Social Media as a Customer Retention Tool
If you have any doubts about social media’s business value, let me dispel them for your now. Although social networks and online communities and the like may not drive immediate sales or help you hit your quarterly earnings targets, they can absolutely help you build customer engagement (thus long-term revenue growth)—through gathering feedback, responding to concerns, sharing educational content, and more. In the case of responding to customers’ concerns, social media is turning out to be a powerful retention tool.
Let me give you an example:
We recently featured the article "Consumer Rankings of Financial Services Firms Hits Five-Year Low” in 1to1 Weekly, by Kevin Zimmerman, which discusses the results of Forrester Research’s fifth annual customer advocacy scorecard, "Customer Advocacy 2008: How U.S. Consumers Rate Their Banks, Brokerages, and Insurers." The survey found that rankings were down in all areas, falling to their lowest levels since Forrester first conducted the survey.
In my editor’s note, I talked about a recent visit to Citibank during which I inquired about making a change to my main checking account. What seemed like it should be a simple task for the bank, I noted, turned out to be a significant undertaking for me instead.
One of our readers, Steve Pickens, emailed me and said that perhaps I was being “self-centric” instead of setting realistic “customer-centric” expectations. His comments were thought provoking, so I asked to post them on the blog about Kevin’s article that Liz Glagowski wrote, called "Banking Industry Gets a Wake-Up Call." He agreed, and I posted a reply, which I had included in my email to him, explaining a bit more about my situation with Citibank (changing an account from joint ownership to single ownership).
Here’s where it starts to get interesting. This whole thing prompts me to go back to Citibank to ask why they can’t accommodate me. I find out that it’s not about regulations or technology issues, it’s simply a policy—and one that risks losing me, and hoards of others like me. Earlier this week I was going to add that update to Liz’s blog post, but before I had the chance, I got a call from Rob Julavits, from Citibank’s public affairs group. A colleague at Citi had read Liz’s blog post and my comments and forward the information to public affairs.
Rob asked for details on the situation and promised to follow up that day. Indeed, he did and phoned me early the following day to say that I wouldn’t have to close my account and start from scratch; that a colleague in customer service would follow up with me to help me make the necessary changes. How great is that?! (Hopefully this won’t be a case of the squeaky wheel, and Citi will actually make it easier for any customer to make a change like this in the future.)
It’s not just making my life easier by avoiding all the work it would take to switch accounts and move all the links and direct debits and deposits associated with it; it’s keeping me as a customer. If I was going to have to complete unravel myself and start from scratch, I could just as well have started anew at any bank. It’s a win-win for me (time saved) and for Citi (customer saved).
In case you’re thinking that I’m getting some preferential treatment because I’m a publications editor, don’t. Many companies today are surfing online communities and social networking sites for customers’ comments and following up accordingly.
Jeremy Nedelka just blogged about how companies like Comcast and JetBlue are using Twitter to connect with customers in “What Is Twitter and Why Should It Matter to Your Business?” He explains how hotel companies and airlines track and respond to customer feedback on the travel community FlyerTalk in “FlyerTalk Promotes Lurking” (from the May/June issue of 1to1 Magazine). And Paul Chaney’s “A Touch of Gray, and a Touch of Class, Courtesy of Twitter,” on the Conversational Media Marketing blog, talks about how Tom Cunniff, VP and director of interactive communications for Combe Inc., maker of Touch of Gray, contacted him after he posted some comments about a negative experience he had with a promotion the company was running.
As word spreads of these types of stories, customers will increasingly expected to experience it themselves—and may actually go to online communities before contacting a customer service department directly. (Or may look to see if they can contact a customer service team through Twitter or Facebook or the like.)
As Jeremy Nedelka said in his blog yesterday, “Does Anyone Get the Concept of Social Media?”, “…if you have a complaint, many businesses are actively listening and willing to resolve the issue.”
Is your company one of them? If you’re not out there listening to customers, you should be.
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