Harvesting the ‘Wow’

Reflecting on a missed opportunity between marketing and service...

We are all aware of the overwhelming evidence that shows how impotent traditional marketing-led messaging has become to customers. A combination of low trust and increased self-sufficiency means most content is tuned out.

Unfortunately this flies in the face of another home truth that marketers now struggle with: the never-ending demand for engaging content. Interestingly, a whole new software segment has been borne out of this very need to generate content able to trigger interaction.

So far this has proved culturally and logistically tough. So much so, that in spite of many rallying calls from digital marketing thought leaders, most pragmatic marketers have settled for ‘likes’ as evidence of success.

However they do know the net is closing and this currency is now so hyper inflated as to hold near zero commercial value. So what to do next?

Marketing and service can help each other out

If marketers were to look over the fence and swap stories with their service colleagues, they might notice some unmined opportunity that could help their cause. If marketing communications are trending towards much reduced impact, social customer service is moving in the other direction.

In fact, these social outcomes are weighted towards much more significant outcomes than brands are used to. But they are now catching on. For instance, Olaf Swantee is CEO of EE, the UK mobile brand. He now pops into his social media hub every Friday before leaving for the week to pick up the news.

Olaf and others in the C-suite are recognising that this kind of social interaction provides a real time corporate mirror for all to see. Or as I have been saying a number of times over this summer, ‘Service has become a spectator sport’.

Obviously this can work both for and against the organisation.  In terms of betting which way the sentiment will fall, research suggests it’s an uphill task.

I’ve seen a number of UK and US studies showing this. For instance a recent one comes from Dimensional Research and Zendesk. Earlier this year they polled American consumers who had recently interacted with customer services in mid-sized companies. Their findings ring true on a human level of behaviour.

  • 58% of respondents said they are more likely to tell others about customer service experiences now than they were 5 years ago
  • That figure rises to 61% among Millennials (18-35) and 65% among Gen Xers
  • Respondents who suffered a bad interaction were 50% more likely to share it on social media than those who had good experiences (45% vs. 30%)
  • 52% are more likely to share it on an online review site such as Yelp (35% vs. 23%). That’s particularly problematic for companies getting bad reviews
  • 86% of respondents who have read negative reviews claimed that the information impacted their buying decision.

On top of all of that, it seems bad experiences are also remembered for longer.

If you are in customer service, this is not news. It comes with the territory. However as I said earlier, the reverse also happens. Great outcomes occur, sometimes from spectacular interventions.

These are the nuggets that both service and marketing teams should have a joint plan for leveraging. Both share a common interest here. Marketing needs credible content. What better than customers praising your organisation? Service needs to find every opportunity to swing that sentiment barometer towards positive. They need some positive PR out in the market.

So to spell it out, here is the idea.

Whenever a social customer service interaction ends on a strong, positive note with some form of customer endorsement, there is a plan to ‘Harvest the Wow’.  Marketing and service work through a checklist.

  • Is it a one off? Or is there a bigger story – has the brand now fixed a recurring issue? 
  • Is there a customer or colleague ‘back story’ worth retelling?
  • What are the messages around being customer centred we want emphasised?
  • What is the plan to promote and re-use this with other validations?

Just be careful not to trip off into unjustified fantasy!

When it is right to Harvest that Wow

Here are two service stories that are definitely in the ‘wow’ category which took place over social channels and provide examples of what I’ve been talking about.

My first story comes from an industry colleague, Ian Golding. It’s a story about sliced bread in the north of England. Within eighteen hours of the incident that caused Ian to tweet his complaint, a manager had re-organised his store layout and let Ian know what he had done as a result of his feedback.

This is a story of a brand with a clear intent to listen and act. As a result, they are also garnering the benefits. Ian’s meticulous post (he is a black belt ninja type after all) attracted 19 comments on his own blog and many retweets of which I was one. And that’s even before the marketing team turns up.

The full story is here and is well worth reading.

My second example is US-based. It’s all about real-time response. It’s another great story with expert explanation.

The customer notices that her connecting airport has delayed planes from landing because of a fire. Yet the departing plane for her final destination was still scheduled to leave on time. Through a series of tweets pre-flight and during flight, the airline organised for her family to get to her connecting flight. They win her praise and attention of everyone who passes on that story to their own social networks. In my case it just became a best practice example in my one day course on social customer service. With a little help from the airline’s marketing team that story could stay afloat even longer.

So to bring matters to a close, service and marketing have yet another item to mark up on their One Agenda. Of itself it will not entirely solve the marketer’s quest for engaging content, but it does start a valuable trading partnership that has the potential to change brand perceptions if executing with imaginative flair. Try it before others benefit.

Martin Hill-Wilson
Martin Hill-Wilson

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