How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal?

How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal? www.sociallysupportive.com

How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal?
www.sociallysupportive.com

We know from recent customer surveys that a resounding theme exists in responses from consumers who want to do business with companies that care about them. “Don’t treat me like just a number,” they write. Or, “I want to feel like somebody at that company cares about me.”

We also hear that digital interactions such as chat, social media and texting are cheaper and that customers actually want to engage with brands through these avenues. But, how do you deliver an interaction that feels personal without delivering a warm and empathetic human voice on the other end?

Good question. We know that eye contact, warm smiles and an open-armed stance show people in person that we are open to what they have to say and willing to work with them. In a call center environment the visual clues are missing from the conversation, so we teach agents how to enhance verbal connection by ensuring they wait to speak until the customer has finished, being very polite and repeating what they understood the customer’s need to be. We also encourage them to smile while talking, because believe it or not, customers can “hear” a smile (it’s really true, if you didn’t know. Technically, the tone of your voice can change a bit, you can form your words differently because of the shape of your mouth, etc.).

So…then what happens online? What should we be teaching our chat agents and our social agents to ensure that these online interactions feel personal? You can’t see or hear the consumer, there are just these words on the page with few context clues to draw from.

Here are some high-level concepts to share with your reps to ensure they are providing online service that will feel warm, memorable and inviting.

5 Steps to Personal Online Customer Support

  • Research: Before an agent ever interacts with a customer online, I recommend that you provide them with data around who your customer is, generally speaking. Usually upon hire, an orientation is given that explains the services your company offers and to whom those services are provided. For example, let’s say you are a computer parts retailer. You provide online chat for your customers in case they have questions about computer parts. your internal market research indicates that your customers are primarily from the U.S. and 60% male between the ages of 21 and 50. Because you are a retailer and not a wholesaler, you know that most of your customers are end user hobbyists and not businesses using your parts to resell to others. Providing this information to your agents before they ever engage with a customer is a great idea, because it helps them understand who they are talking to. They can guess that these customers would be interested in the much talked about latest software release, new advances in processing speed, etc. If your social media team were being trained rather than your chat team, perhaps you can research your Facebook insights in Business Manager to understand additional information about the customer.
  • Prepare: Once the agent is out of training and on the floor, it’s a good idea to be ready when that interaction comes. Online transactions have a bit of an advantage over phone calls in that some sort of data is usually passed to the agent before the customer is “live” with them. Perhaps your phone reps get a customer account delivered to their computer screen with the initial call, but you’re live at that point with the customer and quickly scanning to see what’s happening. In the online chat space, typically the customer has stated their inquiry in a pre-chat survey and is in queue waiting on an agent. Train your reps to take the time to fully read and understand the customer’s inquiry before they engage the customer. For social media, because initial response time expectations are a bit longer than on chat, you can take this a step further and see how far you can get resolving a customer’s issue before you ever reach out to them. Yes, your initial response time is possibly longer; however when you reach out to the customer, it feels as if the agent is engaged, prepared, and knowledgeable about the customer’s inquiry.
  • Listen: Ok, in the digital space it’s probably more accurate to use the word “read.” Have the agent read all of the words the customer has written to ensure that no assumptions are made. This is an easy place for online interactions to go from being helpful and satisfying customer issues, to being a huge waste of time for the customer. Thoroughly reading and understanding what the customer’s issue is avoids the agent taking time to solve for what they thought the customer needed help with, rather than what the customer actually wanted assistance with.
  • Ask: A colleague of mine once shared that he would ask three questions of a person before providing a single answer. This was to ensure that he fully understood the question before providing an answer. Brilliant, right? Let the agents know that it is a good idea to ask as many questions as necessary to ensure the answer they’re about to provide is truly the answer the customer requires. This pairs directly with “Listen” above. Skipping this step, in my experience, is the primary cause for customers feeling that only very simple transactions can be conducted online, and that for “tough questions” they need to call in. When executed properly, this step ensures that very complex troubleshooting can be conducted in online channels.
  • Share: Let’s not forget this one. The agent should share with the customer what should be done and why before getting started. Now, by “why,” I don’t mean that we should burden the customer with all the technical specifications that allow that agent to do the task. That’s wasted handle time and, quite frankly, the customer is not going to perform the transaction so we can skip all that and save everyone time. What is helpful is that after all the listening and asking of questions, we share the diagnosis with the customer. This is important because it’s possible that the agent has made an incorrect diagnosis. Sharing the high-level plan with the customer and asking if they are ready to correct the problem can prompt the customer to share additional details they hadn’t known were relevant before. This extra information could completely change the diagnosis, and might send the fix into a different direction. This step of sharing can again save precious time for the agent and the customer.

