We are all social customers. Since the beginning of modern day society, we have always shared our thoughts, opinions, likes, dislikes and criticisms about the brands that we love and the brands we hate. The difference today, is that our voices and the conversations that we have with others travel well beyond the living room. They are now being amplified on the social web like never before.
The social customer interacts with business and brands differently based on their emotions and how they are feeling on a given day. One day they might be a collaborative customer, and the next day they might be with a competitor. Much of this depends on a brands reaction, or not. All social customers are different but here are a few ways to make some sense out of who they are and how the act. It’s called social customer management.
The Venting Customer
This customer might be complaining on Twitter or Facebook, but a response is probably not necessary. In many cases, these customers are just seeking attention from members of their social graph and usually make statements such as, “I love my Dell laptop, but it’s way too heavy,” or “I just got Comcast installed. The high definition is amazing, but the cable box doesn’t match my furniture, ugh.” In certain cases, a company can choose to follow this customer on Twitter if that’s where the conversation is happening and may even take it one step further and say “Thank you for ordering,” or something similar.
The Passive Customer
This customer is definitely in need of customer support but isn’t actively seeking a response. Usually, these customers aren’t overly vocal or complain like other customers. They’ll likely tell their networks in hopes that someone they know can help them directly. They’ll make statements such as, “My Toshiba laptop keeps powering off after being on for 5 minutes, please help!” Often they also include the infamous #fail hashtag if they’re using Twitter. In this scenario, it’s imperative for customer support to be flagged and either fix their problem directly or send the customer information about how to fix it. Ignoring a passive customer can turn that person into a “used-to-be” customer, which is never a good thing.
The “Used-to-Be” Customer
This customer is angry, vocal and needs assistance immediately. These customers have most likely expressed their discontent several times online and either haven’t been responded to or haven’t had their problem resolved. They’re consistently telling others about their negative experiences. They make statements such as “My Internet just went down again. I am sick of @Comcast and canceling!” or “1-800 Flowers was late delivering my mom’s flowers for her birthday. This is the second time. I am done with them forever!” In this case, the customer support teams should be flagged immediately so they can proactively reach out and offer them a complimentary promotion of some sort. More importantly, the company should start thinking about optimizing their business processes in order to resolve the root issue of the problem.
The Collaborative Customer
This customer is happy with the product, service, or company. Often these people seek out venues for suggesting new products or enhancements to an existing product, much like Dell’s IdeaStorm and MyStarbucksIdea. They make statements such as “I think El Pollo Loco should also serve baked chicken for people who want to eat healthy” and then cc: the company on Twitter (as in “cc: @ElPolloLocoInc”). This, way, they ensure that El Pollo Loco will be notified via their @mentions on Twitter. This certainly isn’t a customer support issue but these types of customers should be flagged and paid special attention to because they could potentially be turned into advocates. In this case, marketing or a community manager should engage directly and start building a relationship.
The Customer Advocate
These types of customers talk about a brand, product, or service even if the brand isn’t paying attending. They talk about the brand because of how it makes them feel or of its value to their lives. These customers don’t need incentives, either. Often they make statements such as “You all should buy the new Sony 3D TV. It is awesome and perfect for gaming and watching movies on Blu Ray. We love it!” Marketing and PR departments should be flagged immediately and should reach out to these advocates. It’s good practice to invite advocates to private communities and give them sneak peeks into future products, seeding them with new products or just asking them for specific feedback.
The Future Customer
This customer, also known as the prospect, is one of the reasons CRM systems came into existence. They can either be new customers or customers who are considering an upgrade to a new product or service. The prospect will say things such as, “I am thinking about getting Comcast. Tired of Dish Network’s constant outages. What do you guys think?” What could be a future customer for Comcast is potentially a “used-to-be” customer for Dish Network, so each company would handle this scenario differently. In any case, the sales team from Comcast should be flagged immediately and be prepared to offer this customer a really good deal for switching services. In a business-to business (B2B) environment, this could be an existing customer talking about upgrading the hardware in the data center; the account manager should reach out to them directly before the competitors do.
The following is a graphic that illustrates the social customer as well a few social CRM technologies that can be used to listen and engage with them.
Social CRM is at the center because support, sales and community management teams are the ones responsible for determining the rules of engagement based on the behaviors of the social customer. Organizations today are already deploying social technologies internally, creating workflows and governance models to address the landscape. Social CRM is just one component of a fully collaborative social business and comprehensive social customer management.