Social media can’t fix business problems


Social media amplifies the good and bad

Lipstick on a pig isolatedSocial media is a great vehicle for reaching more people. So instead of fixing problems, it in fact it AMPLIFIES them. So if you have a customer experience issue, then using social media to fix it is like putting lipstick on a pig. It may work for a short while, but pretty quickly it will get out of control and work against you.

Laura Click from Blue Kite Marketing highlighted the problem in an excellent blog called “Why Social Media Can’t Fix Your Business Problems”   She gives a fantastic example of Comcast who managed to use social media@ComCastCares to patch up problems but only whilst it had the passion and energy of the man behind it – Frank Eliason.  But Frank has now gone and the underlying Comcast problems remain. Now social media is amplifying the issues and giving their competition an insight into where they can poach customers.

A while back I wrote a blog called Social Technology is putting Lipstick on a Pig, based on a series of conference presentations I gave in 2013. So in 2 years nothing has really changed!

So what does need to change?

Fix the underlying problems. OutsideIn thinking and process definition is the key

Your customers and staff are fighting poorly thought through processes and systems.  It is time to define successful outcomes from the customer’s perspective and the good news is that their expectations are incredibly low. That means thinking about them from a customer process perspective.

This says it all. Put the customer at the center of the business and design your processes around them. This is Outside In thinking. But this is a major change to the way that many companies think, are organised and operate. Two Forrester analysts have just released a book called Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business.

It is such a disruptive change in thinking that it takes strong competitive pressures or a highly customer focused CEO to drive it through. But the benefits are compelling.  It requires process thinking, looking at Customer Journeys or Use Cases or Storyboards: the different path a customer can take, via whatever media (phone call, letter, fax, email, tweet, Facebook post), to get from their reason for contacting you to a happy successful outcome – on their terms.

Only once you have that mapped out can you start to design the underlying systems and build the training courses for your staff. This may sound like to takes weeks and months. It doesn’t. It takes days, but days of thinking, discussion and debate. It is hard. At the end of each day you will be mentally exhausted.

What does this look like? FreshBooks, a US online invoicing/accounting service, sums it up in what they call their 4E philosophy: “Execute on extraordinary experiences everyday”. FreshBook’s view is that if you don’t back up your promises with action, then you’re just a lot of hot air and bluster. So you’ve got to execute.

Black or white?

Black is that none of this is done. The end result is angry, vocal, dissatisfied customers, and equally frustrated and bitter employees. Both sets of people have spent raw energy fighting poorly thought through processes and systems. It wastes time and money.

White is easy. Zen. The customer floats through the process gently guided by systems or your employees. The result is customer advocacy, recommendations and more profitable sales.

It’s your choice.  Black or white?