Laura Petrolino

Social Business: A Customer Experience Time Machine

By: Laura Petrolino | July 8, 2014 | 
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Social Business: A Customer Experience Time MachineBy Laura Petrolino

I always like to compare the opportunities social media allows businesses today to what it might have been like to do business decades ago.

By allowing for familiarity and intimacy with your customers (and them with you), being a social business provides for a consumer connection that would be otherwise be unheard of in a vast global economy.

So, let’s take a moment to step inside the PetroPower time machine and see how business was done back in the “good ol’ days”…

Zoop, zoom, zing, zaaat!

(This is what I imagine time travel sounds like.)

You step into your local grocery store where the cashier, Timmy, greets you by name. The owner of the store comes out, shakes your hand, inquires about the family, and reminds you that your favorite brand of peas are on sale this week.

While shopping, you run into Larry, your accountant, who invites you to play tennis later in the week and comments on the local high school football team’s big win.

You knew the owners of most of the businesses you solicited and, in most cases, the rest of the employees that worked there. And you didn’t just know them by name – you knew who they were as people.

That familiarity led to trust because you weren’t doing business with a nameless, faceless brand – you were doing it with other human beings.

Social Business Provides Intimacy

As our society grew and businesses expanded with it, that intimacy and associated sense of trust disappeared.

This is part of the reason why social media’s entry into the space was such a game changer. Suddenly, organizations (who use it correctly) are able to provide intimacy again.

They are able to provide it in a way that makes sense in our present day business climate, through a scalable digital package.

This is part of the reason we almost always encourage our clients to embrace the intimate nature of social media in their strategies. This helps their customers learn more about them, not just in relation to their business, but as real, live people.

There is often automatic pushback when the recommendation is made, however.

  • “They don’t want to know about me.”
  • “Why would they care about our team?”
  • “Is that not self-serving? Egotistical? Off topic?”

Connection Builds Consumer Relationships

The fact is your consumer does care. They do want to know about the people who work there.

What makes us human is our connection to one another, and that connection is formed through our similarities, differences, backgrounds, experiences, and the way we encounter the world. It is through these things that bonds form.

These bonds go beyond customer/vendor to start developing relationships, which in turn, creates loyal customers, brand ambassadors, and an affinity which surpasses that of simply liking a product or service.

One could even say this type of intimacy is so important it should be seen as an inseparable part of your brand, operations, and customer service.

A Case Study

Recently, a client of ours sent an email to their client list, which highlighted one of their team members. It discussed some of his interests and activities outside of work. This email was really well done. It gave a great snapshot into his life and what he was passionate about.

Almost instantly, they started receiving emails and phone calls in response. Their clients were excited to finally be able to put both a face and a person to the man they talked to so often on the phone and had worked with (in many cases) for years.

This employee is very active in dog rescue, and many of the email recipients not only bonded with him through their mutual interests, but also introduced him to other people they thought might have similar interests.

The story was shared and new people were introduced to the company as a result.

Not only that, but this opportunity allowed the organization the ability to learn more about their clients as well – what they like, what they don’t like, and what they’re passionate about.

This mutual give and take is priceless and uncommon in the customer relationship.

The open rate of the email was one of the highest they’ve had, and the measurable results quite impressive.

A personal connection leads to a relationship, which then leads to trust.

Kinship Equals Purchase

Many of us are probably familiar with the famous quote from Jay Baer,

Social media creates kinship between companies and customers, and kinship equals purchase intent.

The concept of kinship is such an important one in our world today, both on a professional and a personal level. We are bombarded by superficial relationships, messages, and sales pitches daily. By providing our consumers the ability to authentically connect with us and create that sense of kinship, we are able to differentiate ourselves from the crowd, build relationships that last, and, in the end, support the bottom line.

What have been the most effective ways you’ve found to become a social business and help your consumer learn more about you?

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • Laura Petrolino

    step into the PetroPower Time Machine!!!

  • I am much more active from a personal standpoint in the online world but since I have been at LanierUpshaw forever most people I know don’t see much of a dividing line. Pretty much what you see from me online is the mirror image of me walking the streets….but not in a street walking way if you know what I mean…:). 

    Yes, I could be much more strategic with my efforts but I view both venues as networking opportunities in some form or fashion, and for me that has been my most effective way of ‘branding’ who I am and what I am all about. 

    The relationships I nurture from these efforts opens the most doors for me.

  • bdorman264 LanierUpshaw “but not in a street walking way if you know what I mean…” HAHAHAHA! 

    And I think you do a really good job at it (using social for networking, not street walking….). I’m the same, identical online as I am off (at least I think so). I’ve found most people tend to be. Of course you have those few really icky exceptions, but overall!

  • Well, I hate to use US as an example, but the AD team’s pretty out there on social – and what you see online is what you get. 🙂

  • I love your analogy of shopping at the store where you know everyone. Done properly, social can get you to that level of intimacy. Makes all the difference.

  • ClayMorgan There is no other way to do it to scale anymore (unless you are a small town business….like really small town). To me that’s the most exciting thing about social.

  • Eleanor Pierce Very true! We ARE as crazy as we seem!

  • This is all so true, Laura. And I suppose it is my constant refrain, but consistency is key. If I am interacting with you and feeling like I have established a relationship online, then I go to your store and get a lukewarm treatment (or my personal annoyance the mandatory “Welcome to [name of biz]” that they are clearly REQUIRED to say but don’t feel, then a real opportunity is lost. I suppose it’s not as true in reverse (that a biz that is AMAZING in person but not as interactive on social is a frustration). <<= that’s probably more of an “uncharted territory” thing where the biz has an opportunity to enhance an already warm and fuzzy dynamic.

  • biggreenpen At least your constant refrain is consistent! <drops mic>

  • Having just returned from a weekend in my husband’s *tiny* home town (400 people?), where literally everyone knows your name, I couldn’t agree with you more, Laura. That level of connectedness and intimacy is hard to find in this day and age, but it’s such a pleasure to encounter every now and again. Social is bringing some of that back, and those organizations who nail it, are reaping the benefits.

  • SusynEliseDuris

    Great post, Laura. Dog person here, too! I have bonded with so many people on other things besides business that those other things have been the reason I obtained their business. When I see people only chat about business on social, I wonder if they don’t have a life or they feel uncomfortable sharing their life with others. Today, people want to get to know you and trust you before they will do business with you. To help them, bring your human side into the conversation.

  • SusynEliseDuris You know Susyn, I think it is actually a sort of sad reality that a lot of people don’t actually have a life outside business and online communication. This is a HUGE problem when it comes to being able to communicate with others (not to mention other issues). I worry about our future generations not actually having the ability to communicate in a human fashion since so much of their social time is online.

  • belllindsay I was chatting with a friend the other day that moving to Maine is a bit like going back it time fifty years or so because of this same reason. It’s wonderfully refreshing and I think we all need to take time to connect (and not in a buzzwordy way)

  • SusynEliseDuris

    LauraPetrolino Amen, sister.

  • Your question is near and dear to my heart. If I could pick one way to get people to know me and my business I would say without equivocation, “Do what you say you were going to do.” Fill the order even if you have to go to another outlet and buy retail and deliver on time. Never, never say “no.”  unless you can soften it with a positive. “I don’t have that in stock but Home Depot does and I’ll have it delivered to you.” And,  if you’re of a mind, drop by the customers hose to see if everything went on schedule. He will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER forget you.

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