To be successful, CMOs at major brands need to ensure that they are engaging with customers across all channels—phone, social media, email and in-person. A brand can't simply throw up a Facebook page or start a Twitter account to engage with customers on social media. It means aligning internal marketing resources that are equipped to interact with happy and unhappy customers in a channel-agnostic way.
It's not earth-shattering to admit that consumers today have a new set of attitudes and beliefs that have been shaped by experiences not only with brands, but also through their personal and professional networks. It's consumers—who are smarter, more empowered and digitally savvy—who decide which brands earn their trust AND how they want to engage with these trusted brands. Gone are the days when a 1-800 number was all a brand needed to interact with its customers. Today, CMOs need to implement a strategic customer engagement plan across channels—especially on social media.
We surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to better understand how they engage with brands on social media. According to the research, the majority of consumers (63 percent) think the phone offers the highest level of customer service, but live chat and social media are emerging as preferred tools—especially among millennials.
It's important to remember that if your brand is not actively monitoring social media channels, you're missing large amounts of conversations that are happening about your brand. CMOs need to institute social media monitoring to identify areas that are commonly overlooked when broad, generic social media strategies are implemented. To be proactive, brands need to monitor each and every time a customer reaches out and respond when appropriate, regardless of channel.
Consumer Behaviors by Social Media Channels
Likewise, it's important to recognize that consumers behave differently across channels. To nurture customer loyalty, it's important that brands understand how their audience segments use different channels. For example, our research discovered that nearly one-third of consumers use Facebook to speak with a customer service representative and 44 percent of all consumers expect a response from brand on Facebook over other social media channels.
CMOs need to know what is being said around a brand or current campaigns and promotions. Listening is the only way to know exactly how customers want to engage with a brand. Use that information to enhance and modify the brand's customer engagement strategy.
Building an Online Community
Because consumers have a choice about how to engage with brands on social media, brands must have a strategy in place to take part in the conversations where consumers are having them—on social media, through blogs or online forums, through live chat, on the phone and via email. The channels don't matter—it's about the trusted relationship with a brand that can influence and determine whether a consumer has a long-term relationship with that brand.
Nearly three-quarters of consumers only want to interact with the brand when they comment on social media channels—giving the brand an opportunity to drive the conversation and nurture the relationship with their audience. Our research also found that it's validating for the brand when fellow consumers share their stories and act as brand advocates on social media. Consider what happens when a consumer asks a brand a question on Facebook or Twitter and another consumer responds to the question—this type of interaction extends the relationship beyond the brand to other consumers, creating an online community.
CMOs should take notice; consumers are researching whether others have the same issues and are going directly to the brand with social community support. While CMOs have the ability to monitor social channels, they need to interact with the entire community to solve this issue. Once the engagement occurs, the community will evolve into brand advocates for others.
Key Takeaways for CMOs
- Build a dedicated team to support all channels. CMOs need to look beyond phone and email to ensure that engagement happens through live chat and social media.
- Understand the need for and uniqueness of social media and digital customer service vs. a strategy that only focuses on social media and digital marketing and acquisition.
- Ensure that interaction across channels is seamless for the consumer. As a consumer switches from phone to email to Twitter, ensure your team follows the consumer through the journey.
- Use data to segment consumers and send targeted communications that are relevant to that consumer.
- Understand how your consumers are using each channel and define a strategy based on these insights.
- Move beyond the capabilities of traditional phone engagement to see that consumers can reach experts through each channel to provide high levels of service.