What is the greatest opportunity and the greatest unknown in marketing?
It’s the one that got away. It’s the customer who viewed the web site and left. It’s the customer who bought your product once, but not again. It’s the student who does the course, gets the qualification but doesn’t become a member. Until now this was a black hole where customers disappeared.
Social media changes this. I am prompted to make this observation after listening to several conversations on LinkedIn concerning the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) of which I am a member. In one comment, a disgruntled member was calling for the sacking of the entire management board. The last time I looked this had attracted 105 further comments. In another conversation a group of students were telling of poor exam feedback, communications from HQ that were formal to a degree that seemed harsh and a generally unwelcoming attitude. I hope that the officers of the organisation are listening to the comments and taking action.
There will always be times where customers feel genuinely disappointed a service or product. What were perhaps minor and isolated gripes in the past can be amplified by social media to become much more significant and eventual prejudices against an organisation. In most cases there is a simple remedy; ensure every communication treats customers with respect and work fast to resolve outstanding issues.
So what has this got to do with PR? Well quite a lot. Every contact that an organisation has with its customers is micro PR. Answering the phone promptly, remembering a name, addressing correspondence correctly, being welcoming and human in your response are all part of the process that draws customers to the company and helps build relationships of real value to both parties.
Here is a link to an article by Paul Chaney on the practical ecommerce web site that reinforces the point about building relationships by listening and learning. The article is about experience in the USA, but the principles are equally valid here.