The Role of Influencer Marketing in Customer Service

Influencer marketing was brought to the attention of many earlier this year by Netflix's "Fyre," a documentary highlighting the creation and unraveling of a music festival promoted extensively through influencers like models and musicians. Despite the recent hype, influencer marketing isn't a new tactic. For decades, marketers have been promoting new products, events, etc., through newspapers and magazines, long before digital channels became mainstream in marketing programs.

While marketers have perfected the use of influencer marketing to improve brand awareness and drive revenue, influencer marketing is still a relatively new concept for customer service leaders. For the service organization, influencer marketing involves detecting satisfied clients and encouraging them to share their positive experiences with peers across social media portals like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This, by definition, requires service organizations to meet and exceed customer needs to earn such positive word of mouth.

Aberdeen's most recent CX Executive's Agenda study found that 62 percent of best-in-class service organizations currently have a program where they identify satisfied customers through various methods, such as online surveys, interactive voice response surveys, and speech analytics, and encourage them to share their positive experiences. It's worth noting that of these firms, 32 percent have a pure business-to-business (B2B) model. Hence, we can note that working with influencers as part of broader CX activities isn't reserved just for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.

Service leaders are in a unique position to identify satisfied clients. They capture a wealth of customer feedback and behavioral data through post-call surveys in the contact center, speech and sentiment analytics, and online surveys, to gauge their ability to meet and exceed client needs. Incorporating influencer marketing within service activities, therefore, requires segmenting this data to identify clients with positive sentiment or feedback and asking them to share their experiences.

Spotting Influencers (and Keeping Them Satisfied)

It's also important to note that while a client might be extremely satisfied with a recent experience, he might not have a large number of followers across his social media portals. This is where service leaders must also segment satisfied clients based on their level of influence.

While influence is a rather subjective term, the most common definition of influencers in marketing programs refers to individuals who have more than average influence in the purchase and loyalty decisions of others. Several of the most common ways that marketers identify influencers includes taking into account the number of their followers on Twitter and/or Instagram, the number of subscribers to their YouTube channel, and their account activity, such as the number of posts.

Once you identify influencers, you should then provide them with incentives to share their positive experiences. While these incentives can be financial, such as a flight upgrade and other complimentary services, they can also be non-financial, such as loyalty program upgrades. Because each individual has unique preferences, it's best to micro-segment influencers by different criteria, such as age or region, to determine the best ways to encourage them. For example, such micro-segmentation might reveal that influencers below age 30 are more likely to share positive word of mouth when the company rewards them with a $50 gift card or that influencers over the age of 30 are more likely to share positive word of mouth when they receive a complimentary two-year product warranty.

To reveal such insights, service leaders must initially provide influencers with a variety of incentives and then analyze the most popular ones across each micro-segment. This analysis must be refreshed at least annually since customer expectations change, and the service organization must ensure the incentives provided to motivate influencers to share their positive experiences are relevant to current expectations.

There's Already a Foundation for Influencer Marketing

The good news for service leaders is that they don't have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to influencer marketing. It's already a mature activity in marketing, and they have the opportunity to learn from the best practices that work for marketers to achieve the best results in their own service programs. This means establishing a formal approach to identify influencers for the brand. If your marketing team already uses an influencer marketing program, we recommend collaborating to have a unified approach to manage influencer relations across your business.

While influencer marketing provides significant potential for service leaders to differentiate themselves by leveraging the voice of their happy clients, it's critical to remember that influential clients will recommend company products and services only when their needs are met efficiently. As such, service leaders must not lose sight of core activities, such as building and maintaining a single view of customer insights, using these insights to deliver contextual customer experiences across all channels, and improving efficiency by empowering contact center agents. When you balance those activities successfully, you'll also transform your service organization to become the face of your company, impacting your brand awareness and perception.

Omer Minkara is vice president and principal analyst for contact center and customer experience management at Aberdeen. Follow him on Twitter at @omerminkara.