Hanging out at the social business track at Le Web London allowed me once again to glimpse the perspective of the global enterprise and its slow stumble toward social business. The CEO of SocialBakers, a digital marketing company, this week cited an alarming number: the average time to respond to a customer question on a Facebook fan page is an unacceptable 28 hours. That is an industry benchmark? How can it be?
I'd rather align with brands who are doing it well: Claro, a South American mobile carrier, actually responds to 60% of its Facebook customers in under ten minutes—even though there are sometimes tens of thousands of wall posts 24/7. In contrast, the auto industry only responds to 17% of its customer posts at all. And large companies like Disney and British Airways, essentially service businesses, have closed profiles on Facebook. No conversation at all from the company side with Facebook fans.
So why be there at all if you are disengaged ? How can you expect customers to engage if you don't?
Your baseline metrics should not be about numbers of friends and followers or other external measures. Turn the digital camera on yourself and ask how long does it take your company to respond to customer questions on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It is not a question of how many responses you get to your campaigns; it is how you deal with them when you get them. How would you feel if you were put on hold for 28 hours?
Chris Heuer, cofounder of Social Media Club and thought leader in social business says, "My colleagues and I at Deloitte Consulting have begun to explore another insight over the past several months. The reason the ROI question has been such a challenge is because most companies have been laser focused purely on the financial aspects of investment and return. As a result of being focused on the world we knew and the traditional bottom line financial assessment, many have failed to recognize that the very nature of the market has changed, requiring us to take a more holistic approach. To understand the new market conditions, we should expand our concept of the nature of the returns we might garner and the significance they bring."
The returns, Heuer goes on to say, are in the customer's connectivity—in his or her network and what that can bring. "Social media isn't just contributing to brand value; it can be viewed as an active expression of brand value in the newly visible flows of non-monetary economic value that traverse our social networks—particularly flows of attention, data, stories and labor," Heuer says. "These flows are not only between the company and its customers, but amongst the participants in the more broadly defined view of the market that may include families of employees, the general public, competitors, and even former customers."
In this view, our algorithms for measuring the lifetime value of a customer are wrong. They're not even correct about where the lifetime value may be, or who is truly a customer.
We've known this intuitively all along. The value is in relationships, what Heuer calls the "engagement curve." That's why salespeople can take their book of business with them from company to company, or why a few shareholders in a forum can move a company's value in a few hours. In the new attention economy, the most valuable things to measure might be time. Or it might be influence.
Heuer warns us not to take even a single customer experience lightly. The new metric might be the lifetime value of a customer—and her network.
[Image:Flickr user Gilderic Photography]