Social Media Monitoring: Beyond customer service


When a customer has a negative experience with your business, it’s important to know about it, regardless of what you plan to do about it. Maybe the experience warrants a direct response from your business, in which case you could avoid the loss of one customer with an honest and concerned response. Or maybe the incident doesn’t require a response, but should be duly noted for future knowledge. While this latter situation is not discussed as much as the first, it may be the more important one—not only can it retain the one customer who originally made the complaint, but it could serve as evidence for making company wide or operational changes that will retain hundreds or thousands of customers.

What type of information can one customer provide in a negative comment that can bring about such major changes? That really depends on how flexible and willing to make changes you are. Because even a quick anecdote about a filling out the same paperwork three different times at an auto shop could result in a change to the way that company makes customers sign in their vehicles for service. Below are some of the invaluable things you can learn from social media monitoring, and how it can improve your business overall. These are particularly relevant for franchises or other multiunit businesses that have numerous locations, at which corporate is not always aware of everything that happens.

Lawsuit Prevention

Monitoring online sources for conversations regarding your brand may reveal situations that are getting a little too close to a lawsuit for comfort. Our society is sue-happy, there’s no denying it—most afternoon TV stations show court shows, neighbors take each other to court for loud lawnmowers and parents sue children for sassing. So it isn’t a stretch to think a customer may be considering suing your business for some inane (or even legitimate) reason. Regardless, you’d be wise to avoid this hassle and the expense, bad press and potential settlement it will cause. Monitoring for these potential issues could allow you to nip the situation in the bud by reaching out to the customer directly and taking steps to resolve the issue outside of the courtroom.

Improving Customer Experience

Naturally, the social media communities that you control offer another channel for handling customer service issues. But when you monitor beyond these branded communities, you may find other customer service issues that are not addressed directly. Pricing inconsistencies, speed of service and quality of service/product are just some of the previously unheard issues that may be revealed. By proactively identifying these situations and dealing with them head-on, you may be able to prevent loss of business and further negative chatter, and improve customer experience overall, across all locations.

Improving Corporate Policies

Along with improving customer experience, monitoring online sources outside of your brand community may expose opportunities for improving corporate policies and creating a consistent product/service across all locations.

For example, a customer posts an article on their personal blog about a negative experience they had with your business. This customer’s credit card was charged twice due to a checkout process that was implemented in the hopes of making the process more thorough; however, unbeknownst to corporate, it is causing a great deal of confusion amongst staff at each location. As you monitor further, you find tweets, forum postings and Rip Off Report posts detailing similar situations. Obviously, something about this process needs to change—whether it’s better training of staff, better communicate with customer or a change in the checkout process. Making any of these changes will most likely be time consuming and involve a good deal of organization; however, the improvements to corporate policy and increased customer satisfaction will be well worth the effort.

Enhancing PR Efforts

While monitoring social media channels and other online sources, you can discover media coverage about your business that you may not have been aware of. Typically, you will know about coverage in traditional media sources, but you could discover press on more obscure or new media sources, which have a good-sized readership as well.  Keep a close watch as these stories unfold, which allows you to react quickly and decisively in addressing the issue and preparing statements.

Monitoring social media may also inspire ideas for new PR efforts or stunts. For example, imagine you are a bicycle shop. You find a video of a local cyclist doing some sweet tricks on her bike that she states she bought from your store. You decide to contact this woman and arrange to host a free event in your parking lot where she and a number of other cyclists show off their tricks using your bikes. The event gets covered in local media, and you have hundreds of attendees at the event, who all help to spread the word about your event and say how awesome your shop is for supporting these cyclists and the local cycling community.

Additional Marketing Opportunities

By monitoring Twitter for brand mentions, we often find numerous Foursquare checkins at our various franchise clients’ locations. This indicates an opportunity to add specials to Foursquare to further increase customer loyalty and generate in-store traffic from new customers. Monitoring all online sources may reveal other opportunities for building out marketing programs, adding new strategies and tactics or even removing those that aren’t working. When Gap rebranded with a new logo last year, they received an enormous amount of customer backlash, which lead to them ditch the new logo and stick with the old one.

If you’re willing to listen, you can learn a great deal from monitoring social media sources that goes beyond customer service. And if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can make some major improvements to the company overall, setting you up for long-term success—because when the business runs smoothly and customers are happy, there’s little chance you won’t succeed.


4 thoughts on “Social Media Monitoring: Beyond customer service

  1. Great stuff here Angie.
    In my opinion one of the best things that companies can do through the use of social media is learn and gain insights. Yes it’s great to be able to interact with your community, but just by listening to what they have to say we can learn more about our customers, our own companies and products, our competition and our industry. By really listening to what the people are saying in social media we gain insights on how to improve for the future. The next step is getting companies to learn to take action on what they hear.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  2. Thanks, Sheldon! I agree–the first step is listening, which is becoming easier and easier with all the tools available. The hard part is convincing companies that taking action and making changes will really support the growth of their business long into the future. Sweeping the problems under the rug or stuffing in them into the back in the closet is no longer an option.

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