We don't often look to a news network for entrepreneurial lessons, but CNN's Rick Sanchez recently gave us a big one.
Making Customers Feel Valuable
Every customer wants a positive experience when they pull their wallet out to buy something. This experience goes way beyond a low price. Customers want helpful information, a friendly environment, and timely assistance. More importantly, they want to; feel important and valuable; to the businesses they frequent. Not just for the dollars they spend -- they want businesses to show interest in them.
Businesses of all sizes are recognizing that their customers have social needs.
Those social needs are critically important in building long lasting, meaningful relationships. In actuality this has always been the case, but the web has made it even more crucial.
Thankfully, the web has also made it much easier to connect with great numbers of people without big financial investments. In fact, technology has given our customers a much greater say in creating and controlling which experiences they wish to participate in.
Seeking Social Interaction
In a Web 2.0 world, business relationships begin with a search for information, clicks on links returned in a list, and content found on pages that should move the searcher to contact us. The search may begin on Google, but also by lobbing questions to our friends/colleagues on social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. It can also start by getting the opinions of those we don't know on sites like ePinions.
Content helps convert clicks into conversations. If a searcher can find a compelling blog post, video or discussion on the other side of a click, it's more likely he or she will become an active participant. Joining the ongoing conversation can lead to more collaborative experiences and build meaningful relationships, whether it be as partners, collaborators, vendors, or customers.
But the difference -- and it's a big difference -- in this kind of customer relationship is that it's built from the beginning on co-creation and experience-sharing. It's a partnership built on understanding the value each side brings to the transaction.
Getting Customer Input Can be Simple and Fast
While content can be as complex as a professionally produced video or podcast, it can be as simple as a comment left on a blog post, with the comment being just as effective as the video. It can also be a question sent via Twitter asking people to share their thoughts on Hurricane Gustav. This is exactly what CNN's Rick Sanchez did.
Sanchez not only used Twitter to share his news about what was going on, he invited people to help him cover it. Here is one of his Twitter messages:
Then later, on his show, he shared a number of tweets he received with his television viewing audience. That set the Twitter community on fire.
Rick Sanchez didn't have to do this. CNN is one of the most watched cable news stations as it is. But by tapping into the Twitter community and engaging in conversations going on, he added a whole new dimension to the experience these people had with his broadcast by making them a part of it. And the community responded in a most fascinating way, by being the feet on the street, and also by being a viral advertisement telling everyone within tweeting distance to watch Rick, and to co-anchor.
Welcome to the Age of the Social Customer
Rick Sanchez may have changed the way news is delivered with his reporting on Hurricane Gustav. One thing for sure that he did was create a bond with the Twitter community by inviting them to help him cover this most important story in near real time. This no doubt has brought new viewers, and strengthened relationships with current viewers, to CNN.
That's the impact social media can have on our businesses if we learn how to fully value what customers mean to us beyond the bottom line. Welcome to the age of the social customer.
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About the Author: Brent Leary is a Partner of CRM Essentials. Brent also hosts Technology For Business $ake, a radio show in the Altanta, Georgia, USA area about using technology in business.
Brent is a member of the Small Business Trends Expert Network.