan - Co-Founder and CMO at Simplify360, social business intelligence product where he discusses why brands should make listening a habit on social media.
On 7th March, I had an opportunity to guest lecture students at TAPMI on social media analytics and the industry trends. During the discussion and engagement with students, I asked them if they thought brands or businesses were listening to their online conversations on Twitter and Facebook. Most students quite eagerly agreed that brands do listen. But one student quite confidently replied, “No brands don’t listen to our conversations.” Quite curiously I ask why he thought so. His answer was very straight forward and at the same time quite thoughtful. His main point was that if brands were really listening to their customers, they should be also responding to queries and complaints. But because so many complaints on social media are unattended by brands, it’s quite obvious to assume that they are not listening.
A valid point was made by the student. As I was returning to Bangalore, I pondered around this issue of brands not responding to complaints and ignoring the plight of the customers. Having being engaged with many brands and their social media teams, I have certainly been in a board room where a decision needed to be made on “Should we respond to complaints or not?”
Now there are two categories of responses to this particular question. The first one being, lets just delete the comment on Facebook and ignore on Twitter. The second one being, let’s try to respond as much possible but if things get serious lets take it down.
There is an innate fear among brands when they embark on listening to customer complaints. Most fear is with the concern, “What if, tomorrow every one starts to complain on social media and we end up waking all our angry customers?”. This fear is the result of not understanding social media. This doubt is generally based on the lack of trust on their services and their customers.
We had carried this research on Twitter, monitoring 40 Indian brands across the industries and we were quite shocked to find out some interesting results. Our research showed that only 35% of brands are actually actively responding on Twitter.
Out of the selection of brands chosen for the research, we noticed that Telecom brands are the most active brands on Twitter, followed by Ecommerce and Banks. But even then, the majority of brands were turning deaf to their customer’s complaints.
On the other side, nearly half of the customers expected companies to read their tweets and around 80% expressed that they would like to be contacted by the brands on Twitter. This imbalance in the customer’s expectations and brand’s action certainly demands a question, “Are brands really listening to their customers?”
There are enough researches and examples to suggest that brands should listen to online conversations. It’s not only about responding to complaints, but it’s also about understanding your business and brand’s perception. Remember that in the age of social media, brands and customers are equally responsible for the experience. It’s not only about the responsibility of brands to support their customers, but also an opportunity for brands to establish a platform where loyal customers can network with each other and resolve each other’s issue.
The hallmark for customer service on social media is the one where the customers are the brand advocates helping each other. Every brand should aim to achieve such loyalty and respect from the customers. This co-creation between brands and the customers is the way forward and brands need to embrace it.
Now listening is the key strategy for brands to understand their customers, identify influencers and build advocates. In addition to this, a concrete action-plan needs to be set for brands so that they can act on what they are listening and analysing. This action will definitely help build a trust between the customers and the brands.
Let me give another personal example of how brands can listen and resolve issues. This happened with my colleague Bhupendra Khanal, where he was having a problem with the customer service of Volkswagen at Bangalore. Not able to sort out the issue he went on to react on Facebook.
One thing which every brand needs to understand is that customers don’t just go on to social media and vent their whole anger. They do wait and try to reach out to traditional support centers and try to get it resolved. Its only when the issue gets over the board that they take to social media, like a last resort for help.
Afterwards, Bhupendra was contacted by Volkswagen customer care team and the issue was taken care of. But this is the point with social media, it took a massive effort from the customer’s side to make his/her voice heard. Certainly, Volkswagen social team was listening to the social chatter, but what they should have been focusing on was streamlining their customer service and prevent customers from taking on brands on social media.
Listening and resolving issues on social media is not the only activity that brands should do. They should take this seriously and implement the feedback on their service and try to understand why this is happening.
Listening is really a great way for top executives to not only tap into customers’ conversations but also a way to identify the loop holes in its system and act accordingly to resolve it.
And this requires active listening. Listen from anywhere and everywhere that affects your brand. Make listening a habit. Embed it in your culture code. Do not contain what you listen. Act on it.
Once you are in the flow, you will experience the impact of listening. While business growth is one of the most obvious results of this practice, you will also innovate and grow your product/service. And remember, true impact cannot be measured in numbers, but experienced, when you feel in control of your brand, have active community engagement and are clear about what people talk about your brand.
Image credit: everydayfeminism.com