The job of handling your organizations brand can fall under a number of titles: Public Relations, Marketing & Communications just to name a few. No matter what the title on your business card says, if this is a part of your responsibilities, you realize it’s about what, how and when you put information out there. With the fast, ever-changing evolution of social media, you must adopt new skills, knowledge, and daily activities in your professional practice as they relate to social media, technology and your organizations brand. Below are some key responsibilities you must add to your job description for you to be successful.

Social Media Policymaker

Getting other team members involved in your organizations social media campaign is a great way to create content with various perspectives and personalities. Let someone from sales, customer service and even your management team be part of the conversation. However, with this many voices and platforms, you must have guidelines & best practices in place as well as training on various platforms. Employees need straightforward guidelines on how and what can be said. They must also know who to turn to if they have a question on handling a sensitive situation. Not every employee in your organization will be familiar or comfortable with social media. The education of these new communication tools is essential to the success. Employees want to feel part of the process not left behind

Internal Collaboration Generator

You know social media is an excellent tool for all areas of your organization to engage customers. As a PR professional you need to know what is going on in all areas of your company, since social media moves across all areas of your company. To develop your plan and strategy without leaving out an important piece, create your “dream team” by selecting a team member from each department with key players to be part of this team. Better sharing on the inside leads to better sharing on the outside.

Technology Tester

Keep you up to date on new platforms. Set time aside each week to research and test new platforms. Test them among your “dream team” internally to decide if certain platforms are a good fit for your organization and how they should be used.

Communications Organizer

Consider your company’s current communication process. Communication today comes from all departments rather than straight down from management. You must develop a process for gathering information, analyzing its importance and creating a message to be put out to the public. Plan the best ways to create cohesive and consistent messaging so that social media doesn’t fragment your brand.

Reputation Monitor

Last but not least is the responsibility of monitoring your company’s reputation, responding appropriately and in a timely manner. This is where your previous work of defining your company policies comes in to play. Your goal is to have people engaging with your brand. The downside is that people aren’t always going to be positive. With your new communication strategies in place, you and your team will already have a plan on how to quickly handle these situations. Use social media monitoring software that alerts you when important terms are mentioned; check back to your accounts briefly every hour or two to see if you need to respond to anyone, follow someone back, etc.

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Your website is the “nuts and bolts” of your company. A good, customer friendly site will provide your customers and prospects most or in many cases all of the information they need about you, without having to contact you. The internet has completely revolutionized customer contact.

Relationships with your clients are still very important, but now the consumer has all the information about you, your industry, and your competitors at their fingertips. There are no secrets on the internet. So why would you not provide your customers with everything they need to know about you through your website? Here are five tips to get your started in the right direction:

1. Know your users. Design your website through the eyes of your customers. It’s worth taking some time to survey customers and have them review your site. Ask them what they like most and least about it. Ask them what they like about competitors sites and other websites they frequently use.

2. Keep your content clear, not cluttered. Use headlines and graphics that make it easy to identify what your customers want to know. Organize the content where they do not have to scroll and scroll and scroll down your page. Don’t overdo it. There is a fine line between just right and too much.

3. Make it easy to contact you. You should include a simple contact form, an email, and a phone number to contact your company on every page.

4. Navigation. The navigation of your website needs to quickly and clearly identify where your customers can access what they are looking for. They should be able to do this with two clicks of the mouse or less.

5. Make sure your website is mobile friendly. In 2011 smartphone shipments surpassed desktop computer shipments. There is a very good chance that your customers will be viewing your website on a smartphone.

Think about how busy you are and how important it is for you to find the information you need quickly. If it is that important to you, don’t you think it is also just as important to your customers?

75% of consumers belong to at least one reward program.

The most valuable assets a company has are satisfied customers. That is why companies like Southwest, Best Buy and PetSmart all have a loyalty or reward program for their customers. Why? They know what we all know; the best way to make extra income for your business is by appreciating the business you already have. I know in my office, we look at Best buying first when purchasing electronics, because their Reward Program has benefited us. Ask yourself this, are my customers feeling appreciated and motivated to use me again or has my company been quickly forgotten? If the answer is quickly forgotten, a reward program may be just what your company needs.
Loyalty or Referral programs are a way to not only keep customers coming back. Current customers will recommend the business to other potential customers. Usually these rewards cost much less than marketing to new customers and creates a higher ROI. But do all reward programs have to be as involved as Southwest or have a special card to work? We say No!

Want to create an effective referral program for you company? Here are some ideas:

1. Strive for excellence. Giving the client the best possible experience is the # 1 way to get clients coming back. They want more value than they were expecting, don’t we all? There’s an old saying, “the best advertising is word of mouth.” There is no actual reward for the client except the satisfaction and pride that they chose a company to work with that was excellent.

