How to Engage Customers?
For centuries now we have been engaging with customers in our local business community face to face and seem to have a pretty good idea how to do that well.
On the other hand our level of experience in interacting with customers and even partners and suppliers via the Internet, by comparison is still very much in its infancy.
For this reason I wanted to start a series of Blogs where we can explore some of the issues we encounter, look at the strategies and tools we have at hand to help streamline how we engage, and invite your input through your experience, thoughts and ideas.
“Charity begins at home”
This week I just want to focus on the area of where a company should start in order to become a successful Social Enterprise if you will.
There is an the old saying by Martin Chuzzlewit from a Dickens Novel that says, “Charity Begins at home’”. What does this mean? In the original context it means that to learn how to be charitable you first learn it in the home.
In other words for a Business to become a great Social Enterprise, to engage online with Customers, Partners and Suppliers alike, firstly requires an understanding on how to be social within your own business.
Establishing a new Business Playground
Lets look at it another way. It’s a bit like establishing a new ‘Playground’ where employees are invited to play. At first they are unfamiliar with the landscape, the capacity of the play equipment and of course the playground rules. They need time to explore and become familiar with both the play equipment and the other employees they are ‘playing’ with. Then, and only then are they likely to want to play there, to have an expectation of visiting the playground and while there, to actually enjoy themselves and have fun!
There are still many companies who have not fully jumped in to online communication beyond email marketing. Some have a Business Twitter or Facebook account. Many have individual LinkedIn accounts but few have integrated these into their overall Business strategy, let alone realise the benefits of online company communities. (link to community page).
This is not fundamentally because it is of lttle benefit to them, but because it requires a huge shift in business culture, skills, and expertise that is hard to piece together when you are busy working in the business.
Strategy and Planning
One of the best ways to ensure successful transition from the more traditional way of operating to engaging with customers on the internet is to incorporate good strategy and planning. Ask questions like where do I start? Is there going to be return on my investment? How do I support and manage the subsequent increased level of activity? What technology do I need? Do staff even know how to engage customers using these methodologies?
In addition, you will need to spend some time on consolidating policies, processes and procedures. It is important to include in your plan the ability to address adoption issues that may arise and the need to provide additional & follow-up training.
The Engagement Cycle
Next blog I will be looking at the Engagement cycle and the stages a business goes through internally in order to handle different types of social media interactions.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on establishing a new business playground in the comments section below. Tell me about your experience?