On nipping things in the bud

no speed limit signThings happen faster today than ever before, largely thanks to technology advances that allow ideas to move from one person to another at the speed of light.

That’s why almost every business has a responsibility to invest in staying on top of the conversations that are happening around them, and monitoring them in real-time wherever practicable. I met one business recently where the marketing director proudly showed me the daily report he receives detailing all social media conversations of interest to his firm. Sounds good, I thought, until I realised that each day’s report would arrive the day after the conversations had taken place! Reading yesterday’s news today might have served us well during the newspaper era, but today’s consumers expect real-time, up-to-the-minute information and responses.

Simply put, if a customer asks a question or (heaven forbid) voices a complaint about your product/service, you owe it to them to respond within the shortest time possible, preferably measured in minutes, not hours. This ‘nipping in the bud’ mentality needs to pervade every customer-facing part of your organisation.  Waiting until you receive the daily report the next morning is increasingly unacceptable and likely will come to be viewed as a denigration of responsibility as the speed of our interactions accelerates further.

But there’s more. You also need to have the ability to respond to people through their chosen channels, even if only to make initial contact so you can continue the conversation in private. You might think that your telephone and email support lines are all you need, but in truth you really ought to be present in all the places, online and offline, that your customers and partners frequent. And the best time to get the channels up and running is now, not tomorrow, or when a business crisis is underway.

This is a very different business world to the one you may have grown used to. Welcome to the real-time world.