Friday, November 11, 2011

Reach Out To Your Customers with Social CRM


Customer satisfaction comes in different styles. Some companies focus on producing quality products, while others like to engage their customers in conversations. The most forward thinking companies are using social media platforms to reach out to their customers, solicit feedback from them, and develop a more personal and meaningful relationship on the B2C front.

The most popular social media sites—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and others—provide a rich, interactive way to connect businesses, whether big or small, to both current and potential customers. Each of these platforms has a different focus, and so each can be used in different ways. Companies who want to maximize customer relationship management should take a closer look at all of them, and decide where best to focus their social media energy.

Twitter allows users to broadcast short messages viareal-time communication to their “followers.” Companies can use Twitter to spread the word about sales, discounts, events, publicity and other news; they can also use it to speak directly to customer and address their concerns or answer questions.

Take Hunt Country Wines, a small, family-run winery in Upstate New York. The owners have both a Twitter and a Facebook account, and through both media they interact with followers and customers on a very personal, down-to-earth basis. They announce what’s going on at the winery—bottling, harvesting or festivals, for example—and also respond directly to customers’ compliments and suggestions. Additionally, they sometimes retweet or share with Facebook fans links about the family’s other interests—local food, recipes, wellness, sustainability and climate change. Although the Hunts sometimes offer discounts through social media, they don’t do it so often that they seem like they’re selling. It’s more like a gift from a friend, because they’ve taken the time to establish a bonafide relationship with followers.

Another small—but growing—company that gets social media right is Stacy’s Snacks. Not long ago they were introducing a new pita chip, with a gingerbread-inspired flavor, and they turned to the Facebook community to solicit suggestions for the snack’s name. You can bet this got the crowd buzzing about the new flavor that was already in the works, as well as suggesting additional varieties that could be developed. It also kept the Stacy’s name on everyone’s lips—and shopping lists. And it helped show the customers that Stacy’s valued their opinions and input.

The latest entrant into the social media world is Foursquare, which is almost more like a game to play. By “checking in” from restaurants, coffee shops, bars and other places, via a mobile device such as a smartphone, users can let followers and friends know their whereabouts. But the genius aspect of Foursquare for business is that users can rack up points and badges, and collect rewards from those businesses—say a free latte or cocktail, a discount on your meal, etc. For example, Lucky Strike Lanes in Denver, Colorado rewards a certain level of Foursquare users, called “Mayors,” with a free appetizer and a free hour of bowling. In return for these lagniappes, your business gets an awful lot of publicity and word-of-mouth advertising.

These are just a few of the ways you can reach out to your customers through social media in order to build stronger customer relationships, as well as building your company’s brand. Social networking has ceased to be a “trendy” thing to do—it’s now vital if you want your products to stay in the public eye.