Be Personal, Have Personality.
April 15, 2014
By: Paul Fowler, Director, Global Alliances & Partners, EMEA
Lady Gaga, Harry Styles and Justin Timberlake – your (new) competition?
Why do Lady Gaga, Harry Styles and Justin Timberlake have over 20 or 30 million followers on Twitter? Why is it that they have so many more followers than the most powerful brands and largest companies on our planet?
One word (well two… actually three) – Personal, Personality & Engagement.
These people reach out to their fans and followers. They make them feel that their Tweet is speaking directly to them and has relevance to them. They resonate.
Celebrities of course have a key advantage over brands in that they are mostly talking to their fans, and many consumers would not readily consider themselves to be true “fans” of a product or service.
One of the major challenges that brands and corporations face today is trying to replicate the warm fuzzy feeling of engagement, of being personal, while still adhering to corporate branding guidelines. Understandably, it’s not an easy skill to master on social media, let alone along the entire customer journey that’s made up of a multitude of customer touchpoints (social, survey, call centre, email, forums, reviews, live chat etc). However, as difficult as it may be, it is something that all organisations must try to achieve, particularly now, given that we live in the Age of the Customer.
Shouting it from the rooftops
Gone are the days in which consumers gathered most of the information about a brand through advertising or broadcast media messaging on social media. Gone are the days when consumers observed this silently.
Your Customers are now loud and broadcast their views on brands and experiences vociferously across multiple platforms (when Clarabridge was founded in 2005, a typical customer had 8 sources of customer feedback – today the average is 25!). This means that your organisation must be able to rapidly understand both what your customers are saying about you online, and what customers are saying when they speak directly to you. The customer experience you offer cannot be engaging or peronalised unless you have truly understood what makes your customer happy or sad. And if you can’t understand this quickly enough, then you will never able to take action on their feedback or to remedy any issues.
Getting it right – the lessons at hand
Two personal experiences I have had come to mind immediately.
I travel a lot working for Clarabridge and believe me, I’ve had my share of airline customer experiences (read: frustrations!). The worst of which was when an airline’s on-line check in failed halfway through and then locked me out of their entire website. When I spoke with the call centre (after a long, long wait) they didn’t appear to be able to access my booking fully and then the “piece de resistance” – I got cut off. In frustration, I turned to social media. I tweeted the airline directly. One of their competitors obviously monitored mentions of my airline and very kindly offered me a deal on a similar flight, but very soon my airline tweeted me directly for more details. Within 10 minutes of my original tweet I was confirmed on the seat of my choice. They turned a bad experience into a good one and very quickly. The negative feelings I had drained away. I even tweeted about how happy I was with the service.
The lessons to learn here:
— Understand what matters to your customer and what has caused them problems. Then react at lightning speed.
— Understand that the communication channel they choose to use may not be the one that you would like them to use!
— And our bonus lesson of the day: if you don’t monitor what people are saying about you – your competition will!
The other experience was with my mobile phone operator. I renewed my contract half way through moving home and this led to a few problems so I telephoned their call centre. Understandably, it took the agent a bit of time to sort out all my issues- closing down the old contract, starting the new one, moving address etc. But whilst the call agent was waiting for different systems to load or update, he kept the conversation flowing. There was no dead air, no eternally long pauses that made me think he had fallen asleep or I had been cut off, and thankfully, no infuriating background elevator music! But the most enlightening part of this transaction? I soon realised that the conversation we were having wasn’t by accident. He was framing the conversation based on information I had provided the company over the years. This ranged from past casual mentions of my favourite football team, where I lived, where I had travelled to etc. In fact, he was so well informed with data about me, he even moved me onto a package that was brand new and more suited to my needs. Through a comprehensive understanding of me as a customer, he turned what would normally be a tedious experience into something that flew by in no time at all.
The lesson to learn here:
— Take every opportunity you have with a customer as an opportunity to show off personality- be it online or offline. Speak to your customer like a human being with interests, likes, dislikes and passions. They will remember you for it.
Put simply – you cannot truly be personal, have personality and fully engage with your customers unless you fully understand what makes them happy or sad. Understanding what makes your customers tick means that your staff can have more informed conversations that are more efficient and enjoyable for your customers. They also make the mundane interactions more personal.
After all, as Samuel L Jackson famously said in Pulp Fiction – “A dog’s got personality……… and personality goes a long way”