At a time when customers can buy virtually any product from anywhere in the world, price is diminishing as the defining factor in their decision-making process. The democratizing effect of the internet has helped standardize product offerings and pricing – so consumers are using other factors to decide where they will spend their money.
The good news is that marketers are aware of this – our own 2016 Customer Experience Trends Report found that 78% of social media managers recognize customer experience is important or very important to their marketing strategy.
But in order to improve customer experience, you first need to know and understand your customers, and how they interact with your brand. There’s no avenue better suited for this than social media, placing the social media manager in a critical role. A quick look at our 2016 CX Report reveals the activities that many best-in-class marketers are already conducting on social to improve their own CX.
Here are six proven ways social marketers can improve customer experience for their company:
#1 – Knowing what your customer cares about
Getting to know your customer is a concept that pre-dates social media by centuries. Shopkeepers have always known that they stand a better chance of boosting sales by getting to know each customer and their preferences. This information is then used to inform stock purchasing and for providing personalized recommendations.
Facebook, Instagram, and the other social networks have disrupted the way customers engage with brands, but the core principles remain the same. Successful e-commerce sales are driven by learning about customers and using that information to tailor personalized promotions and offers.
Fortunately, social media platforms grant you access to a wealth of valuable information about your customers. People share their hopes, dreams, and purchases publicly, providing plenty of data for your social team to analyze, and then build accurate buyer personas.
The social media manager must know what their customers care about if they ever hope to engage them properly.
#2 – Understanding customer behavior across multiple touchpoints
Exceptional customer experience relies on an in-depth understanding of the individual. Analyzing a single social network for insights will only provide a limited understanding of each person because of the way that they use each platform. For instance, Facebook is often used for keeping in touch with friends and family, while LinkedIn is primarily accessed to build one’s professional profile and meet new business contacts.
This means that people typically reveal a limited facet of themselves on each network. The social media manager needs to be able to observe behavior across every platform if they are to build a comprehensive, accurate picture of each individual. And when the average digital consumer actively maintains a presence on more than three networks simultaneously, it is little surprise that the best performing social media managers use a software tool to assist.
Intelligent social monitoring software can capture every customer action from each touchpoint, and assemble it to create a coherent picture of each person. More than half (55%) of respondents to the Falcon research reported the need for understanding consumer behavior – and nearly a third said they found the process to be difficult. Just under half (46%) are not cross-referencing data from each touchpoint at all.
#3 – Keeping up with the ever-changing digital landscape
Social networks are notoriously prone to changes in consumer behavior. Bebo and MySpace were enormously popular at their peak, but few people still use either – and the same fall in popularity could conceivably affect any of today’s popular social networks.
Social media managers need to stay on top of “what’s hot,” following their customers to whichever social platform they choose. Without a proper understanding of each social network and its norms, it is incredibly difficult to craft a message that will work there.
Failing to do stay on top of emerging trends will also prevent you from assembling that all-important 360º view of customers. Which means that you will be unable to improve customer experiences in the way required to prevent loss of market share.
In our report, Best-in-Class-rated marketers were 71% more likely to rate “keeping up with the ever-changing digital landscape” as easy or very easy, demonstrating foresight and flexibility well above the norm. Combining the skills of their social team with cutting edge technologies allows these leaders to stay ahead of their competitors by reducing the learning curve associated with every new development. Those businesses unable to keep up with these changes will find themselves increasingly left behind.
#4 – Optimizing conversions of the right target audiences
Social media monitoring is not about collecting every piece of data about every internet user, despite what Google says. Such an approach is likely to be a waste of time, money, and resources when you consider huge segments of the population may not be interested in your products.
Social listening allows you to identify likely prospects and build an audience. Data mining then allows you to identify how best to speak to that group of people, and to build a conversion strategy optimized to their needs and preferences.
Again, more than half of businesses – 58% – are not using a social media management platform, putting them at a distinct disadvantage to the minority who are. The use of social tools is essential to discovering exactly what it is that makes your customers ‘tick’, and how you can turn that knowledge into a successful conversion.
A successful social marketer will spend days or weeks getting to know their target audience before they begin creating content because they know that research will help them craft a killer call to action. And the same goes for digital marketing executives looking to gain an edge in their own conversion processes.
#5 – Delivering personalized experiences to your customers in real-time
We’ve all received personalized emails – to the point that they are now fully expected. As well as the “Dear John,” greeting, we expect the body of the mail to contain an offer that is of genuine interest to us. Which means that simply using our first name in the greeting isn’t the most effective method to provide an exceptional customer experience. True personalization demands that every detail of a message is crafted to the individual – from the greeting to the offer to the sign-off.
The modern digital customer is used to on-demand services like Netflix and Uber, which deliver a service in real-time. We are now at a point where your prospects fully expect their order to be fulfilled in real-time – anything less is considered disappointing (with some very rare exceptions at the very high end).
An effective way to conduct effective listening, analysis, and personalization in real-time is through the use of a social platform. The more information you can see about your customers, the better-equipped you are to deal with issues and opportunities in real-time. A good understanding of preferences, interests, and communications history provides invaluable insights for tailoring your services to each individual at speed.
After all, how you use the social data you collect will be crucial to delivering an improved customer experience.
#6 – Scaling as many of your processes as possible
If your social media strategy is working you will be monitoring and interacting with an increasing number of individuals. With multiple channels to consider, the task will quickly outgrow any manual, spreadsheet-based process.
Technology will be vital to helping the social media manager prioritize activities in such a way that they can deliver the best possible customer experience to everyone. Using intelligent tools like sentiment analysis, they will be able to identify negative experiences that need to be dealt with quickly to recover the situation. Also, by building workflows that mimic your organization’s structure, you can direct tasks to the right person for resolution automatically. And the use of collaborative tools means that your team can work together more effectively to deliver an even better service to your customers.
A tool can also help manage the growing volume of data collected, and provide the increased processing power required to analyze it. A cloud-based social media platform can help you scale your social efforts without significant capital investment in technology.
Meeting the challenges of the future
As nearly half of our survey respondents already discovered, social media management platforms are key to improving customer experience. Because social offers incredible opportunities to understand target audiences and their preferences, this figure will undoubtedly grow in the near future.
Businesses are banking on customer experience, with a third of them reporting having budgeted between $100K and over $1M to deliver it, and they’re going to want to see a return on the investment.
To learn more about how brands and their social marketing teams are rising to the challenge, download your copy of the 2016 Customer Experience Trends Report today.