I talked to a Social Media director today at a large chain of retail convenience stores, and she told me a simple story of how the company had used Social Media to discover that a move from French Vanilla creamer to Dark Chocolate had been something that a lot of patrons weren’t completely happy about. She saw a few tweets and Facebook comments coming through, and alerted the marketing department immediately. It took a little convincing, but she eventually had the French Vanilla creamer back in the stores. Here are the lessons that I think we can all take from this little story.
Agility – Social Media can make your organization a much more nimble company. Whether you are big or small, you can learn about even small tweaks that will make your customers happier and therefore more likely to buy your products or services. We are not talking about New Coke vs. Coca-Cola Classic here where you have millions upon millions of people asking for a change. That’s a PR nightmare. We’re talking about listening to your customers on a micro-level and addressing their concerns in a real way that be the difference between a good experience and a great one.
Organization – In this case, the Social Media Director was able to get some data in front of the people who could make a change. Agility has an inverse relationship with the size of an organization, and as companies get larger they need to start thinking about how they will funnel this information to the right people. And then the processes need to be in place so that the right people can take action quickly against what is being suggested in the Social Media channels. Ultimately, this means restructuring an organization to be open to this new channel of information and to react in timely manner. But for the initial period, I would start by setting up guidelines and plan of attack when faced with Social Media data that can affect your organization.
Suggestion boxes, comment cards and feedback hot-lines have been around for a while now, and the ideas through those channels generally took a while to get through the pipes. It was hard to tell if anyone even bothered to listen, and customers rarely got direct feedback that they were being heard. Now we are talking about faster and more immediate questions in the public forum that can build momentum if not addressed in real-time. To make the most of these new suggestion boxes, companies need to adapt their organizations and embrace the ideas that their customers have delivered.