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Managing Customer Expectations In Times Of Social Media

At this point, it is important to answer the crucial question: "Who owns the customer in your firm?" If the answer is everyone, then it means no one

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami

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Listening to customers and incorporating changes to your business based on their feedback sounds quite common sensical and intuitive. This requires a mindset of customer centricity and discipline to follow through. In the last few decades, firms have successfully implemented surveys and other listening mechanisms like service call reports, transaction surveys, mystery shopping, shop audits, account management reviews, etc. to update their business systems and processes.

However, the customer expectations are changing quite rapidly, thanks to the pace and agility of social media. These expectations are not only a function of what's happening in your industry or the adjacency but are also shaped by practices in sectors not connected to your business. Here is an anecdote: I was interviewing a senior manager in an engineering major as part of a satisfaction survey. He was elaborating his dissatisfaction with the process of product delivery and the status of his shipment from a vendor. He made an interesting point about how he could track his order, as small as less than Rs 200, on food delivery app 'Swiggy' but he was not aware of the location of his shipment which runs upwards of a few crores of rupees. Evidently, it is nigh impossible to insulate a business from practices in other sectors.

There are two aspects impacting the customer expectations. One is the fungibility of the practices expected. What I saw in an app yesterday, I expect in the others irrespective of whether comparable or not. Therefore, it is crucial to stay latest and updated on customer experience. Second is the pace at which these experiences are shared with their immediate networks. Some studies highlight the increased level of research consumers do today compared to the past.

While this situation makes most brands vulnerable, I believe that this opens a great opportunity for brands to position themselves. To make this happen, the key questions each brand owner needs to ask are:

1.    How good is the listening mechanism in the firm? What are the sources and how are these connected back to the business processes?
2.    How effectively are you able to track and analyse these and make meaningful actions for different functions in the firm?
3.    Who owns the listening mechanisms and how empowered are these people? Can they influence the actions of each of the departments?
4.    Do you have a close looping framework? How do plan to react if you are hit suddenly by a negative social media incident? In the same breath, how do you leverage if there are positives going around in the social media?

I am sure most firms would say that they have a digital marketing team who would take care of this. Is the digital marketing team enabled to handle this? Can they influence the actions in various departments? Are they knowledgeable enough on the product, process and various customer interaction points in the journey?
I believe that firms need to integrate the digital marketing team with the process owners as well as the department heads. Creating new governance structures to develop this culture is a very important requirement in the industry today. HR needs to be involved to create programs and training modules to sensitise all the customer facing people on this. It is equally important to think of this during the budgeting activity and create opportunities for each business unit to include this in their budget plans.

While technology will be an important driver to manage this, the ability of firms to integrate people, process and systems to create a listening organisation is of utmost importance. Using employees as brand ambassadors to create a positive word of mouth is also a great idea. PR is another strong tool to leverage the power of social media.

Unless leadership team takes an active role in this process, this will lie as an isolated activity in the firm and brands will not be able to leverage these opportunities effectively. At this stage, it is important to answer the crucial question: "Who owns the customer in your firm?" If the answer is everyone, then it means no one.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Chandramouli Srinivasan

The author is Chief Operating Officer, Feedback Business Consulting

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