The following post is part of the Mindjumpers Network series. Mindjumpers Network is a global network of local country community managers enabling international companies to execute and maintain brand communities in a structured, quality assured and cost effective way across markets with the aim of creating effect and value. This post is written by Fredrik Olimb, Local Community Manager from Norway and part of Mindjumpers Network. Fredrik studies PR and Communication at BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway.
In this blog post, I want to highlight some of the benefits of local community management, and why I believe it is necessary for a global company to outsource one of its most visible properties (next to the product) – its communication. My experience comes from personal observation as a Local Community Manager for one of Mindjumpers Network’s clients, Ben & Jerry’s Nordic, as well as from my several years of interest in the field of PR and communication.
Atmosphere and timing
I am Norwegian in every sense of the word. I like to go cross-country skiing, I eat goat cheese and I celebrate with pride every year the 17th of May to commemorate the day we signed our constitution. I am also shy in public places, restrain myself from bragging and I am never satisfied with the weather (which is extremely typical for Norwegians). These are all labels of our citizens, and we accept it as parts of our culture. For a foreigner, be it a person or company, they might comprehend this without really understanding its essence. This is important. For most global companies, it will not be possible to have local offices in every country in which they are represented. It does not make financial sense. And this is where it gets difficult. How do you communicate with those citizens, when you are unaware of the ever-changing atmosphere?
The Nordic countries are not one and the same; they are Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – similar geographically and in the quality of life – but four different countries nonetheless. This is where I, and other Local Community Managers from these countries come into the picture. We might not have a diploma in Political Science, but we have lived and breathed amongst the consumers we try to reach. We have the opportunity to observe the spirit of the people, everyday, through personal impressions, social media, news and media – essential when managing a community on a local level.
Why dissatisfied customers leave
The first manager I ever worked for once told me: “99 out of 100 dissatisfied customers give you a piece of their mind, while one out of 100 happy customers give you praise”. I’ve always kept that in mind, especially after I began studying PR. Consider the critical timeframe from when a displeased customer expresses his or her anger to when that customer loses interest in a product. Time is of the essence – and to every customer their issue matters the most. As Erika Andersen writes in an article for Forbes; people really hate bad customer service. What would happen to a customer of your brand if he or she 1) was ignored, 2) got a displeasing answer without follow-up, or 3) received help in English or crudely translated local language? You would have an unsatisfied customer who probably could speak negatively about you amongst his or her community of friends, which further could result into not only loosing one customer, but also many.
Through local community management, we are able to meet the customers in the right tone of voice at the core of their problems – if there are any. I personally believe that this is the customer communication of modern age. Customers do no longer need to drive to the brands’ offices or stores, neither waiting in line on the phone to get the customer service they need. People should be able to express their concern where they are present and where they have a big part of their social life, such as on Facebook.
Why all markets are unique – and why you should be aware of it
As a Local Community Manager in Norway, I take pride in knowing my recipients. After all, I am one of them. I know how we react to different approaches at different times. Of course, me being Norwegian, I have to believe that the Norwegian population exists of unique individuals and differs from citizens in other countries – and I genuinely believe this to be the case. The good, old national pride that a Local Community Managers possesses is a resource that an International brand benefits greatly from. What make Norwegians different from others? Probably nothing you could put in a strategic analysis.
But what I can reveal from experience is that as a small nation, we often react as one collective spirit. We laugh together through times of celebration, and we cry together through times of sorrow. Consumer communication can be a ticking time bomb if you’re not aware of local social behaviour and culture. To be aware, you need to be present. As a Local Community Manager, I assure that the brand shares the joy of the Norwegian people when we celebrate, just as I assure to keep the brand on a tighter leash when our nation goes through hardship.
Local community management to me is about three key points; knowing, caring, talking – in that order. Know whom your customers are and what they are feeling, care about their satisfaction, not just sales numbers, and talk to them on a personal level. This is how local community management can create business revenue – on a local as well as international level.