The New Year Social Review – getting the right skills on board

18 January 2011

Having just returned from my very enjoyable travels around Columbia I thought I would take the opportunity to tackle a topic that comes up each year. As we set our New Year resolutions and settle on our agreed annual objectives I wanted to share some thoughts on how to determine if you have the right skills in your team for the year ahead.
Several clients are keen to know how to structure their marketing departments in light of the challenges and opportunities that social media brings so I thought I’d discuss a few new roles that have emerged and some of the skill sets you may be looking for this year. You may recall last year that I talked about the emerging role of the Chief Listening Officer[1] which has come to light in companies such as Dell and others.
In this blog I talk about the importance of data mining expertise and making sure that customer feedback and intelligence gleaned from social media is fed to the right part of your organisation so it can be acted upon. In addition there is also a need to be monitoring the conversations that are going on about your brand and market and there are a number of solutions out there which can help to do this in addition to the free tools like Google Alerts. Fresh Minds have two helpful free whitepapers which evaluate how good each monitoring tool is.[2]
The other key skills that I think you really need which may be already sitting in your existing customer service team and need to be leveraged are those of community management. The role of Community Manager is a really important one and needs people who understand relationship management and react fast to customer needs and engage with customers in a compelling and personable way. The need to have guidelines is important but the Community Manager is someone who has a free rein to be themselves and is not bootstrapped with too many brand guidelines which restricts them from using certain words but is given a Social Media Policy which gives them concrete examples of how to handle each type of situation they are faced with but without being over prescriptive. They are likely to be the Customer Champion within the organisation campaigning for changes which will win them repeat business and some new friends.
People buy from people who are a pleasure to communicate with and sometimes we forget about the importance of the quality of our conversations. Columbia is a great example of best practice – their charming people welcome you to their country at every opportunity and respond with a smile and “con mucho gusto (with pleasure) to most customer requests.
There is much we can learn from our South American colleagues to improve our online dialogue. I’m not sure if many budgets will stretch to South American customer training for our new breed of Community Managers. However I understand they have a booming customer service business, providing Spanish customer service agents overseas and I now know why. 

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