Companies are turning to social media as a fast and cost effective way to gauge customer experience
Upload a holiday snap to Facebook, re-tweet a news link or even advertise your employment credentials… Social media has got us all hooked as we key-tap, scroll and touch-screen our way through our daily lives. So it comes as no surprise that businesses are now using it to reach out to their customers and find out what they think.
Online digital photo service PhotoBox is one company using a multichannel measurement system – the Spotless Service Programme – to listen and act upon customer insight. Still retaining the more traditional platforms of telephone and email, customers can also interact with the business via Facebook, livechat, virtual agents, forums and more recently, Twitter. With more than 90,000 Facebook fans, head of customer experience at PhotoBox Helen Ellis says a greater online presence keeps the business at the forefront of customer service.
She adds: “Social media helps us move faster. For example, if someone tweets about something, then the CEO and CTO are interested and that issue moves up the priority list – so we actively encourage customers to tweet about us.”
In their tweflth year of business, PhotoBox now boosts more than 11 million members and has a growing international presence in 15 European countries. Ellis says that although there is not one magic tool for collating data, social media helps make a business more approachable.
“The challenge is what you do with all the data that you acquire from customers. It’s about how you listen and the value of listening.
“Social media gives customers an easy and immediate channel of communication with us, allowing us to listen and respond faster.”
The Blogosphere – an online customer forum – allows customer feedback and comment to be immediately processed and responded to accordingly.
“Everyone in charge sees the bits that matter to them – so the head of trading will see what people say about product pricing. The production director sees what people say about the book quality,” says Ellis.
“It means we can immediately reach out to customers and say ‘it sounds like you had an experience we don’t want you to have. What can we do about that?’”
And the response from customers has been positive with customer satisfaction CSAT scores around 90 per cent and a Net Promoter Score of 60 per cent. But the benefits haven’t only been seen in customer experience improvement. Costs have also been cut, as tools such as the virtual agent provide customers with what Ellis describes as a self-help strategy. Customers can ask virtual agent Phoebe questions with responses generated from previous enquiries or sent to an agent. Customer contact has been reduced by 30 per cent, with a saving of around €100,000 (£80,000). “We run fast and have to have a web release every two weeks,” says Ellis. “We therefore have the power to change the customers’ journey every two weeks.
But social media doesn’t have to be used solely as a feedback tool. It can be used to map the complete end-to-end customer experience, as is the case at engine manufacturer Honda. Customer operations manager Phil Dix says that although feedback is important, pre-empting experience is just as valuable.
He adds: “Customer feedback isn’t just about scores and tables. While Honda has successfully used feedback to drive dealer performance, it has also used it to understand how the customer may think in advance. We want to expand our active customer base and build long-term loyalty – doing so by asking our customers how we can improve their experience with us before their journey has even begun.”
In 2009 the company created Honda Friends – an in-house designed, managed and built online customer panel of 15,704 members split between car, motorcycle and power equipment users. Customers sign up to receive surveys, which are sent on a monthly basis.
“It’s a way of speaking to thousands of our customers in a very short period of time on a range of topics across the business. This can be everything from after-sales care to the price of warranties and the usefulness of Honda car brochures,” adds Dix.
Although participants are not incentivised, Honda has seen high response rates with more than 30,000 completed surveys – 1,000 were returned within 24 hours. “Honda Friends is a simple and cost-effective way of speaking to our customers.
“It brings our customers closer to the business and means we can give them what they want first time round.”
It seems the message is clear. In order to improve customer experience and performance, businesses need to open the channels of communication with their customers and listen to what they have to say… or tweet, livechat and blog.
By Gemma Stroud