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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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October 2013

How long should it take you to respond to a customer query?

Customer service is undoubtedly burgeoning via social media channels.

It gives me a thrill to see the great levels of online help being provided on Twitter, Facebook and in other forums by banks, airlines, telecommunication companies and more. These organisations have lauded social media as an integral part of their customer service efforts. In fact, when social media is used to address customer queries, you have the chance to help hundreds or thousands of others at once, rather than the traditional one-on-one service offered by telephone and email.

When you use social media to serve customers and interact with the general public, one very important question arises: how long should it take for you to respond?

I was interested to see Kissmetrics develop an infographic capturing research on this very topic. You can see that infographic below:

++ Click Image to Enlarge ++
Why do Companies with Great Customer Service Succeed?
Source: Why do Companies with Great Customer Service Succeed?

With any organisation, customer service response times may differ. We also see some organisations outline their approach – eg, they will tell Twitter or Facebook audiences that they only respond between 9am and 5pm Monday to Fridays.

I know I’ve occasionally been disappointed to wait for several days to get a response from some brands online in particular when they’re larger brands with a dedicated social media team. Yet can we realistically expect a quick, 24/7 service? Is it asking too much?

We all have different expectations. What are yours?

The worst part of any corporate publication

What’s your favourite part of a government magazine or corporate brochure?

I’m going to sweep aside any notion that you don’t read and enjoy government magazines and corporate brochures … so I can sail into one of my pet peeves.

Because surely your favourite piece of any of these glossy publications is: the welcome message from the Minister?  Closely followed by the welcome message from the CEO / Director / Chair?

I mean, what’s not to enjoy?

Here’s the anatomy of a ministerial welcome message:

Use the headline WELCOME

Name the project or event you’re writing about

Refer to how long the project or event has been going

Throw in some grey, broad stats about its economic impact

Throw in some warm and fluffy phrases about its social impact

Commend people to that project or event

Delightful, aren’t they?

I don’t know anyone who reads these pieces, often featured in prime glossy real estate like page 2. It’s a longstanding communication tradition especially in the public service and makes about as much sense as having 20 throw cushions on your bed – it’s window dressing that really just frustates people and gets in the way.

A typical welcome column
A typical welcome column

The most recent brochure  complying with this excruciating convention comes from The Adelaide Festival of Ideas and the Adelaide Film Festival. It’s a two-in-one brochure which is a nifty idea, but only serves to point out again how awful managerial welcome messages are because they’re featured on both sides for our double delight. Each begins with a message from the South Australian Premier, each featuring exactly the same official portrait of the Premier grinning in front of the state flag.

I admire these events immensely and plan to get along to a few AdFOI events this weekend. I’ve enjoyed poring over the printed brochure (that’s right, I don’t only inhabit the digital world. I do occasionally like some burnished pages and some dog-ear action). And I recognise this type of corporate communication wasn’t an invention of our current Premier. It’s something that has infested the government and corporate sphere around the globe for decades.

That doesn’t mean we should keep on doing it.

Welcome columns do serve a purpose of course, which is likely the crux of why they continue to be used. When a government agency or corporate sponsor wants to be acknowledged for their support, what better way to placate them than to give them some front-and-centre space in your brochure? That ticks the box for ongoing happy relations, no?

But just think of all the time and money we could save if we just did away with them.

I used to work for a number of government agencies, either within or closely alongside the internal Public Relations teams, and believe me I know the tedious hours and hair-pulling that goes into writing something as banal as a CE or Minister’s welcome message. Innumerable drafts are written. Hours goes into research and rewrites and approvals processes. All this for what? A few paragaphs that you wouldn’t read if it was the last piece of reading material in Hell’s waiting room.

Related reading: Dude! Where’s my plain language?

We’d save our comms teams hours and angst if we said “no more”. Not required. Get on with something useful, like devising a new public health campaign or writing a speech that actually means something and will move people by imparting meaningful concepts that inspire us rather than talk down to us.

I don’t know where the edict came from – perhaps the same place that invented “welcome to my website” messages – but apparently it’s imperative that these columns teeter on the edge of affirmative support without overbalancing into any giddy waves of enthusiasm.  It has to be the perfect mix of “I vouch for this but mind you I can’t really vouch for this”. You could all but swap out program or event names for an entirely different name, without anyone noticing.

Just for once, I’d like to see … A welcome message from that program’s most enthusiastic participant. Who was up at 7.30am every day and in the office pulling the event together? Who poured sweat into that construction site six days a week in Adelaide’s summer? Who came up with the idea to get that community group together and lugged refreshments from their own beaten up car across the carpark into the community meetings where generous volunteers were waiting to lend a hand? I’d like to hear from them. Not a figurehead who’s about as close to the program as the Queen is to cleaning Buckingham Palace’s toilet.