There you have it. Five Steps to Personal Online Support. What.. what’s that? Oh, right. Those steps above seem to be outlining how to have efficient and effective troubleshooting with a customer online. So, how is that personal, is that your question? Let me explain.

The reason customers report feeling disconnected during online interactions is because the agent isn’t listening to them, doesn’t share information, or doesn’t explain what they’re doing. Chat and social media interactions seem challenging to customers because there isn’t an ability to say enough words to get the agent to understand what the real issue is. The agent is trying to finish the transaction expediently since it’s an online channel, and this can cause a rush to figure out the customer issue. This rushing causes incorrect diagnosis, which, then, leads the agent to perhaps solve the wrong problem or be ineffective at solving the right problem. The customer feels like the agent doesn’t care because the agent isn’t sharing any information and doesn’t understand what they’re trying to convey. (phew, did you get all that?) Time and time again, reviewing thousands of online interactions over the years, this is what we see.

What does  feel like caring, personal interaction to people is, of course, saying hi, how are you, how is your day going, etc. And agents are already doing this. But what really, truly feels like caring is when people listen and people help. We’ll of course assume that your agents want to help and wish they had time to listen. By providing them with these steps above and the assurance that it’s ok to take their time to ask some questions, I believe your agents will thrive and your NPS scores will improve.

Have a look at your chat or text transcripts, or review your social media interactions. If you find this to be relevant to your situation, but are concerned about an increase in handle time,  I recommend you try a pilot with just a few agents. The handle time impacts will then be contained, and you can compare the results of the pilot group against those in regular population. Happy trials!

How Will Instagram’s Contact Button Impact Brands?

Contact Buttons on Instagram via Benefit Cosmetics. www.sociallysupportive.com

Contact Buttons on Instagram via Benefit Cosmetics. www.sociallysupportive.com

Who’s been watching the new Instagram “Contact” Button? I have! Brands certainly don’t appear to have run straight toward these little gems just yet, and that’s why it’s a perfect time to talk about what they are, what they do, and whether you need one.

Let’s back up to discuss Instagram. Instagram is primarily a visual social media platform. when you open Instagram you will find a few words on memes or as text over pictures; however it is largely just images and videos. Images are a great way to stimulate the senses and evoke an emotional reaction to your brand. Photos of nature can take people away from their urban grind and instantly bring them to a place of calm and beauty, while a photo taken of the winning team at the moment of victory can arouse tremendous joy (or great pain, if that wasn’t your team who won!) And a picture of a huge plate of nachos from your favorite restaurant can get your stomach growling in no time flat. We’re talking about desire here. What we’re doing is invoking desires.

Invoking desire and associating it to your brand is a powerful thing. Marketers know this, and that’s why brands are all over Instagram, getting into the visual “conversation.” It’s a powerful thing to create positive emotions and associate them directly to your brand. And, as great salespeople know, once you have customers all wrapped up in those positive emotions around your brand, you’d like them to take action… right now, please! Hence why the Contact button on Instagram can be so powerful. What if you see a picture of the brand new Nikes and you’re a huge fan and you have your wallet out right now! Wouldn’t it be neat if you could just push a button right from Instagram? Yes, yes it would. Or, what if you need tickets to the concert immediately, but you aren’t quite sure about the seat map? What if you could just push a button directly from that Instagram app and get the answers you need so that you could spend your money a little faster? Yes, now you’re getting the picture.

How does the contact button work? Brands activate the button and can choose to allow customers to call, email or text the brand. If you choose to have customers call you, then your impact would be some percentage increase in overall call center volumes to either your sales or customer care departments. I’d recommend a fresh toll-free number to ensure you’re tracking this all the way from the Instagram app to completed calls. For big brands, emails can be sent to your current group handing email interactions, however I would inquire with your chat and social care platform vendors whether these can be routed into your social care or chat tool. Also, when considering whether email is the right option, remember that you have excited customers who want to take an action right now, and email is a disconnected and sometimes slower vehicle.  Think about that customer who is all charged up, then sends an email, and slowly… slowly… loses that fire you created in him and returns to the regular grind. When you return the mail, he may not remember how excited he was an hour ago. If you’re already offering support via text, you might want to route through your current tool. Right now text service is being offered via both popular social care and chat tools, so you likely have your pick here.

Another nice thing about the Instagram Contact button is that it is a way to engage privately with customers on a social platform. Many large companies are still concerned about having specific customer care conversations out in public. These Contact buttons let you broadcast your message widely in a very emotional way, and then privately answer customer inquiries on an individual basis. That’s reminiscent of consumers watching a TV commercial and then picking up the phone to ask you questions about your product, which has historically been a very comfortable interaction for big brands.

