Monday, March 19, 2012

Rules of Engagement - Getting The Word of Mouth Buzz

I recently read a great article by David Johnson. In his piece he dispels the notion of Return on Investment, and in it's place puts forward the notion of ROE - Return on Engagement. We all strive for word of mouth buzz. Why? Because it is cheaper to have someone tell their friends about how awesome your product or service is than to spend advertising, sales, and marketing dollars on gaining new customers. What is often forgotten through out the entire discussion of winning over new customers and social media campaigns to propagate word of mouth buzz is Customer Service and Customer Engagement.

David brought up some valid points. We put a lot of money, time and effort into running great social media campaigns. Tweeting, Posting and Blogging takes up time and energy - but are relatively low cost. What would happen if Marketers or Business Owners would set aside a budget for Customer Experience and Customer Engagement? Yes, you still need the Social Media Campaigns, you still need marketing, advertising and branding. But what if companies really started taking care of their customers. Here's how:

Managing Expectations.
There should never be a difference between what people expect and the actual level of service you provide. Of course, we live in a more realistic world, so let's just say companies need to minimize that gap as much as possible. Nothing new right? But think about it. If you fall short and the gap is large, customers will put out some negative comments. If the there isn't a gap at all, everyone is happy and content and you will get some good comments. The GREAT comments come when you go above and beyond the customer's expectations. Once you start exceeding, the customer starts to fall in love.
David likes to call this Customer Enchantment. And I agree with him. Too often, companies do what they can to get by.

Reactive vs. Proactive
Customer service = Reactionary. Companies react to an issue, they react to comments, and are only motivated to react once there is a problem or something to react to. What would happen if we shift this so that companies are Proactive. Spend some extra time and treat the cusotmers to something that in the long run will not only make them happy, but also convert them to a long term customer and brand advocate. David included the story about the boy and the starfish, and I think it's a great analogy to how companies need to start thinking:

"...there are thousands of starfish beached upon the sands where a little boy, one-by-one, is throwing the starfish back into the water. When asked why he’s even bothering when there are too many to make a difference, the little boy replied after throwing a starfish back in the water, “It mattered to that one.”

So how do companies do this? They put together a budget for proactive customer service. Get employees on the same page - train them, make sure the employees are happy - and they will be able to speak for the company in a great and positive light. Empower your employees to be your brand ambassadors, and they in turn will reach out and create their own armies of brand ambassadors. Make your employees aware that going the extra mile will help everyone in the long run.

If you hear something come from a customer, go above and beyond to engage them or help them. This isn't the wine and dine 'em mentality of old school business. This is going the extra mile to exceed expectations. Example: You hear a customer is buying your product for his daughter's birthday. You go above and beyond the sale, to ensure that the product is properly wrapped. Then you offer some great items to make the deal even sweeter. How about a gift card for future use. Not only will the father feel like he is special and getting great service, the daughter will come back and use the gift card. She too will love the product, and will Tweet, Facebook and spread some brand love.