All week we have been talking about the value of brand evangelists and why companies should be connecting with them. Today I wanted to look at a company that’s connecting with not only its evangelists, but some of its detractors as well.
Recently, Dell held a CAP Days event in Germany. CAP stands for Customer Advisory Panel, and it is an event where Dell meets with some of its customers that have had both good and bad things to say about the company. This is the 3rd CAP Days event that Dell has held. I am partial to this event since I helped Dell facilitate the first one last Summer in Austin, but I also think it’s an amazing case of how social media can help businesses connect with brand evangelists.
I talked to Richard Binhammer a few days ago, and he said that the participants for all the CAP Days events (there have been 3 so far in the US, China and Germany, with plans to expand to other locations) were identified via the social media and online monitoring that Dell is already doing. A good example of social media making existing business processes more efficient.
But back to the most recent CAP Days event that was held in Germany. Dell met with 10 customers that all had feedback for Dell, both good and bad. What I found fascinating was that Dell was extremely open with what it learned about connecting with its customers at this event. Here are the takeaways from the company’s point of view, and when you read these, keep in mind that this was published on Dell’s Direct2Dell blog:
- Our customers seem to have lost the emotional connection to Dell. They no longer understand the benefit of our direct relationships with our customers.
- We have reliable products and good support (if they pick the right support option!), but our advertising is misguided and an annoyance to some of our customers.
- Listening can be incredibly powerful. It’s unusual that a company the size of Dell listens to customers in such an open forum. Customers had never experienced such open dialogue with a global company.
- Customers do care about Dell, and they are spending their own time helping other customers and defending Dell online.
- We must deliver a better customer experience. There are millions of customers out there who will be loyal to Dell and buy more if we up our game and deliver the best Customer Experience!
As I was reading this, it seemed as if this was being written as an internal reminder and lesson for Dell’s employees, as much as anything. But note the bolded areas (which I added). How often do you see a big brand talking this openly and honestly about themselves? Not very.
And let’s remember that Dell has this honest feedback available to them because they sought it from their customers. They monitored the online conversation around their brand, identified key participants, and met with them directly to learn from them how they can improve their business and customer service processes. Now they are taking that feedback and not only improving existing business and customer service efforts, but the CAP Days program itself is becoming a more efficient way to connect with customers.
And it is becoming a way to convert detractors into evangelists. Think about yesterday’s post and how we talked about the ways that companies can create brand evangelists. We talked about how companies should monitor online conversations, how they should respond to customers and talk to them on their level, and how companies should understand who their companies are. All of these are present in the CAP Days program.
When I was involved in the first CAP Days event last Summer, I was talking to one of Dell’s customers that had some issues and problems with Dell’s products and services. I listened to him tell me about his problems, but then he added ‘Mack I want to see Dell succeed’. And then he told me how being involved in that event had opened his eyes to the fact that even though Dell was making mistakes, that it showed that they were committed to finding those mistakes, and correcting them. He had arrived at the event skeptical of Dell’s commitment to improvement, but left feeling much better about being a Dell customer.
In closing, I want to restate the supreme importance of monitoring online brand mentions for all companies. Especially higher companies like Dell. While I am thrilled with the progress Dell is making, I also see that it’s putting their competitors at a self-imposed disadvantage. Dell is taking the scary step of connecting directly with its online customers, and they are reaping the rewards of their bravery.
Here’s some very basic (baby) steps that your company can take to better connect with your online customers:
1 – Start monitoring online mentions of your company, brand, competitors, and industry. If you’re a larger brand that has hundreds if not thousands of new mentions daily, you should probably invest in a monitoring platform to help get deeper insights from the data. Or if you’re a small business, you can probably get by with Google Alerts or a free option. Here’s a post I wrote on how to set up Google Alerts in 5 mins.
BTW a big reason why I think it’s important for your company to monitor online mentions is to get a better understand of WHO your online customers are and WHAT they are saying. I still think many companies live with a largely unfounded fear that bloggers are people that are going out of their way to slam their company. This is almost always incorrect, and companies can see this by monitoring and uncovering exactly what customers are saying about them online.
2 – Start reaching out directly to customers that mention you, especially bloggers. If you see a blogger that’s covering you, offer to connect them with someone at your company that can give them better information. For example, Richard mentioned CAP Days in Germany to me, I told him I would like to do a post on it (this one), and he had Carly Tatum (who helped facilitate CAP Days Germany) to give me more information on it.
Your company should be doing the same thing, you should be reaching out to bloggers and other online customers that are talking about your brand, and interact with them. This will help ensure that these customers get accurate information about your company, and if you handle the exchange correctly, it will encourage more coverage from bloggers.
3 – Act on feedback you get from online customers, and let them know you are doing this. If a customer raises a valid point or complaint online, help them, but then you can use that exchange to let other customers know that you want their feedback as well. By listening to customers and acting on their feedback, you are ensuring that you will get more (and better) feedback, but also, you will improve customer satisfaction. Customers want to be respected and heard by the brands they buy from. They appreciate the ones that show a willingness to do this.
So those are some ideas on how you can better listen to your customers’ online conversations, and act on them. Oh and if you are curious, here is a short video (in German) that Dell created to document their CAP Days event in Germany. It will give you an idea of how the event was structured.
What are your thoughts on how Dell is using CAP Days to directly connect with its evangelists, as well as detractors? Is this something that other big brands should be doing? What could be improved about the process?