Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media

SNCR Research Presentation

Paul Gillin begins with a profile of Consumerist:

  • 18 million monthly visitors
  • 30-40 daily articles
  • no fact checking
  • full-time staff of 7
  • 500 references in WSJ and NYT
  • more than 34,000 references on Digg

Ripoff Report is a similar websites. These sites are the new “kings” of customer advocacy – recently featured in Business Week cover story.

Consumers have found that they get more results if they complain through these channels rather than contacting the company directly. These websites, along with the attention they get from both mainstream media and digg, point to new dynamics in customer care and brand reputation. Old tactics no longer work. Stories can spin out of control and become storms in a matter of hours. The worst thing you can do: Send in the legal team.

Customer service has moved from a private, one-to-one communication with a disgruntled and unhappy customer service representative to the public domain.

Julia Ochinero, Nuance – a company working, among others, to improve customer self-service technologies. The phone remains the preferred customer service channel and people prefer talking to a live representative rather than an automated system.

Customer care interaction has become a marketing opportunity – a way of differentiating products.

Paul Gillin presents the results of a 400-respondent survey about consumer opinion and complaints websites.

Key findings:

  • customer care impacts purchase decisions and brand impressions
  • experiences expressed in social media influence purchase decisions
  • consumers use social media to protect others
  • one posting by one consumer can trigger a storm of posts on same topic
  • consumers feel one person can influence many about a product – but are companies listening?
  • 35% use social media to research products often & always
  • verbatim comments show a sense of responsibility to leave feedback on shopping sites – people like to recommend good experiences to others
  • 84% take customer care reputation into consideration in purchase decisions – peer reviews more valued than professional reviews
  • Verbatim: “I ALWAYS research online any purchase over $300.”
  • Sources of information: search engines, online rating systems, discussion forums, blogs, company websites: “Social media sites that aggregate ratings like Yelp or TripAdvisor have the most impact. I’m more likely to listen to the combined opinion of 25 people over the rantings  of one angry customer”
  • 75% agreed they choose companies/brands based on other customers’ experiences
  • Most respondents had NO response from companies on online complaints

John Cass presents two case studies:

Comcast on twitter

Mike Arrington from TechCrunch twittered his poor experience with Comcast. The Comcast customer service exec. happened to notice, intervened and solved the problem. This incident triggered Comcast twitter outreach program: 5-7 people monitor and conduct outreach on twitter.

Comcast had been monitoring blogs, but Comcast feels twiter is proving to be more direct and quicker to respond than blogs.

Dell case study

If you’re not familiar with it, please review the notes from the Dell Conversation post.

Dell has provided a useful model of how companies can use blog monitoring to identify customer issues and respond to them online.