How retailers can benefit from social media
While social networking web sites are no longer the preserve of the tech-savvy teenager, most businesses - and bricks and mortar retailers in particular - are struggling to know how to approach and benefit from these community environments, according to Gary Edwards, executive vice president of client services for Empathica.
For retailers, maintaining the standards of a brand can be eroded through the dispersion of responsibility across an enterprise that is growing not just in size but in geographical proportions. This operational challenge is exacerbated further by the growing influence of online social networks, where there can be little or no control over the spread of either positivity or negativity toward the brand.
Consequently, Empathica has identified several markers of disaffection (through customer surveys) that provide marketers with insight into specifically where negative word of mouth is likely to be generated. For example, the company identified the attribute: "employees appeared to be enjoying their jobs". While this is not a direct driver of loyalty, nor a driver of positive praise, it represents an early warning sign of customer disaffection and negative promotion when its score drops.
So, when problem stores have been identified using these kind of metrics and studies, what needs to be fixed? Most customer experience management firms will of course identify the drivers of advocacy, but this is not always enough. It is important to identify the 'drivers of the drivers'. In other words, to create actionable insights, brands must have discovered their own unique paths to success. This work begins with identifying cues in the environment (both behavioural and in design) which lead to higher scores for the all-important 'drivers'.
Moving from 'hearing the voice of the customers' to 'conversing with customers' is, according to Edwards, the key to success. Once you know where to focus and what to focus on, a strategy and process for improvement can begin, and it is vital that this is done using the same language that customers use.
For example, Empathica uses its 'Keyword Analysis Engine', an automated Natural Language Processing system that captures the customer feedback, coding their sentiments (i.e. positive or negative) into a customised 'brand dictionary', which provides insights into how customers perceive the brand, its values, and how well those values are being fulfilled.
Capturing key moments when customer loyalty is at risk is essential. These moments are ones that must be immediately addressed with customers and no complaint, however small, should be left to fester in the customer's mind. Similarly, no positive experience should slip past without the opportunity to elicit not only positive reinforcement for the employees involved but also recommendations for the brand on social media sites.
Retailers should not be intimidated by new social technologies. In fact, social networking offers the opportunity for retailers to engage their customers at all levels, not only to listen but also to interact and engage in a real dialogue that ultimately improves long-term customer relationships.