ROI of Social Media in Customer Service

Forrester’s Natalie Petouhoff spoke at the Social Media Club of Los Angeles on Wednesday night, and she discussed the importance of using social media in customer service communities.  Using social media is more than implementing the tools, it’s “building a community that  interacts with each other on an ongoing basis.”   Natalie noted that a ‘perfect storm’ exists today with the collision of increasing customer dissatisfaction with companies wanting to do more with customer service and the growing use and influence of social media tools.

Here are the 2 most important things you need to know about what she discussed:

  • Social media activities have a big impact on customer service
  • The conservative ROI on customer service communities  is 100% with a payback of less than 12 months

She also shared some of the revenue improvements and cost savings that are direct benefits of customer service communities:

Revenue Improvements Cost Savings
  • Increase lifetime customer value
  • Increase product ideation
  • Increase lead conversion rates
  • Reduce calls
  • Reduce emails
  • Increase agent productivity
  • Increase FCR (first call resolution)
  • Reduce SEO costs

Finally, she talked about how companies need to track a customer’s social value along with their lifetime value.  Customer advocates need to be recognized, acknowledged and thanked.  Even customers who are saying negative things about your brand or product can be turned by acknowledging their concerns and reaching out to them.

You can access Natalie’s complete presentation from this link (requires free registration) – www.forrester.com/socialmediaclubla.  Natalie is also available on Twitter at @drnatalie.

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Memorial Day Flag Planting

Planting Flags at LA National Cemetary

My Son Henry Planting Flags at Los Angeles National Cemetary

Memorial Day is a day to remember men and women who have served in our Armed Forces.  It was initially started in 1868 to honor Union soldiers from the Civil War and was known as Decoration Day.  After World War I, the holiday was expanded to include American casualities of any war.

Our Cub Scout Pack were among several thousand Los Angeles Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts who helped place flags at LA’s National Cemetary on Saturday, May 23rd.  LA’s Cemetary has been in operation since 1887 and includes more than 70,000 graves sites including 13 graves of Medal of Honor recipients.

In a span of 30 minutes on Saturday, all of the grave sites were decorated with an American flag.  Our boys would place a flag near the grave marker, say the soldier’s name and unit out loud, solemnly salute the flag and say “thank you for your service”.   This drill was repeated by our 35 Cub Scouts until we covered our assigned area with American flags.

It was a moving sight and a great way to spend part of our Memorial Day weekend.  I am sure it is a memory that my son will have for the rest of his life.  If you ever have a chance to participate in this great ceremony, do not hestitate to join – you will be glad that you experienced this touching reminder to those who have served our country.

In the Beginning – My First Tweets

I ‘discovered’ a new website via Twitter yesterday (naturally) and found it to be quite interesting. The site is called My Tweet Sixteen and it uses the Twitter ‘wayback machine’ to display the first 16 tweets for any user.

My first Tweet was on October 31, 2007 and a lot has changed in the last 18 months.  Jim Storer from Shared Insights (now Mzinga) introduced me to Twitter and several of my initial tweets were with or about him.  When I first started with Twitter, I didn’t get it and it was a totally different experience than it is today.  With the explosion of people on Twitter and with a stable of interesting people to follow, Twitter is now my go to destination to learn and explore new ideas.

Here’s how I use Twitter differently now:

  • Daily use – it took me a month to get my first 10 tweets and now I am probably tweeting 5 to 10 times per day.  My browser always has at least one tab opened up to Twitter all day too.  I now follow more than 1,100 people and use it to keep in touch with friends.  Since my tweets dump into Facebook automatically, my Facebook friends are also able to keep up with what’s going on with me.
  • Twitter Search – I use Twitter search to explore what people are saying about certain companies or topics – and I will generally start on Twitter first before going to Goole.  It’s also a great way to learn more about someone by scanning their Twitter stream to discover their interests and ability to condense their thoughts into 140 characters.
  • Shared Links – Most of my tweets now include links to interesting articles or blog posts that I have encountered during the day.  Using tools like HootSuite makes it easy to share and tweet the links.  And HootSuite also lets me track the clicks on my tweeted links 122 times in the last week, so my sharing is making a difference.

So take a walk back in history and check out your first tweets.  Unfortunately, MyTweet16 can only go back 3,200 tweets – so for super active Twitterers like my friend Jim, you will not able to see all the way back to the beginning of your Twitter history.

And for those of you who are interested, here are my first 10 tweets:

1st 10 Tweets from MyTweet 16

1st 10 Tweets from MyTweet 16

Getting on the Social Media Bus

If company x does not tell its own story, someone else will.

While it may be hard to believe, company x in the above quote is actually the US Air Force.

In their recently released “New Media and the Air Force” guide, this quote was published at the end of the introduction.  Further, the Guide states that this new policy is not a major shift of resources from traditional media to new media.  Rather it is the recognition that digital communications provides a new toolset that can be leveraged by the Air Force and it’s more than 300,000 Airmen.  If organizations like the Air Force and other military groups which have traditionally exercised tight control in their media relations are adding social media to their PR arsenal, then it’s about time for Corporate America to get on the “Social Media Bus” too – and follow the Air Force’s lead.

