Brands and Beyond

How brands are getting it wrong with social media

That technology is changing the landscape of how brands integrate and interact with customers is not in question. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have certainly been game changers..

That technology is changing the landscape of how brands integrate and interact with customers is not in question. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have certainly been game-changers, with companies often seeking to outdo each other in wit and speed of response to customers.

What brands often forget when interacting with consumers, however, is that they are first and foremost humans. This is a fatal error as physical interaction with customers is just as, if not more, important as virtual interaction.

Market research reveals that even companies with a strong digital presence still have physical locations where customers can interact with them.

A complaint from an aggrieved customer is often met with an apology before the social media team (assuming there is one) even takes their time to understand the customer’s issue, perhaps in a bid to “save face”.

Responses like “What is the issue?”, “Please DM (Direct Message) us the issue” is very common. A better response would be, “What can I do for you?” , which focuses less on the assumption that the only reason customers would interact with a brand is that they had a problem they wanted to be solved.

AUDIENCE SEGMENTATION

Audience segmentation, which is an uncommon practice with Kenyan brands, would go a long way in pre-empting some of these communication issues with brands.

This would enable brands to create different conversations to suit various audience needs as opposed to treating them like numbers on a spreadsheet and responding to them with generic, automatic responses.

Employees must therefore create natural conversations with customers at different segment levels. Remembering a customer’s name or phone number, for example, if this is not the first interaction, is a good starting point.

A company’s leadership sets the tone, as this is the only way the rest of the staff will be able to offer the desired brand value to customers.

The CEO who breathes and lives the brand triggers traction down the line. Hence, leadership plays a very critical role in inspiring staff to integrate and propagate the brand values.

A LITTLE APOLOGY GOES A LONG WAY

Brands, like humans, are bound to err, but one other mistake brands make is to refuse to admit when they are wrong and offer an appropriate apology.

Another issue afflicting brands is the inability of brands to accept mistakes and quickly rectify them. We see a lot of this in the service industry, where many employees don’t even know how to react to complaints and instead insist they are correct.

This only escalates the problems and erodes the brand. A recent example is a local supermarket’s varied prices on products at the till and on the shelf. The supermarket refused to admit to any such error, even though the customers had evidence of such occurrences.

As competition and the rush for market share intensify, brands are running helter-skelter to fill a leaking bucket rather than retaining the customers they have, inadvertently removing any emotional connection they might have achieved earlier. All that is left is sales promotion after sales promotion, and hence gaining and losing in equal measure.

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