Social media strategy becoming crucial

CANADIAN insurers are being urged to develop a social media strategy to deal with new demands from consumers who are increasingly making their complaints online.

Andrew Bartucci, manager of digital communications and social media at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said companies have to grasp the level at which customers are tweeting and Facebook-messaging about company brands.

“(People) are posting defamatory comments all the time,” he told the recent Insurance Institute risk forum in Toronto.

“And how do we protect our brand and rise above that?”

He said social media has the power to sway public opinion.

“All (consumers) are now media producers so we have a lot more responsibility on behalf of our brands to monitor these things and engage appropriately,” Mr. Bartucci said.

“It’s not only the (mass media) and can’t be treated as such.”

And that keeps communications teams busy as each social media posting has to be handled on a one-on-one basis.

Some companies are even encouraging that consumers communicate exclusively online instead of through traditional call centres.

The problem is that now people can see each and every online post, creating a conundrum for organizations.

“If you have a problem and (a company) doesn’t get back to you or give you the right answers or don’t handle it appropriately, now you have thousands of people that can see that,” Mr. Bartucci said.

“It becomes more of a problem than the average phone call which is one-to-one. Now (the complaint) is live and it is out there.”

He said that it is important for companies to direct consumers offline to prevent an escalation of the issue for all to see.

And while companies work to stay ahead of complaints, it is also necessary to celebrate successes — where consumers share positive comments about a brand.

“When someone says something nice about the brand, it’s an opportunity to have a conversation and engage them,” Mr. Bartucci said.

“Customers can go from a happy one to a consumer who champions the brand.”

In order to succeed in this new world of customer service, companies need to have a social media policy to manage the risk.

He said success can be gained by creating protocols, authorizing select staff to handle social media and teaching staff about key messaging.

“You have to contain reputational risk during disasters — especially in our industry with the increase of natural disasters and legislation that could impact (consumers) as well,” Mr. Bartucci said.

“Customers are not always right but they always have a voice (and they deserve) honesty and transparency — no matter what you are selling or what industry you are in.”