March 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Valentine's Day massacre

(Page 2 of 2)

It's a policy designed to quickly address a faux pas that quickly can go viral. Taking any other approach could be fatal for businesses that promote the good feelings that go with sending flowers and gifts, particularly when customers' outcries through social media are so public. To the customer who complained that ProFlowers ruined her Valentine's Day, a customer service rep named Luke replied: "I apologize for your experience. Please contact us at 888-855-3486 and we will make this right."

In addition to monitoring and responding to Facebook and Twitter, retailers also have available to them a new crop of software tools, such as Radian6 from Inc., RightNow Social Experience from Oracle Corp., Attensity Analyze, and Tracx to stay on top of buzz through social media's broad scope, including countless blogs, forums and online communities. Each of these tools can integrate with contact centers, enabling customer service agents to analyze and respond to consumer comments, says Mitch Kramer, an analyst at Patricia Seybold Group, who follows how social media impacts brands and efforts to build brands through customer service and loyalty programs.

"Informally or formally, everyone is trying to listen to what's out there in social media," Kramer says.

They're also learning new ways to interact with social media. Tracx, for example, integrates with software from other companies such as LivePerson Inc., a provider of live chat and analytics systems, enabling clients to monitor and use social media content related to their brands during customer service or marketing interactions with consumers. "Businesses are able to monitor and analyze social media conversations related to their brand, and use those tweets, posts and mentions as an opportunity to engage with consumers," says Ido Hacohen, head of the partner ecosystem at LivePerson.

However they respond, retailers can no longer afford to ignore what consumers say about them on online social networks.

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