Kiwi Delivers Great Customer Service To Atlanta Storm Victims

Kiwi ImageKiwi Services, providers of water damage restoration services, impressed me recently with their insightful customer service. The Atlanta area had record low temperatures this January, like much of the country. Water pipes had been breaking all over town for days. I thought I was going to escape the fate so many of my neighbors met. I was wrong. Last Wednesday I came home to a stream of water flowing down my street, coming from my driveway. When I opened the garage door, I realized that stream was coming from inside the house. The source proved to be a burst pipe in the laundry room. All over those nice bamboo floors. Sigh.

Since I was late to the broken pipe party, the service providers were already inundated with repair requests.  Many of the smaller water damage restoration companies in the area had full mailboxes, or busy signals. Kiwi Services answered the phone. They reacted to the demand for service by quickly staffing up for this weather event. The customer service agent advised me that Kiwi was taking contact information and calling back to schedule consultations as quickly as they could. She promised they would keep me advised, but also noted it could be a few days before a team could visit because of the high volume of requests. And keep me advised they did. Someone from the Kiwi office called twice a day to let me know they hadn’t forgotten about me, and kept me in the loop on their plans. They shared with me that they were flying in technicians from California and Arizona to help with the high demand. This made me feel like they were doing all they could, which put my mind at ease and helped me to relax. I was even quite calm. One of the reps that called said “Thank you so much for being so nice. There is actually a note on your file that you are really nice.” It’s easier to be nice when you feel assured you will be taken care of.

When the Kiwi team came out, they listened carefully to my story about how the water damage occurred, where the water traveled, and how it left the house. They thoroughly explained what needed to be done, the options available to me, the procedures they would follow, and what I could expect. They were on time and professional, even though they had been flown in from the west and were living out of hotels, working long hours. My husband brought the crew back pizza, and they were so happy to have it. When it was time to remove the drying equipment a few days later, they called ahead to make sure we knew they were coming, and within a few hours, all was finished.

So, what can you do, today, in your business, to make your customers want to be nice to you? Recommend you to friends? Write grateful blog posts about you? Here are a few things you might consider:

5 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service

  • Answer the phone (or post) when a customer reaches out. Even if the answer is “I have no answer, just want you to know we haven’t forgotten.”
  • Update customers regularly as promised, even when that is tough to do. Especially when it’s tough to do.
  • Provide relevant information about new developments to show customers progress is being made.
  • Listen to the customer’s story. Even if you’re pretty sure you already know what it will be, listen anyway. You might find valuable information in that story.
  • Keep promises made about arrival times, services that will be delivered, and results that can be expected.

A great big thank you to Kiwi and their staff for putting in all those extra hours away from their families and traveling far and wide to get so many of us back to normal. Nicely done.

Check them out for yourself at http://www.kiwiservices.com/water_damage.htm

Connections Into Social Customer Support

Plug

Plug (Photo credit: Samuel M. Livingston)

Here’s the thing. I do believe in treating social customer support as an escalation path. I know, there are many people that gasp and say we’re training customers to do the wrong thing. People say we are teaching customers to contact us through public social channels first because they will be satisfied more quickly there. And they say that this is bad, because people will flock to the channel for special attention. But I disagree. Under one condition.

I think the social customer support department has to have a direct line into all departments that can make things happen. Yep. That’s what I said. That’s tricky, and it requires a certain corporate culture.

If you can take a social inquiry and get it to the front of the line where it can be immediately solved, that looks great. But the power behind that, the part that’s real, is being able to reach deep down into that issue and solve for root cause. I mean, while you’re in there, fix it for the 1000+ people who felt the same but didn’t complain, right? And then the actual benefit to the organization is the fact that you saved calls into your call centers and improved customer experience by eliminating the problem entirely. Social bubbles up so quickly that you can be made aware of a problem, size it, troubleshoot it and solve it in a fraction of the time it takes the traditional call center path to ignite.

But I’m not sure you can do that without direct links into each business area. And creating those relationships takes a lot of outreach, charisma, and daring. Other business units may not appreciate the value of social customer care, and may feel threatened by the exposure social customer care brings. Let’s face it, social care is scary at first. So, I’d say there’s work to be done there. But to be truly impactful to customers, and by extension, your shareholders, I’m thinking it requires taking the plunge to forge relationships, start discussions, provide education and information on the benefits that customer support on social media can provide.

The standard point of view is that people are already out there complaining about you in social. We’re still trying to get used to the idea of publicly admitting fault or error, and so the whole concept is daunting. But if you’re not a part of the conversation, you can’t add your point of view. And if your part of the conversation doesn’t add real value, it’s just fluff. Solving a single customer problem, then learning from it and removing it from your entire customer base is, well… that’s kind of impressive, right? As a customer, I’m impressed by that.

Be Real

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve all been talking quite a bit in the social media world about being transparent and authentic. Those are the go-to buzz words. I think that really breaks down to getting real and being honest. People typically have little interest in being your friend or following you if they get the sense you aren’t genuine. Let’s face it, do any of us need friends that are only there when it’s convenient for them, or friends that don’t tell us the truth? For me, I think time is short, and I have little time for fair-weather friends or folks that are rarely truthful. For those Mad Men fans, Don Draper is great, but all that evasiveness and secrecy causes his personal and professional relationships to suffer greatly.

In the world of corporate social media, executing on “transparent and authentic” can be challenging in controversy. How transparent should you be? Where do you draw the line? I’ve discussed some of these ideas before, but generally, I think you should always try to answer. And the answer should be meaningful and real. Sometimes even saying “I don’t know yet, I’m still checking,” is meaningful enough because it lets the person know that you are still engaged.

