Social Media Enhances My Interactions with Customers

As a young executive at Schering-Plough, I learned a lot from Fred Hassan about the importance of ‘Being Connected’ and ‘Tuning In’ to customers by spending time with them and our front-line sales teams.  It was the best way to understand their experience with our products, identify things that we could do to improve patient care and formulate new ideas for business and product innovation. 

Fast forward nearly 15 years, as CEO of Allergan I remain 100% committed to this model.  Those customer and front-line relationships are more important to me than ever, but my time is also more limited than ever. 

Luckily, social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, have emerged as valuable tools for CEOs to stay connected with their customers, colleagues and business partners. But I can tell you that they are some of the most underutilized tools in the arsenal of today’s leaders.  It’s not just for news folks.  Many CEOs fall into one of several social media traps: some avoid it, some use it as one-way communication, or relegate social media to the communications department to watch over.  And, sometimes they let others dictate the messaging, which may result in an authenticity gap that dilutes the impact of communications with stakeholders.  However, some have already learned a lesson that is now becoming more clear to me as I have explored social media. 

Social media is a multiplier for my customer and team interactions! 

Social media virtual visits make it possible for me to interact with customers more frequently, and they extend my reach to customers that I have not had a chance to meet in person, yet.  By using Instagram and Twitter, I can follow a broad array of customers – those who use our aesthetic products as well as those who use our eye care, GI and other therapeutic treatments. I see what they are doing in their practices.  I see how they are using our products and our competitors’ products.  By seeing who they are following – and adding some to the list of people I follow – I also gain added perspective about our target consumers.  I even gather insights that help us correct misconceptions, and, importantly, I gain a deep appreciation for their entrepreneurialism.  It also puts me in a position to know if we have a customer who has a problem – and we can deal with it quickly. Best of all, our customers know I am following them and taking an active interest in their business. 

I’m fortunate that Allergan’s business, particularly our aesthetic products, put us in a unique position. These customers are inclined to use social media for their business purposes, with medical aesthetics practitioners at the leading edge of this movement.   It is an understatement to say that I learn something new every day by interacting with our customers on Instagram. 

Social Media will never replace my face-to-face visits with customers, but it is dramatically expanding the opportunities for me to interact with customers and colleagues.  Maybe it is time for more CEOs to get into the mix.

While you are thinking about it, you can follow me on twitter @BrentLSaunders and Instagram @brentlsaunders.