Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Designing Customer Experience for Social Media

Having recently written a post about the Forrester Customer Experience rankings it’s no surprise that I paid attention when I noticed an article about Deborah Schultz of the Altimeter Group and her recent presentation on social media experience. It’s embedded below and it’s worth paging through. Her carton from the final slide represents the essence of the message.

There’s not a huge body of writing about customer experience on social networks like there is on designing for good experience on websites. Some of it is transferable, but most of it is not. Website usability is more about the mechanics; social media is about communication and human experience.

With that in mind, I found one recurring piece of advice; social media is about telling your story. For social media marketers that means it’s about telling the story of the brand. Actually, it’s even more about getting your customers to tell their stories; that helps to create a strong emotional tie with the brand.

Writing on the HBS blog, Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path has four useful rules. He says:

1. Only hire people who embody your brand. That’s the basic rule for customer service and it applies here. Further, it means you will have to do less policing of what your employees say in social media because they will have the brand story straight.
2. If you do need policies, keep them lightweight and human. Merholz admits that not all companies can be a Zappos and allow employees to participate in social media without restraint. He points to Intel’s social media guidelines as a good example. I also like Fresh Networks guidelines for writing a social media policy.
3. Experiment, prototype, pilot — try stuff out. There aren’t a lot of tactical guidelines when you get right down to the nitty gritty holding a conversation with your own customers. You must experiment, track and understand what works and what does not.
4. It's a conversation, which means you both listen and take part. Amen!

Good customer experience is like the facetious definition of pornography: “you know it when you see it.” That’s important; it’s part of the humanity of social media. Take your own good customer experiences and translate them into interaction with your customers. It’s also the Golden Rule; treat them as you want to be treated.

Understanding good customer experience is important because we certainly don’t know how to measure it. It is more than customer satisfaction, so don’t let that well-understood metric get in the way of trying to understand the experience of your customers at each of your brand touchpoints. That will take qualitative understanding as well as wise choice of metrics.

I’ll fall back on my long-time favorite and suggest you read Bruce Tempkin’s 6 Laws of Customer Experience.The bad news is that designing good customer experience is more art than science. The good news is that each one of us has potential to be an artist—we are, after all—all customers!

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