2. Be unique. My daughter’s orthodontist has a fairly basic waiting room that only stands out because they have pads for the kids to play on while they wait. My daughter’s friends were all talking about the “cool waiting room”, and she didn’t want to go anywhere else when it came down to choosing an orthodontist. So, are we saying a $500 pad created a $5000 client? Not solely, but it sure had a part in the decision.

3. Create a Win, Win situation. Everyone is busy these days, and unless you have done #1 and #2 above very well, then even if the customer loves your business, they aren’t likely to volunteer a referral. Ask yourself, would the referral program you’re offering be worth your time if you were the client? Then ask yourself, “Is the reward our company is offering so good that it will eat up any type of profit?” Research and analyze your referral program plan and find the right balance.

4. Simple is the name of the game. We have all had the credit card with the crazy reward program that would require a degree in economics to fully understand. Don’t do that! American Express has a huge client following because there point system is easy to understand and use. If the reward requires too much effort, the client is going to say it is not worth their time and move on.

5. Encourage staff buy-in. If your reward is too hard to understand or seems like a rip-off to your staff, it will be hard to make your customers think it’s a good deal for them. Train your staff on your offers and help them to see the value. Encourage input from them on ways to improve the program. After all, they are the ones in front of the customer. Anytime an employee feels a part of the development of a program, there will be more participation involved.

Free phone with new service, free installation with new service, free everything with new service! Isn’t this most companies’ offers these days?
Recently, I saw just the ad for a new cable service offered by our provider and wanted more information. I have been with this company for five years and thought; surely they will give me the same deal that they are giving new customers. Wrong! I was actually quoted a higher price. When I asked why, they said the deals are for new service only. So, does my cable company only value new customers? That appears to be what their actions were saying until I spoke with a sane customer service representative and he put it in perspective, why would we not be good to a customer that has been loyal to our company for 5 years and good to a customer that has not had any proven loyalty. That makes no sense. I left the conversation feeling appreciated and valued and remain a customer. To top it off, my cable company increased the value of our relationship to them by 15%. Doesn’t making more $$$ on your bottom line without having to cold call and solicit new customers seems like a good plan?

So what are the steps to providing good customer service and making your customers feel appreciated and want to do more business with your company?

1. Meet with them 1 on 1:

It may seem old fashion, but your customers will appreciate your time spent with them. Relationship is the name of the game. By meeting with your client frequently, you will establish a bond and assurance that you’re working for them and want what is best for their company. Be calm and confident and ask them their needs. Let them talk and most importantly, LISTEN, and if a customer has a negative experience, an email is the last thing they want to see, but if you meet with them and offer solutions, you will most certainly walk away with a better situation.

2. This is 2012, react fast!

If a customer has a need, respond quickly. Not doing so, implies you feel they are not important and not worth your time. I don’t need a great stat to prove this point. This is self-explanatory, if I call a company with a question and don’t receive some sort of response in the next couple of hours, I will move on. Even if you’re not able to meet their need right away, let the customer know you’re working on it. Anticipating a need is an even bigger bonus, and always appreciated.

3. “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

As the old saying, being friendly and relatable is the key to any good client relationship. That being said, we are all busy, and I can’t count how many times I have had a salesperson in my office trying to “relate” with me only to go on for an hour with their problems. Most people are very nice and will never say how annoying they find your intrusion on their time, but if you focus on your client, and get to know them and less on you, you will have a long partnership.

4. Go Old School
These days it’s easy to send a quick email or Facebook message thanking someone for their business. A couple of weeks ago, a vendor of ours went “old school” and wrote a hand written thank you note to us. It made me pause and appreciate the extra effort they gave. Did they include a thank you product, a free offer for service, or discounts on an item? Nope! All that was needed was a tried and true Thank You!

5. Honor your promises.
This will get a business in trouble every time. If you tell a customer that you will do a service for them and don’t complete the service or it is delayed, it is hard to build a trustworthy relationship. Be realistic on your abilities and time. If you are swamped, have equipment malfunctions, or any other issues, relate that to the client ahead of time. We have heard several stories about vendors promising the product, receiving the payment and never able to finish the project. On the other hand, when a service is done on time and as expected more business is sure to follow.

Where we live, we have a pharmacy that continues to grow every year. How do they do it and compete against the Walgreen’s and CVS in town? Customer service! They value the importance of their current customers, and because of this great care, they have a high referral rate. This may be a face paced world, but I think we all still want some good hometown hospitality. Are you showing it to your customers?