So, what do you think? Should your brand use an Instagram Contact button?

Why Provide Social Customer Care?

Why Offer Social Customer Care? www.sociallysupportive.com

Why Provide Social Customer Care? www.sociallysupportive.com

Businesses today more than ever are all about running as lean as possible. The digital space makes it easy for competition to pop up everywhere, and may times that means a race to be the lowest-priced option if all else is equal. So, it makes sense that leaders want to be sure something is necessary before spending limited budgets to begin a new project.

Social media customer care is no exception. Sure, you hear that competition is providing it, but where would you even start? That sounds expensive, and, well… it sounds hard. What are people even getting out of that? And why would you want to spend money to air your dirty laundry?

These are very valid questions, and the savvy executive will do good to ask themselves these questions. They deserved to be answered. So, here are a few answers to them.

Three Reasons (and a bonus) to provide social customer support

  • Customers Expect It. Even if you do not personally have a Twitter or Facebook account, that’s ok. Go to these sites and search for your biggest competitor. Is he there? If he is, then he has access to millions of eyeballs at a time when you do not. True, you might be advertising in another way or at another time. But think of it this way. If there was a cocktail party where plenty of customers with money were casually mingling, and businesses like yours could go and chat it up with those paying customers, you’d want to go, right? Now imagine that your biggest competitors are all there too. Did you just get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are missing a huge opportunity? Well, that’s healthy, because you are. What if none of your competitors are there? Well, if you show up, and they do not… who has the advantage now?
  • Lifestyles Demand It. I recently heard Richelle Carrol, Director of Social Servicing for USAA, discuss social media customer care on a podcast (Focus on Customer Service, hosted by Dan Gingiss and Dan Moriarty. Great show, highly recommend it.). If you’re not familiar with USAA, they are a financial services company specifically for military members and their families. USAA also happens to be known for brilliant customer service with sky-high NPS scores, right up there with the likes of Apple and Chick-fil-A. Anyway, Richelle recalled one interaction where a deployed soldier was chatting in with USAA to complete a transaction while being fired upon. Fired upon! She pointed out that might have been the only five minutes he had that day to take care of his life event. Now, not all transactions are that serious, for sure. But gone are the days when most wives were at home all day and could call the electric company between the hours of 8am and 5pm. Today, people are on the train, commuting to work. They’re waiting at the airport to catch the next flight. These times are not always convenient for speaking on the telephone; however they are perfect times to type your message from your smart phone to your service or goods provider.
  • Brand Differentiator. Speaking of that train ride, or waiting in the terminal. If I’m your customer, and I attempt to solve my issue while I’m waiting on my flight, then realize you’re not there, how am I probably feeling? Frustrated. Why can’t I chat or tweet or get you on messenger to solve my problem? Then, perhaps I’m curious. Is there another brand I could be working with that might offer this feature? Because I’m here to tell you that in my mind, as a consumer, that’s how I see social customer care… as an added feature. It also shows me that you care about me as a customer. About my time. And it says that you’re listening. Talk about differentiating yourself from the pack.
  • Bonus… It can be cheaper. Woah, wait… what’d she say? Yep. Said it. Say it again. It can be cheaper. Social media customer support has only really been a thing for less than a decade. The tools we have been using in the past to offer support have been borrowed from the marketing team, and really not set up to give us call center-type metrics. But in recent years, tools like Conversocial, Sprinkl’r, Engagor and Spark Central have come a long way in providing really detailed metrics. Some large companies are reporting average costs of $3 – $4 per social media interaction. And that’s for fairly complicated transactions. So, not sure how much your phone calls are costing you, but if it’s more than that, this might be cheaper. Plus, when you take the public nature of these transactions into account, you might save yourself interactions (What? What’s she talking about?) It works like this. Say you’ve released a new widget, and it has this new cool feature that everyone was so excited about so they ran out and bought the widget. Awesome. But, turns out the “on” switch for this feature isn’t quite as intuitive as the product team thought. Here come the tweets with questions. If you answer Sally’s question, and Bob’s, and Nancy’s, publicly on Twitter, other people can see both the question and the answer. Some people will just go to Twitter and search in the search bar to find the answer. And those people will see your answer to Sally, and Bob, and Nancy, and then they don’t have to tweet to you. So, you just saved yourself some interactions.

These are only three reasons and a possible bonus for providing social support. There are many, many others. Hopefully this gets you started as you think about getting into social customer care. Can you think of additional benefits specific to your company?