As I sat to write this month's column, I came across interesting news from Google that the company has decided to launch a new service called Google Realtime, which was a feature of Google's (News - Alert) search prior to this move. By launching a separate site, the company has taken on the search features of companies like Twitter but, more importantly, this new page could eventually become the official Google results.
There is another possibility. By unveiling this new search page, increased attention will be focused on the capability to use Google in a new way and, as a result, more people will use this page instead of the standard Google home page. If enough people do, Google is in a position to better determine which results are pertinent, meaning these results will likely receive far greater attention in traditional Google search results.
Once again, I remind my readers that if a single customer has a bad experience with your brand and they tweet about the experience and it subsequently gets retweeted, the potential exists for this result to be shown to your potential new customers as they search for your brand.
The threat of having search engine results pertaining to your company or products filled with results you don't control is more real than ever and, sadly, customers tend to be less tweet-happy when they are satisfied with a purchase.
As part of this new search service, users can refine a search based on town, state and country and they can further see a timeline of what people have said about a company or anything else. Moreover Google has now put together conversations so a searcher can see a customer complaint as well as responses from others who chimed in on the matter.If this wasn't enough, you can set up real-time alerts on any topic, so, if I am about to buy a Toyota and I set this feature up on the keywords “Camry” and “Toyota” and the company has a recall, I can be immediately kept in the loop. Obviously, this can kill a deal even when I am at the dealership if I receive an alert on my phone.
From a social CRM perspective, companies that have put in place a solid strategy to deal with customer complaints and questions via social networks are at a huge advantage. McDonalds is an example of a company who has done a good job in this regards - I recently tweeted them about Happy Meal gifts they plan on giving in the future and they rapidly answered. By the way, the Happy Meal wasn't for me - it was for a friend.
Seriously, though, the trend is very clear: social networking and Twitter, in particular, are allowing real-time conversations to take place and persist about your products and brand. They can break your company if you do not engage customers who are unhappy and get involved in the conversation.
I have spoken with company leaders who tell me they don't want to appear creepy and, subsequently, don't think engaging customers on Twitter is a smart move. I vehemently disagree. Twitter is a public forum and a basic tenet of providing proper service levels is to solve all customer problems you become aware of. Moreover, if you are CEO of a company that is in charge during a time when hundreds or thousands of negative comments are being made about you online and you do nothing about it, you will likely be considered incompetent in the future. That assumes, of course, your company has something useful to add to the discussion.
Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi