Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tackle the basics first, the rest (social media) will then follow

There were great moments at this year’s e-pharma summit (from Paul Ivan’s “Social has changed the world, but mobile will change marketing” to @epatientdave’s inspiring presentation to mention a few).

One comment made by Ginger Vieira who gave a patient testimony about pharma’s support during the Wednesday session, caught my attention. Ginger is a very eloquent 24 years old diabetes patient who has dealt with her condition for 10 years. She frequently blogs about diabetes (click here to see some of her posts on Healthcentral). While speaking about seeking product support for a medical device, Ginger simply stated that she did not see any compelling reasons to try to reach a manufacturer 800 number for support given that most likely the call center would be outsourced and staffed with agents who does not speak English clearly, that it would take too long to get to the right person...(I am paraphrasing Ginger’s comment), while she could get the answer within 5 minutes from another patient on twitter.
Beyond pharma, this addresses the purpose we want to give to our social media engagement, and how it ads value to our customers. The example of Comcast comes to mind. Allegedly, Comcast’s customer service can be perceived as very poor and stories of frustrating calls to Comcast’s customer service are easy to find on the internet (I’ve got few to share….). However, Comcast has been very diligent in resolving issues posted by frustrated customers on Twitter which has been presented as a customer support success for Comcast (click here or here for some Comcast / Twitter study cases). The question that comes to mind is whether or not the success scored by Comcast with the disgruntled tweets can actually positively overcome the potential vast majority of frustrated consumers who rely on phone and email for support.

When thinking of Ginger, it seems to make sense for any company to ensure that the support it can provide to the majority of its customers (beyond those on Twitter or Facebook) is delivering what it intends (which clearly is not the case in Ginger’s opinion). Fixing what we already have to provide any support should be our first step. Social Media will then follow naturally when happy customers tweet about it. Can we compare the value of any company’s tweet to that of a consumer twitting the following: “Ginger, call XYZ Pharmaceuticals, they have an awesome customer service”?

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