Social Intelligence: Building Loyalty at Scale

Guest post by Susan Etlinger, Industry Analyst for Altimeter Goup:

A few weeks ago, as I was checking out of a hotel, the desk staff handed me a card that enthusiastically read, “Tell us about your stay!” The waiter at dinner a few nights ago came by at the end of our meal to ask my fellow diners and me how we enjoyed our meal. This morning, I received a perky email from an airline that read, “Tell us about your recent flight!”
Here’s what happens: 1. I almost always recycle the card (I only fill them out if the experience is exceptionally good or exceptionally bad). 2. I said, “It was wonderful, thanks!” 3. I deleted the email.
In all honesty, the hotel stay was fine, though the room could have been cleaner (why don’t they ever wipe down the remote?) and the room was poorly ventilated. The flight left and arrived on time, which was a pleasant surprise. The meal was pretty good, but not memorable. Would I go back? Sure.
But, because I don’t tend to respond to surveys and email marketing, the hotel doesn’t know that I cringe every time I turn on the TV, the airline probably figures no news is good news, and the restaurant, well, I doubt the waiter ran to the computer to log my polite but fairly rote response to her question into a customer relationship management system.
Blind spots, especially when you multiply them by the thousands—even millions—of customer interactions businesses have every day, present a huge risk to organizations.
Now here’s another scenario: Let’s say I filled out the comment card and mentioned the sticky remote. Then I responded to the email. And I told the waiter the meal was fine, but the dessert really stood out. Now we have two customer experiences that require manual data entry (if at all) and one email to analyze and log and analyze again. How long will it take for that feedback to get back to the people who can act on it?
But there’s another wrinkle. I have now interacted to some extent with market research (the customer satisfaction survey), customer support, and, in the restaurant’s case, a single waiter. Are any of these groups talking to each other?
Now, what if I tweeted about the hotel (“Why is it that hotel housekeeping never cleans the TV remote?”) and the airline experience (which I would only do if I had something meaningful to say), Instagrammed my molten chocolate cake and left a Yelp review on the restaurant? Now I’m interacting with the social team (for Twitter and Instagram) and either customer service, social or market research for Yelp. If I’m lucky, my loyalty programs might get that data too.
But here’s what worries me. Is the hotel just counting the stars on TripAdvisor? Are they looking at the complicated unstructured data in Twitter, on their Facebook page? Are they looking at Instagram hashtags and comments? Cross-referencing them with customer satisfaction scores? Are they looking at topics that drive sentiment (price of wifi, room cleanliness, quality of room service food) or just counting fans and followers? Can they see how certain services or issues drive sentiment and possibly behavior, or are they just focused on volume metrics?
Do any of these companies dig down to understand what their customers really love, hate and want?
There are two issues at play here. One is curiosity: using social and other signals in the business to ask why things are happening. The other is integration: having the wherewithal to compare the results of one set of data (say, customer sat results) with social sentiment and trends, or with call center chat logs, or with email marketing results or even revenue trends. Neither is easy, but both are critically important if we really intend to understand anything about the customer journey.
Social media is long past being a shiny object; it’s a window into our customers’ and prospective customers’ hopes, dreams and aspirations. It’s a leading indicator of trends, a proving ground for paid media, an innovation hub, an early warning system for issues and crises. It’s wonderful and useful to engage one to one, but it’s also important to aggregate insights and understand them at scale to inform business strategy.
Likes, fans, followers tell us what happened. That’s social performance management. The harder but ultimately more valuable task is to listen deeply and across multiple posts, platforms and time periods to try to understand why it happened. That’s social intelligence, and it’s where we need to go if we really expect to serve our consumers, patients, partners and communities—and earn their trust and loyalty—at scale.
For additional insights about the power of social listening, check out our Social Insights Center.

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