What if it’s controversial and you don’t really want to answer? Can’t you just block the person? Well, yes, you could. But if you play it out in your mind, if you have a person that is very vocal on say, Facebook, asking you a question that would be uncomfortable to answer, what could happen if you block that person? That person might just take that same original problem over to another channel, like Twitter, where you can’t block him. And now he not only broadcasts his original problem, but also talks about how you blocked him from Facebook to avoid answering him. And that can make your audience think you’re a fair-weathered friend. Of course, there are times when private or sensitive pertinent data cannot be shared publicly. But if you are responsive, and real, and say what you can, I believe chances are that reasonable fans and followers will see that you are making a valid attempt to address the situation as best you can.

Remember when Dan Hesse had that bad image of Sprint’s to deal with? I thought it was great the way he stood right up and made commercials to be real about the changes they were making. And, as a Sprint customer, I can tell you I have seen the changes. J.C. Penney has also seen some positive press coming off of their openness about their recent changes that didn’t sit well with customers. They were open and spoke simply and clearly about what they felt was wrong and how they intended to fix it. Dell, with the battery issue? We as humans respond well to people that will address things.

So, where you can, I encourage you to be courageous enough to be real.

Good Customer Care in Crisis

English: The water towers on the north side of...

English: The water towers on the north side of Tinker Air Force Base are prominent landmarks in Midwest City, OK. Category:Photographs by User:Willy Logan Category:Images of Oklahoma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sitting in the parking lot of the Hawthorn Suites hotel in Midwest City, OK just before midnight. Although this is a much later hour than I usually keep, I thought I should take the time to write about this.

As you may know, Moore, OK has just been through some devastating tornados. There isn’t a hotel room available for over 50 miles tonight because they are all booked with people who have lost their homes.

My family and I reserved a room for the week a while back because my father, who passed a couple years ago, is being honored at the Air Force base. We were fortunate that we made the reservation early. Unfortunately, the hotel clerk that booked our reservation was brand new the night I talked to her on the phone. I was, quite literally, her first and last reservation. She neglected to book tonight’s room for us. And here I am with twin girls sleeping in the car. In light of others’ troubles, this is peanuts, but inconvenient nonetheless.

Shane, the night staff at the hotel, has been working 24 hours straight. He could have just told me we were out of luck, and that other people have bigger problems. But do you know what he did instead? Shane worked out a room for us by calling to see if any of the 4 late check-ins were not going to need their rooms after all. He found one room like a needle in a haystack when all rooms, as I mentioned earlier, are booked for 50 miles. Shane stayed an hour late to help make sure our room was ready. I have to tell you, I’m so impressed.

Could any of us say we would do the same? I hope so. Shane’s own house just got electricity turned back on, so he has his own struggles. But he still helped me. Thanks, Shane

When Disaster Strikes

 

Lightning strikes over downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Lightning strikes over downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In customer care, we are used to providing a supportive role to our customers, our brand, and our organization. When crisis strikes, the best thing we can do to assist is to continue providing support.

I’m reminded of this with the recent tornados that swept through Oklahoma. Having lived in the Oklahoma area, I am compelled to help in any way I can. But, having lived through these kinds of events, I also realize that too much help is not really help.

Any recent natural disaster research can tell you that assistance is only beneficial when the right help is provided at the right time. For example, if too much water or too many bandages are purchased and trucked in, this can cause a shortage of other much needed supplies.

A good plan is to make the best decisions possible with the data currently available, remain flexible and divide tasks early among groups to cover as much ground as possible. The trick is making sure communications channels remain open across all groups to avoid information silos. This can be challenging if one point of contact from each group is not quickly identified. Uncoordinated information can cause false or stale data to be distributed. Lack of information can mean the right people don’t have the latest intelligence. This can become damaging quickly in social media if incorrect data is supplied to customers.

So, here’s hoping everyone is safe in Oklahoma tonight. And here’s hoping these words can provide benefit to others coordinating efforts.

Speak or Hold Your Peace In Tragedy

Daily Shoot-Condolence Card

Daily Shoot-Condolence Card (Photo credit: NedraI)

I’ve seen several articles online discussing whether a brand should post on social media to offer condolences or thoughts to those that have suffered a loss or tragedy. Without going into detail about who said what or had which opinion, I’d like to simply offer mine.

If the point of social media for business is to personify a brand image, and we are asking our community managers to put their personalities out there for the public, I think it makes sense that if we want to make appropriate posts regarding the tragedy, we should. I think scheduled sales posts should surely stop in impacted areas. If the impacts of the tragedy are broadly felt, then it may make sense to withhold brand posts for the entire customer area. I think that depends on the particular issue.

Here’s why. People that work at companies and provide social media in an impacted area could be feeling the same thing that the community feels, because they ARE the community. They leave work and travel home in cars or on busses or on the subway. Their children attend schools in the area. Their spouses and potentially their extended family also live and work in that area. Refraining from comment on the tragedy certainly doesn’t feel authentic or transparent in those cases.

I think the important thing is to carefully consider whether a post is appropriate and what that post should be. I’ve seen posts say that brands have no feelings and no personality. But I disagree. I disagree because brands are powered by people, and those people have real feelings and thoughts. True, the employees collectively represent the brand and try to convey a message that makes sense with brand objectives. But if we saw a customer in a retail setting, and that customer had suffered a loss, I hope that we would not hesitate before offering our sympathies to that customer. Because though it’s business, the fact that we’re all doing it together should make it personal.

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