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Influencer marketing was brought to the attention of many earlier this year by Netflix’s “Fyre” documentary — highlighting the creation and unraveling of a music festival promoted extensively through influencers such as models and musical artists. 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 such as the web and social media became mainstream channels in marketing programs.

How Does Influencer Marketing Fit into Customer Service?

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 refers to detecting satisfied clients and encouraging them to share their positive experiences with peers across various social media portals such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This, by definition, requires the service organization to meet and exceed customer needs to earn such positive word-of-mouth.

Aberdeen’s March 2019 CX Executive’s Agenda study shows that 62% of Best-in-Class service organizations currently have a program where they determine satisfied customers through various methods such as online surveys, IVR surveys, and speech analytics, and encourage them to share their positive experiences. It’s worth noting that of these firms with this capability, 32% are firms with a pure Business-to-Business (B2B) model. Hence, we can note that working with influencers as part of the broader CX activities isn’t reserved just for Business-to-Consumer (B2C) companies.

Service leaders are in a unique position to determine satisfied clients. They capture a wealth of customer feedback and behavioral data through post-call surveys in the contact center, speech analytics to detect sentiment as well as utilize online surveys, etc. to gauge their ability to meet and exceed client needs. Incorporating influencer marketing within service activities therefore requires segmenting this data to determine 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 may be extremely satisfied with a recent experience, they may not have a large number of followers across their social media portals. This is where service leaders must also segment satisfied clients based on their ‘influence.’

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

Once you determine 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 upgrading clients from silver to gold membership level. Because each individual has unique preferences, it’s best to micro-segment influencers by different criteria such as age or region to determine best ways to encourage them. For example, such micro-segmentation may reveal that influencers that are below age 30 are more likely to share positive word-of-mouth when the company rewards them with a $50 gift card versus influencers over the age of 30 being more likely to share positive word-of-mouth when they are rewarded with a complimentary two-year product warranty program.

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 the 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 formalized approach to determine 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 brand impacting your brand awareness and perception.