Author Jay Baer pairs with Edison Research to produce an eminently readable work that gives insight into using social media listening for customer service, but can also provide information for digital strategy as well.
When you first see the title of this book, you may think it is another attempt at a blockbuster by some televangelist trying to make a buck. It is a book about using social media to listen to complaints and leverage that into more sales. It reinforces the concept that social media is a tool to use to accomplish wider business objectives.
He does all this in a well-written 181 pages. Although it has some anecdotes from small organizations, like Fresh Brothers Pizza, this the book is primarily targeted at larger companies. Jay does seem to encourage small business, but it can be hard for a sole proprietor to learn any lesson from a behemoth like KLM (page 14).
Listening to improve digital strategy
Large or small, you can fall into the trap of thinking social media is a bullhorn to promote your company. It doesn’t take a genius to review a few dozen tweets to see the self-promotional nature of many posts. Jay Baer makes the case to use social media to listen, not constantly promote.
The trap one can fall into is thinking that the next best thing is the answer to your business problems. Rather than viewing social media as an end in itself (see the review Twitter is not a Strategy), Jay tries to put new software applications into perspective by taking a step back and applying some of the information from social media to the business world.
One can take a look at the sample size that Baer uses and raise an eyebrow. On page 10 he indicates that he completed fifty interviews. Is that enough? Who was interviewed? The first fifty people with tickets to The Marriage of Figaro at the Kennedy Center? The first fifty people to walk out of the Waffle House in Nashville last Saturday night? He also got information from two thousand complainants, which seems to be closer to a better sampling.
The book is an easy read, and he does a good job of reinforcing his admonitions. One is worth repeating. Baer suggests one replies two times and switch channels. Given the emotional aspect of many Internet complaints, this seems like the jewel in the book.In a book full of quotes, the best one is
Haters aren’t your problem – ignoring them is
1. Jay reinforces the fact that all companies get complaints, some fair, some ridiculous. Your job is to empathize with the complainant, not agree. In Jay’ words, “Hugging your haters does not mean the customer is right, it means the customer is answered.”
2. Second, he has a very practical approach to this response. “Answer publicly, switch channels.”
3. Retention: it costs a lot of money to get a customer. It makes sense to listen to them and respond to their concerns.
4. Finally, responding in social media has twice the impact that was privately responding; the converse is true as well. An inappropriate response can backfire.
Your reading list
There are times when you may think the book is really a summary of other insights. It’s not, however, if you are looking to develop a reading list on customer service, Jay’s book is a great place to start:
p. 18 A Complaint is a Gift;
p. 23 Delight your Customers;
p 24 Zombie Loyalists;
p 27 Jab, Jab, Right Hook;
p 32 The Customer Service Revolution;
p 46 The Squeaky Wheel;
p. 71 Managing Online Forums;
p. 77 Everyone’s a Critic; Definitive Guide to Social Customer Service;
p 114 Manipurated;
p 115 The Customer Rules.
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The real takeaway is the impact that listening can have on corporate strategy. In today’s world, we seem to be stuck between two oceans, primarily caused by widespread acceptance of the concepts first put forward by W. Chan Kim and Renee Marborgne’s “Blue Ocean Strategy How to Create Uncontested Market Space and make the Competition Irrelevant.”
The implied dualism of the title can limit strategic choices. Baer’s book is a baby step in using social media listening tools to discover struggles and challenges of your target audience without the inspiration of a Steve Jobs or the misleading information from a focus group.
Baer’s “drop the mic” moment was in the ending pages where he quotes a Gartner study that indicates customer service will be more important than price by 2020.
John Gilroy provides workshops on improving face to face communications; no hugging is involved. If you have any challenges with the NextGen interacting with boomers, contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org 703-627-3830