The ‘customer’ is the core of any business. But does it have a voice that is listened to?
We know that the rising importance of the customer voice sits increasingly well online. Online platforms are now the popular place to reach out and connect with your customer community. Forums, Community portals and live FAQ areas are almost the expected norm on any customer facing website. As a consumer you want the flexibility to ask your questions or voice your opinions in an online capacity, People want the opportunity to publically air their views, gripes and (hopefully) positive experiences with a brand.
As a brand, hosting these communities gives you the edge over those competitors that don’t. For those brands who are wanting to actively participate, host and invite their consumers to engage, is important to be transparent. Be open about why you are there in the first place and be upfront about why you are bothering to invest time, effort and resources creating and fostering an online conversation.
Be clear about whom you are what you job role is. This should continue right down to the individual employee managing this community and posting and responding to conversations. Who is the Community Manager, what is their role? It’s crucial to ensure that your ‘Community Manager’ whether he/she be a summer intern or your CEO, convey your brand message and personality in the correct way.
While you can host your own customer community, it is now also the norm to use Social Media platforms Twitter and Facebook to communicate, nurture and develop an online community.
Reaching out to new Fans and Followers as well as to existing and loyal customers can be faciliated in today’s technology savvy consumer world. Whilst we all use these social platforms to reach out to friends and family, we also seek to use them to engage with brands and companies. From ‘Liking’ a Facebook Fan page in order to get access to exclusive online competitions and giveaways to voicing our opinion or asking questions via a Twitter.
Increasingly, people will actively post praise or negativity about a brand experience they have had. We might choose to ask questions about a product or comment about some advertising experienced.
Either way, people will evaluate, reevaluate, criticise and publicise their personal experience had with any brand, whether they are currently an advocate, hater or actually feel impartial towards it.
The challenge any company has is to encourage those ambassadors but to also flip negativity. All on a public place.
To add to the challenge, companies need to design, manage and manipulate these brand experiences whilst considering both on and off line. Tying up how people experience your brand when in a retail store, viewing a TV advert at home or talking to a customer services representative over the phone. Because where the experience took place doesn’t matter when sharing that experience. People now share their offline experience in the (public) online space. Reaching way more people than if they were to just write a letter of complaint to ‘Customer Services’.
Remember, these conversations and ‘sharing of experiences’ are going to take place, whether you are aware of them or not. Surely it just makes sense to be where the conversations are happening. To be involved and to be able to respond, defend and participate.
While customer voice is indeed important, so is the voice of your brand. A balance is needed. You need to protect how your brand values are communicated whilst also facilitating the voice of your customer and your ambassadors.