The first thing a customer sees is your front desk. Your front facing person could be a greeter at your entry way, a receptionist, a voice mail system, your Twitter account or any of a number of things – but you do have a first impression to make.
As 2010 draws to a close I ask you: is your front desk in order? Are you ready for 2011?
If your front desk is a web presence, is it ready for customers, giving them easy to find, useful, comprehensive information? After doing this assessment on myself last year, I revamped my own presences. I will likely need to do this again, and again – just like you.
If your front desk is an automated system of any kind: voice mail, auto DM, canned responses, etc my opinion is you need to trash it and start with something more human, helpful and accessible.
If your front desk is brick and mortar based: restaurant staff, receptionists, door greeters, customer service representatives and more, are these people fully trained in your goals, in how you want your online presences used, in your message and how to really be helpful to your customers?
Are you giving the front line of your company enough information and power to be effective in this economic battleground, or do you render them mute by keeping them in silos, like so many mushrooms?
Give an honest assessment of your own front desk, and use the last bit of 2010 to make it shine so you get off on the right foot in 2011.
Chances are, your organization, company, film, band or brand may not be ready for social media. Why? Because your existing infrastructure has more wobble than an old school 8 inch floppy disk, and is narrower in scope than a wet noodle. Put it out there into the social media fray, and you may be destined for a wake up call you weren’t expecting.
I can’t tell you how many people are surprised to see business development and operational structure at the top of the list of things we’ll be assessing – and possibly making changes to – when we embark on bringing social media into your game. The reason for this is simple: if you don’t have a foundation and a way to address any concern or need your customers may throw at you, you will struggle on the back end. It’s a recipe for being overwhelmed, burning out, giving up and throwing in the towel, all before your market really gets to know you in a space that, while new to you, is old hat to many of them.
Take Comcast. Or, excuse me, “Xfinity” [yes, I do in fact roll my eyes every time I have to say “Xfinity”]. Frank – the power behind @ComcastCares and the Comcast Twitter team, the company blog and more, is an amazing guy personally and professionally. Professionally, he has pulled up the Comcast reputation by miles since he embarked on Twitter. You get better service, faster, from the Twitter team than from any other Comcast consumer touch point.
Why then, does Comcast still need a makeover of their brand, to the point where the company actually entertained a name change as a great idea? Because no matter how hard Frank and his team work, and how much we embrace them online, the Comcast infrastructure still sucks at a very local level. Yes, just being helped with the things in their control, or feeling contacted and acknowledged makes you feel better about an issue you may be having, but at some point? You still have to actually solve a problem and then hopefully keep it from recurring. Because of the way Comcast is structured (without getting too complex on you, think of it as kind of like a franchise – even going a town or two over you may be dealing with a whole new Comcast provider). Don’t let your company be another Comcast, with an all-star online team, a great team leader and spotty infrastructure.
How do you avoid this common problem? Slow down, think ahead. It seems counterintuitive in this fast paced internet world with a new tool every five minutes to tell you to slow down and smell the roses, but you must. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by shiny object syndrome – get your infrastructure in place as best you can, bring in enough of a team to maintain your efforts and give it meaning, focus your efforts on the core platforms and areas that makes sense to you right now, be willing to grow out of those in time as much as you are willing to develop them, empower your team to make decisions, trust the team to follow your basic guidelines (if you don’t have employee guidelines for social media yet, that is a whole other post), learn to listen early and often, and be willing to effect change in your organization in response to the shifts that social media will bring your business.
Some companies will assume thinking ahead means waiting to dip their toes in water. Not so! It simply means that you need to envision all of the ways people interact with you now, and how that might grow and change if you make it easier and more immediate for them to reach you. Then look at how your company is structured and make sure it can handle what people throw your way. Nothing frustrates people more than seeing someone or some company on a platform they love, trying to interact, and getting no response, bad response, ineffective response or delayed response. Be ready, be flexible, be present and be listening, even as you learn the ropes.