The Reporter’s Guide to Customer Experience

What a reporter can teach you about sticking to the basics in customer communication.

by Ike Pigott |

Congratulations! You did all the hard work, studied your options and embarked on a social media program for your company. You’ve already accomplished the second most-difficult part of maintaining a social presence that will keep your customers informed and engaged. The hardest part?

The rest.

We often got lost in the bright and shiny glare of the tool-of-the-day, and lose track of what’s important.

Now that you’ve launched, you need to take a critical eye and examine what seems to be working and what isn’t. And while there are so many variables for small/medium/enterprise and retail/service that a checklist isn’t really viable, there is a way to make sure you’re asking all the right questions about how you are maintaining your program.

Think like a journalist. Re-focusing is just this easy:

  • Who are we trying to communicate to?
  • What do they want to talk about?
  • Where are they going to be receiving this information?
  • When are we delivering it?
  • Why should they care about receiving it from us?
  • How will we deliver it?

Who

Think for a moment about your customer base, potential customer pool, and other organizational stakeholders. Have they changed? Have you been surprised in some fashion about either higher or lower adoption/engagement than you had anticipated?

Most importantly, have you generated any engagement with a group of people that you had not intended? This could be a clue that maybe your content isn’t focused where you need to be — or maybe that you have an audience to cultivate that you have simply been ignoring.

What

Often, you don’t get a lot of feedback about what is not working. People who are not connected to you don’t have the emotional investment to leave you detailed complaints, and when you consider the very high percentages of site visitors who do not comment, that’s a lot of potential wasted.

Are you asking them what they would like to know? Are you running the occasional survey? Even better, are you tracking their behavior once they are on your site? Following the breadcrumbs of site visits can be instructive — but maybe the best thing you can do is simply ask people. Go back a few months to those who have commented, and reach out with a personal request. Ask them if they still come by, and if they don’t what you’d need to supply to make it worth their while.

What? You don’t get any comments at all? Well, that’s a signal right there…

Where

With the explosion of mobile devices, you really need to know more about where your content is being consumed. Are you simply casting your seeds everywhere, hoping that some will find fertile ground? Or are you spending more of your time and energy cultivating fields that are more likely to develop leads and sales?

This is the hidden secret of the location-based services — it let’s you identify your mobile customers, and gives you an opportunity to develop a more personal relationship with them. Not because you want to “treat the Mayor” or give them overtly special treatment — but so you can find out more about their habits:

  • How many other places do you “check in?”
  • What’s your motive for “checking in?”
  • How many of your friends act on Tips?
  • What were the last three apps you used or mobile websites you visited before walking in here?
That last one is bolded for a reason. You can learn a lot from where your customers have been. Absent the ability to track them, simply ask them.

When

Giving potential customers information too early is almost as bad as giving it to them too late. This complements the “Where” proposition above, because the right pitch gets magnified in effectiveness when delivered at the right place at the right time. Much in the same way we can use Google Analytics to track the effectiveness of different channels or campaigns, you can experiment with the lead time of your offers. After a while, go back and see which factors mattered. It may just be that your conventional wisdom about when to pitch an offer was off by a day or two in one direction. (Or, when combined with a location-based punch, hours.)

Why

This is one of the easiest to address, but it also slips away from us if we aren’t vigilant. As writers become more comfortable creating for the web and for email and for blogs and for tweets, there’s a tendency to get too cute. Yes, there are some very clever phrasings and drop-dead funny pictures and funny jokes that simply don’t translate into effective marketing.

This isn’t just the Super Bowl commercial that was so clever that no one could remember what it was about — this is the little things, like remembering to include a value proposition, or a call to action. It’s amazing how important some of those seemingly repetitive words and phrases can be.

How

How are you delivering your content? Are you using the right platform? Is your audience starting to do something else? Are you updating regularly, engaging like a human being where warranted? Are you offering different facets of the same message through parallel channels? Or are you simply auto-posting from one to another, and in the process clogging up customer streams with soggy Xerox copies of what could have been a compelling message?

Take a moment to look at what your customers are getting. Emails, Facebook posts, Tweets. Maybe your Twitter client stopped rendering your photos a couple of months ago — would you know? Is your Facebook copy showing up in the description or in the post? Has the formatting of your email broken? You’ve got to know.

Six simple questions — Who What Where When Why and How — which will ensure you’re being thorough in your review of your social success.

There are very likely some we missed.

Add them to the comments.


About the Author

Ike Pigott

In his previous life, Ike Pigott was an Emmy-winning TV reporter, who turned his insider's knowledge of the news cycle into a crisis communications consultancy. At the American Red Cross, serving as Communication and Government Relations Director for five southeastern states, Ike pioneered the use of social media in disaster. Now -- by day -- he is a communications strategist for Alabama Power and a Social Media Apologist; by night, he lurks at Occam's RazR, where he writes about the overlaps and absurdities in communications, technology, journalism and society. Find out how you can connect with Ike or follow him on Twitter at @ikepigott. He also recently won the coveted "Social Media Explorer contributing writer with the longest Bio" award.