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Too many business owners are missing out on valuable feedback because they still dismiss social media as a fringe issue, says Jed Hewson of 1Stream.

“We speak to a lot of people who think that opinions about their companies expressed via social media can be ignored because it’s just for kids and guys on skateboards,” says Hewson. “The truth is that social media is now so pervasive and so mainstream that you can’t afford to ignore it if you want to know what people really think about your business.”

Focus groups and surveys are not only expensive, Hewson points out, they are not always reliable. “People often feel the need to be nice if they’re responding to a survey or focus group. When they’re talking to their friends they’re under no such constraint – that’s when you get the real truth about what they think. It’s incredibly valuable information that more companies should be using.”

To listen and respond effectively to their customers, companies should integrate social media into the daily workflow of their contact centres, says Hewson. “A social media connector for your contact centre management software should give you the ability to monitor conversations across a variety of platforms, alert the appropriate people and enable them to respond quickly and easily from within their main application,” he says. “A comment on Twitter or Facebook should appear in the same stream as incoming emails, and be dealt with even more quickly.”

1Stream offers a social media connector for users of its Customer Interaction Center platform which supplies near real-time alerts based on keywords – with a sentiment score attached to each alert so extreme negative opinions by influential people, for example, can automatically be prioritised. Alerts can automatically be routed to the right person or department depending on their content, and agents can respond directly from within Buzzient so that all interactions are tracked. The connector includes full activity tracking and reporting so that managers can easily track and stay on top of social media activity.

Social media tracking not only provides a useful proxy for customer satisfaction, it can also feed into Net Promoter Scores, adds Hewson. “A quick, appropriate response to a complaint expressed via social media can turn an unhappy customer into an advocate for your brand,” he says. “It gives the kind of promotion you could never buy.”

Responding to customers in the forum of their choice also marks companies as engaged, modern and caring, says Hewson. “The mantra of social media is ‘speak to your customers where they are’. If your customer mediates their life through Facebook or Twitter, that’s where you should be addressing them.”

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