Ten conversations relevant to your customers

I’m so excited. I just read Valeria Maltoni‘s post “Answering the Social Phone” on her blog, “Conversation Agent”.

She shares a presentation by David Alston of Radian6, which addresses the worries and objections people have about social media. She then shares his ten points “you need to listen for in social media”. Valeria states, “These…are very relevant for knowing for what customers are looking for…”. At this point, she lists out his points and gives her take, which is great insight.

When I read her post, I saw how the same points could be applied to my internal communication clients. I have taken the ten points from David that Valeria shared, and give my take on them. I build on Valeria’s insights and I’ve highlighted her direct comments in blue.

  • The complaint your customers may complain in the absence of a specific problem. In that case you do need to find the root cause of their dissatisfaction. Remember that stating they never see you or that they can do it themselves is a symptom, not a cause. They may be set in their ways or do not yet see the value you can bring them.
  • The complimentindeed, one of the advantages of social media is that your customers may be providing testimonials on your behalf, without being asked. In this case, go with the flow and don’t try to control their message. Graciously say – thank you. Everyone is so busy and when a client does take the time to acknowledge your work by sharing positive feedback, reply by saying something along the lines of “Thank you for sharing these positive comments”. While we all want to jump up and down (which we can do privately at our desks), remaining professional is a key factor in continuing to building trust and your reputation.
  • The problem this is one to fix. It’s usually fairly specific, or at least it can become specific when you are prepared to find out. When you see or hear “constructive criticism” about your services, be prepared to take action. But don’t act just on what you hear. Take the time to have a conversation and obtain specifics so that you don’t waste your time solving the wrong problem. Correcting a problem or perception works best when you get it right the first time.
  • The question or inquirybe prepared to get into detail here. Questions signal interest and focus. This is not the place or time to get defensive. Also, wherever possible, if you can shine a positive light on the customer, you get kudos. There are times when, as you progress forward in building relationships with your clients, you are so used to challenges and negativity, that when a genuine question or inquiry is asked, you can’t tell the difference. The best idea is to pause and digest the question versus immediately jumping to an answer to justify your role. It’s hard to do sometimes. But, when we take that step back, we can see that we’re making progress and we can answer as a partner, again helping our reputation and partnership building.
  • The campaign impactthis may seem obvious. If you’re out there with a promotion as part of a campaign, the amount of talk will go up. This is an opportunity to cross reference clicks with forwards and comments. The result is very powerful customer intelligence. We have internal campaigns on a regular basis. The key is to engage employees so that they can understand the objective, the messages, the why, the what, etc. They become your most powerful ambassadors. Without their input, it’s just another set of posters on the building walls.
  • The crisis if someone had been online from the Motrin service team, they would have probably headed off part of the discomfort the online ad and the discussion that ensured created. You can learn to talk with customers differently if you’re listening early on. Have you ever had a great project happening, and you think you’ve covered every detail? You think everyone will get the point, understand the intellectual message or interpret the message the same way? Guess what – that’s the internal communication crisis. Engage your various audiences and listen, listen, listen; review, review, review; then test, test, test.
  • The competitor sometimes the gloves are off. Especially when facing pressure to deliver, competitors may be less inclined to be honorable. There’s a potential pitfall to them when they become too rowdy, and to the industry when they become too careless on pricing, for example. To me, internal communicators don’t have competitors, they have clients and partners who don’t understand what communications is really all about. These people fall under the “anyone can do communications” category. As hard as it may be to do at times, stay professional, stay calm, state the facts and answer the questions. Stick to what’s right for the business. Sometimes other people will get their way, and you may have to clean up the mess later, but people will begin to see the reality. (Bang your head on your desk in private.)
  • The crowdlet’s face it, our decisions are often made on the basis of the behavior of the people who are in the same predicament as we are. We see someone do something, and we think it’s legit to do the same. We can observe the same behavior online, only magnified. Yep – you see one person do it and you think, “what a great idea!” The excitement carries you along as you pursue the same objective, but you forget that this idea or behavior may not be what is right for you specific business and audience. The “shiny toy” does not equal “great communication tool for my business”.
  • The influencerwatch out for stereotypes on influence. Someone can be an influencer in your industry without having thousands of readers or dozens of comments on their site. The other consideration is that an influencer may pick up on an issue from a weak tie in their network with someone who you overlooked because they seemed to have a tiny audience. Perhaps you interact with several audiences, lead teams, project groups, etc. It takes time to figure out who the “players” (influencers) are within your client group. Whether you like someone or not on a personal level, it’s important to build professional relationships. Ignoring anyone or dismissing them as unimportant is a crucial mistake.
  • The point of need if many of the other points did not convince you, this should. Your customers are out there looking for solutions and products like the ones you provide. Are you comfortable relying just on search driving them to your site? Why not put some skin in the game and meeting them out there? The key point Valeria makes here is “your customers are out there looking for solutions and products like the one you provide”. They may not always realize it though. That is a hurdle we all face on a regular basis. There are times some poeple will challenge us every step of the way and times that they welcome our expertise. Regardless of what group clients fall in, the key is to listen and ask questions so that you can help them identify what solutions are needed. In some cases it takes more time than others. There could be times you never fully persuade a client, but at the end of the day, your work will prove itself. So again, proactively engage with these people on a professional level.

These are my thoughts from an internal communications standpoint. What do you think? What can you add?

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Susan Cellura is a marketing communications professional with over 20 years of experience. She is a dynamic communications professional and enthusiastic team-builder, with a progressive history of success in designing and implementing communications programs for global organizations. A strategic thinker with the ability to understand the needs of multiple audiences and deliver solutions, Susan is a results-oriented problem-solver with exceptional interpersonal and negotiation abilities. Having worked in a variety of global industries, she has grown business communications in her current position via a strong mixture of strategic resources, including social media.

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