Isn’t customer service a social activity? Why hide it? Aside from sharing sensitive account information, brands should have nothing to hide. People already share their customer service experiences – good or bad – with their friends and family and other audiences across the web.
On the weekend or the holidays or the BBQ’s, if someone is providing crappy customer service, you’ll hear about it. It’s how we work. It’s what gives us something to discuss with others. It’s how we share in communal experiences with each other for the past hundred years.
This is a difficult concept for many companies to grasp. People are already talking about their brand. And they have no control of it. And this is why their customer service is tucked behind a phone number, behind a tree of options and all around sucks.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
Brands have control of what people say when they do their best and create remarkable experiences. When they turn every – and I mean every – customer contact into a place where they can understand their wants, interests and needs, the business can really earn the respect of their customers. When customers feel (and actually are) valued, they forge a type of respect for the business. Look at all the Apple fan-boys. Look at all the Honda fan-boys, Chevy fan-boys, etc. Every major company has a small, but loud group of supporters. The goal ought to be to nurture them and leverage them in times of crisis, but ultimately, unquestionably, listen and support their needs.
Social Customer Service Doesn’t Mean Using Twitter
Brands that provide great service don’t need to do it using Twitter, Facebook or any other new-fangled trendy technology. It’s not in the technology. It’s in the ethos of their customer service ideology.
Accepting that every customer contact could earn the praise or ire of any customer will result in natural mentions about the brand. Knowing that people are people, emotions run high before, during and after the customer contact will help the brand have empathy and think three steps ahead of the customer.
I am usually very transparent about my customer contacts. I do my best to give praise, and trust me, it comes very natural to share criticism. Regular customers are the same. If they have a poor experience, I guarantee you their 130+ friends on Facebook will hear it.
And when there is great customer service, that side of it will also be told. When a brand is strategic and not fearful of their reputation among customers, they are in a confident position and they didn’t even need to utter a Tweet about it. (But hopefully, they’re there.)
ROI of Social Customer Service
A lot of people think ROI is “smiles” and “customer testimonials.” It’s only a fraction of the story. Absolutely, quality interactions should dictate the attitude and help drive even more emotion into the customer service. But, smiles don’t pay the bills.
Return on Investment is:
(Return – Investment) / Investment == (%)
What the classic ROI model doesn’t account for is the other factors that matter to today’s businesses. Yes, mentions matter. Sentiment matters. Search engine rankings matter. Customer referrals matter. Sales cycles length matters. Churn matters. Customer Lifetime Value matters.
ROI doesn’t account for all these different variables. Many different variables impact these. Social media isn’t a simple campaign. It’s an extension of marketing; it’s an extension of support and providing great support and service multiplies all these together to great ROI. (I suspect that’s where all the smiles come from … when the process works flawlessly.) When tracking any kind of adjustment in the business, take a baseline benchmark. Bench yourself monthly and quarterly. If you think its right, do it weekly. But measure yourself. Know your numbers and you know what you’re driving towards.
It’s my recommendation that brands figure out aligning their social media (marketing) and customer service efforts together. It doesn’t mean lobotomizing one for the other – it just means congruency to capitalize from every contact so it makes a difference to the business. There isn’t time to “learn” — now’s the time to “do.”
Here are 10 ways I provide killer customer service to my customers. I hope it helps you:
- Listen. Don’t preach about your customer support until you truly know it’s great.
- Think first before responding. Don’t get personal. Be tactful, personal and kind. If you need a cooling-off period, take it.
- Turn customer service failures into learning opportunities. Email the manager of the specific area and make a very clear recommendation. This makes it easier for them to have that conversation with their subordinate.
- Remember that behind every customer concern is a real person with goals, interests, personality and a desire to do well.
- Pick up the phone. When doing it digital all day, it means the world to someone to have someone from the company actually call them.
- Don’t be a pushover. It’s incredibly easy to complain and harass a company through social media to get what you want. It’s the brand’s responsibility to provide the best service possible while making sure to not cave to someone’s every demand. Be thoughtful. Think “can this decision scale?” and “why am I really giving or denying this person a concession?”
- Be real. If you don’t know – say so. People respect humility much more than immediate split-second responses. Likewise, be thankful for the trust your fans and customers endow in communicating with you — even if it’s unfavorable. (It’s always desirable over say, your competitor’s assets.)
- Produce content that people are already searching for. This means help articles, answer common questions. Keep a log of all the customer inquiries and blog about them regularly. They will be found and service the people who Google their answers. This does not mean keyword research. It means actual, demonstrated inbound searches and queries to the brand.
- Look at every customer contact as an opportunity, not a cost. You never know who or why someone is calling or Tweeting in for some love.
- Be intentional and consistent. If you provide great service, defend it. Praise it, br proud of it. Set the right expectations and deliver on it consistently. Declaring your intentions and delivering them publicly is a great way to earn respect. Conversely, it’s a great way to lose it if you don’t deliver.
Good luck and hope this helps. Questions, comments or if you have any tips to provide KILLER customer service, let me know in the comments.
Image credit: lee haywood
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