When I work with organisations on their social media plans, one of my first steps is to examine ALL of the communications tactics a client uses. Often this includes newsletters and brochures and I’ll ask a client about the results of that work. How much time and effort goes into the printed publications? What do they measure? Do they know if anyone reads them? Do they know if some articles or features are more popular than others?

It’s a very important question to ask, especially as I know they’re going to ask about the ROI of social media. Yet it’s vital to ask about the ROI of all communications tactics. And that includes these darn welcome messages …

 

Stop the presses! Additional note:

Since writing this piece, the Festival of Unpopular Culture (or FUC) has pointed out its little gem of a brochure to me.  Inside the front cover? A piece by Adelaide Festival of Ideas director Sophie Black, stating: “To be honest I have no real idea what these people are talking about”, scene-setting by co-director Jennifer Greer Holmes and the late Sir Robert ‘Piggy’ Muldoon chiming in too. Sensational!

FUC printed program
FUC printed program

Two tips for personal branding + social media

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged on this before.

I often get asked to speak about personal branding, I’ve given a few university lectures on the topic and also include it in my individual coaching sessions.

So here goes …

 For some of you, personal branding + social media may sound like bullsh*t.

The concept doesn’t suit everyone. Millions of social media users are happy to be online to chat to family and friends, be entertained, and keep up with the news. You don’t care how the rest of the world sees you – you are who you are. You might even have an alter ego online, or some sort of anonymous account.

But if you’re using social media to support your personal career and/or your business, it’s worth applying some branding principles to what you do.

Use social media to remind people what you do
Use social media to remind people what you do

Social media tools can support your career by helping you find potential employers, customers and project partners. Using spaces like Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and online forums, you can create a name for yourself as an expert or leading commentator in your field.

This is particularly so if you consider social tools to be your personal newspaper / chat show / opinion column / town hall meeting. Today you don’t need to rely on the mainstream press for some publicity or being invited to speak at a conference. Done well, you can use your social media accounts to be your conduit to the wider world. (Note: gaining coverage in the mainstream media and being invited to speak at conferences are two potential outcomes of having a good social media profile).

Here’s two things to consider in your approach:

1. Define your communication goals

  • These usually support your business goals. Remind yourself, what are you in the business of?
  • Who’s your target customer or audience member?
  • What do you want to be known for? They are your key messages.
  • Write down your comms goals and then how you’re going to support this with social media.

For example: Imagine you’re Mr Fred and you create gorgeous letterboxes. Make sure you say just that in your bio: “I’m Mr Fred. I create gorgeous letterboxes”. A bio that says “Cat lover, #Qanda fan, can’t stomach coffee” may be fun, but it’s not doing your business goals any favours. Share lots of photos of letterboxes. Write a blog about bad letterboxes. Find sensational letterbox images for your background design on social networks. Find other people who write about letterboxes. You might talk about lots of other things online: your day, your garden, your new staff, community events. But a large percentage of what you write should be about letterboxes, to remind people of what you’re about.

Sounds simple, right? Yet I still see a lot of business accounts lose their way. And you don’t want to turn into Mr Fred who’s tweeting about politics or the AFL continually, when he originally embarked on using social to promote his letterbox business.

[Another teeny tip: look back over your profiles occasionally and see what you’ve been sharing overall. Are you spruiking too much? Looking spammy? Banging on about the same thing too much? Have you been too quiet?]

2. Consider how to represent yourself

Look at yourself as if you’re Pepsi or Mercedes Benz or Google or the World Wildlife Fund. Develop a brand image and try to maintain some consistency. On social networks, consider:

  • Your profile image – a consistent image across networks will help build your brand recognition
  • The words you use in your social network bios
  • The type of content you share and the language you use
  • Who you associate with (follow, retweets, conversations, re-blogs and so on)

It wouldn’t have escaped your notice that I am my product, and I use my image not only on this blog (and a large one!) but across all my platforms, most of them being the same image or very similar.

How you represent yourself visually can have a big impact on whether people engage with you. The more you share, the more reassuring your accounts are.

Take the two examples below. Which Twitter profile would you prefer to follow?

Twitter account Example 1
Twitter account Example 1
Twitter account Example 2
Twitter account Example 2

Any questions  or tips of your own?

You can invite me to present at your next team training day or conference. Topics can include personal branding right through to ‘how to use LinkedIn’ and more. Email admin @prakky.com.au

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