Social Media Bus

Social Media Bus

Yet many companies, especially in the b2b space, are ignoring social media channels.  I don’t get it and furthermore, there is no excuse today for not participating.

First, participating is social media is generally a cost effective way to find out what people are saying about your brand or product.  The leading social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are free to use and the only expense is the time it takes to start learning and participating in interactive dialogues with your customers, prospects and partners.

Second, participating in social media allows you to find out all sorts of interesting tidbits that can improve your brand, support and sales.  For example, just by searching for your company name in Twitter would yield results for most companies that are selling a product or service.   You can quickly identify product champions and passionate users, address unknown support issues before they get out of hand and uncover potential sales leads.

Here are few things that companies can do to get on the “Social Media Bus”:

Start listening now – The first step is to find out what is being said about your company.  You can start by setting up some alerts on your company name and competitors using Google Alerts, view Twitter feeds using Tweetizen and find Facebook groups that are related to your industry or prodict.

Test the waters – Companies do not have to “jump in feet first”, but need to get started now by experimenting with various social media tools.  For example, set up a Twitter account and start building up followers by seeing who is talking about you or your industry.  (see my Simple Advice for Brands on Twitter blog post from April for more info.)  Start writing a corporate blog to share interesting information about what is going on in your company.  Or you could set up a LinkedIn group or Facebook fan page to augment your brand.

Be open – One of my constant reminders to people getting started in social media activities is the importance of being open and transparent.   You are never going to be able to control the conversation – however, participation shows that you are a caring and concerned company who is actively trying and listening.  Customers will appreciate and reward the effort.

Engage your troops – While you may want to control and set directives from a centralized location, the companies that will succeed in social media are companies that encourage their employees to participate too.  In the US Air Force Policy Letter from September 2006 on engaging all 330,000 Airmen in public relations efforts, the Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne noted that “success of this effort will rely on making every Airman an ambassador for our Air Force, at home and abroad.”  Ultimately, social media is all about telling and sharing stories and employees are in the best position to share those stories better than anyone else.

So, who do you want telling your story?

A Really Goode Job with Murphy-Goode Winery

Murphy-Goode Help Wanted Sign

Murphy-Goode Help Wanted Sign

I ran across an interesting job posting today from Murphy-Goode Winery in Healdsburg, California.  They are looking for a wine-obsessed social media and Web 2.0 expert to tell the world about MG wines and the Sonoma County Wine Country.  In exchange, they will provide the final candidate with a 6-month job paying $10,000 per month plus accommodations. (Self-serving aside — the $10k per month is great because it demonstrates the value that someone is willing to pay a social media expert!)

Here are the official “job duties”:

  • Exploring the vineyards of Murphy-Goode and surrounding areas and discovering what the Sonoma County Wine Country has to offer, from well-known destinations to off-the-beaten-path spots.
  • Tasting hundreds of wines and meeting the locals in our tasting room.
  • Increasing your wine wisdom: while studying isn’t required, our winemaking and vineyard experts will take the time to show you how it’s all done.
  • Working with our winemaker, David Ready, Jr., to create a new wine commemorating your job with us.
  • Filing reports on your experiences, via weekly blogs, photo diaries, Twitter, Facebook, video updates and ongoing media interviews.

The most important part of the job application is a 60 second video that must be uploaded to YouTube.  Since I ran a user-generated video contest last year, I was intrigued and interested to see how the video part of their contest is going.   I was surprised to see that 22 people had already submitted videos for the job especially when the application due date is not until June 5th.  They will narrow the field to 50 candidates by June 15th, 10 candidates by June 23rd and will announce their final candidate by July 9th.  When I ran the iRise contest last year, the majority of our video submissions occurred in the last 5 days – so I imagine that they could easily get 500 or more video submissions for the job.

Based on a quick scan of the videos, there are some good ones already (along with some pretty bad ones like the woman drinking a glass of wine while hula-hooping).  My early money is on either Alyssa and her cat from Texas or John the chef from Kennebunkport.

Murphy-Goode is being really smart with this job application process.  Not only are they generating web traffic on via YouTube and the job application website, they are building recognition for their brand through all of the coverage they are getting for taking a unique approach.  And they are effectively getting all of this ‘free’ advertising and publicity for the $60,000 they will pay their Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent over the rest of the year – and that doesn’t count all of the buzz that the Correspondent will drive between now and yearend.  Personally I can’t say if I ever drank a Murphy-Goode wine and do not have any opinions either way about their wines, but their name is now firmly in my mind because of this ‘contest’.   And I will likely look for them at the store or on the wine list when I am out at a fine restaurant in the near future.

The official job application website is available here and you can also follow the process at AReallyGoodJob Twitter account.