Target: Emotional social vital to customer experience management

Target Australia's head of customer experience shares his top tips on how to use social media as a customer engagement tool

Brands that don’t interact with customers on social, or who fail to build an emotional and consistent connection through channels like Facebook and Twitter, are selling their customer experience strategy short.

That’s the view of Target’s head of customer experiences, Jason Bradshaw, who presented on the engagement opportunities social presents during the Customer 360 Symposium in Sydney’s Hunter Valley.

According to Bradshaw, social interaction is closely aligned to the three key questions brand should also be basing their wider customer engagement strategy on: Is the customer able to succeed in what they’re doing? Can they do that fairly effortlessly? And did you make an emotional connection with them?

“Often, people use social media to get a problem solved, so isn’t it the best opportunity to turn someone around and engage with them?” he asked attendees. “Customers come to you on social because they want to be successful, or they want to buy something and success is about helping them do it. When you do this, you’ll grow loyalty and NPS [Net Promoter Score].”

Bradshaw highlighted a number of brands that have succeeded and failed to address consumers effectively through social channels.

One failure was United Airlines, which became the butt of a US music group’s highly critical YouTube highly video after failing to address their concerns about customer service. That video, created by Dave Carroll after the airline damaged his custom guitar, garnered more than 14 million YouTube Views.

On the success side, Bradshaw pointed to Groupon’s ‘Bunker for a Banana’ campaign, which saw the online site respond to every customer comment posted on social after launching a new plastic product designed to protect bananas. In this instance, Groupon adopted a tongue-in-cheek approach to customer comments, not only presenting a consistent brand voice but also building an emotional connection with consumers, Bradshaw said.

He also criticised brands that directed consumers to take questions offline or into private forums, adding that “canned” responses on social “do not constitute social engagement”.

“Is your organisation listening, partaking, adding value to the conversation? If not, what are you missing out on?” Bradshaw continued. “Social media is the tool we use to connect with other people. You should be bold.”

Read more: Social media command centres: Fad or must for brands?

Target Australia is endeavouring to take a more engagement-led approach to social, and Bradshaw pointed to its response to consumer criticisms following a decision to stop selling the computer game, Grand Theft Auto V. Over the following two days, the retailer received more than 40,000 comments on social and responded to all of them.

In one such example, a customer posted a comment about a petition signed by 47,000 of the game’s supporters asking Target to also stop selling the bible. The problem was, Target doesn’t sell the bible. Target’s social media team’s response was: “We don’t actually sell the bible at Target, that’s some impressive numbers though!”

Much like customer calls in the contact centre, all of these conversations were managed to closure, Bradshaw said.

“Did it necessarily win us new customers? Probably not. Did it demonstrate we are committed to social media? Absolutely. And that every customer matters? Absolutely.”

As an another example, Bradshaw pointed to a post on its Facebook page about whether it sold products to ward off a zombie attack. The retailer’s response weaved in products sold in store that potentially could cope with that and took a conversational line with the customer, he said.

“Applying a social filter to how we service and reach out to customers, we replied with a story at a relevant length to what that consumer asked,” Bradshaw said. “This resulted in positive press for Target ... we couldn’t get marketing or PR to get this out to customers and create as viable a conversation.”

None of this could have happened without giving the social team the flexibility to respond, as well as be supported operationally by the rest of the organisation, he said. As a result, Bradshaw advised brands to be “bold”, as well as to empower teams to lead social comments and interactions with a consistent voice.

Bradshaw’s other tips were:

  • Decide on your voice and match your customer. “You need to be consistent, otherwise customers will disengage,” he said.
  • Inform social media teams on legal ramifications on what they do. “It’s not about instilling the fear of God. But they’re adults, so flag the potential for legal implications,” he said.
  • Be timely. Target’s social team work on two-hour response window during service hours.
  • Respond to everyone. “It has to be about what your customer wants,” Bradshaw said.
  • Try stuff and learn. “Make sure team members understand when they try something and get it wrong, that it’s OK, but they don’t keep trying the same thing and to change the language,” he said.
  • Have fun. “It’s about connection, telling your story and engagement,” Bradshaw added.

Nadia Cameron attended Customer 360 Symposium as a guest of Ashton Media.

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