Firstly, sorry for the long old title! Really the message of this post is the following: “If your brand is shit offline then it will be shit online” – that is a quote from someone on a Radian6 Twebinar a while back (sorry I forget who) but it is true.
An increasing number of companies are exploring the social web with increasingly ambitious plans, pioneers like Dell, Zappos and Comcast have paved the way with customer care via the social web and now other organisations across a variety of sectors are listening to and engaging with their consumers, advocates and detractors online.
However: all the digital engagement, blogger outreach and detractor engagement you like will not change the simple fact that if you cannot deliver a good customer experience offline, in the real world, in store, in the showroom, in the product quality, or via the telephone support centre then you are going to have a poor social media profile and it is going to increasingly damage your revenues. To demonstrate this point I will take the example of BT: They have a twitter account and regularly engage consumers online (including a friend of mine recently) indeed they actually published their social media policy last year, however they provide an awful customer experience offline and are difficult to do business with, this means that no matter how much they engage online unless they re-evaluate their offline customer service, charging policy, sales approach etc they will have a steady and consistent stream of negative word of mouth. – I know this first hand as my housemate and I have experienced this first hand as have several friends of mine!
OK so all of this is obvious right? Yes, yes it is! But it needs to be said: the brands that will get the most out of social media are not those that engage with customers online but those that work tirelessly to create interesting, engaging and pleasant customer experiences at every point in the customer’s journey, those companies that are a pleasure to do business with. These companies not only have a positive social profile but also have high customer loyalty and get strong repeat business that grow revenues. – Think about guys like Apple, JetBlue and Ritz Carlton Hotels as examples.
I am not, for a second, saying don’t listen or engage in the social web, I am saying that a positive social profile cannot be built by using social media alone, it is dependant on consistently strong customer experiences across the brand that fit with customer expectations. Let us remember that issues like the Eurostar debacle and the Southwest Air incident, for example, are issues that have their roots offline…