Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference?

Yes. (I know, you’re thinking “wow, she just came right out and said that with no hesitation.) I’ll say it again. Yes. And here’s why.

My family and I recently returned from a Disney cruise. The children had a wonderful time. They giggled, squealed, and chased beloved characters all around the ship. They dressed up in beautiful costumes and were treated like royalty. We all enjoyed excellent service from the staff aboard ship. They referred to the girls as “princess,” asked about our days, and even sang Happy Birthday to the girls (they’re twins, you see.) It was lovely.

But something happened prior to the cruise that… well, it clearly doesn’t negate the efforts of so many people working so hard on the ship. Our stateroom was impeccably clean, our servers were excellent, and the ship was so well designed. However one event kept entering my mind. What was it?

They never replied to my tweet. Yep. I had reached out the day before the cruise

Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference? Yes. www.sociallysupportive.com

Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference? Yes.
www.sociallysupportive.com

asking for assistance because in all the mad rushing to get loose ends tied up before the cruise, I remembered that I hadn’t ever called to schedule the girls’ birthday decorations for the stateroom. Because, you see, with twins it’s a bit different sometimes. Reading the fine print on a decoration package can save hours of tears because there was only one toy included with the decorations. eek. Don’t need that when we’re all in the close quarters of a stateroom.

So I called them, and I explained my situation. The care agent on the phone told me that there was nothing she could do for two reasons: one, I hadn’t called within the required 3 days, and there would be no exceptions for any reasons; and two, they had no provisions for twins and I would not be able to purchase a separate, second toy. And no, there was nobody else to speak with that would tell me anything different. Well, I do understand that I was outside of that 3 days, and I can imagine they might really need 3 days to plan hanging up decorations in a stateroom. But, being a parent, I decided to swallow my pride, admit my mistake publicly, and see if perhaps I could get a reprieve from the online world in order for my girls to have those little decorations in the room.

I tweeted out to @DisneyCruise confessing my error and asking if anything could be done. No reply. Ever. I had wondered, being that this was our first Disney cruise, whether that was a sign of things to come. But it wasn’t. Everyone worked really hard to ensure that we had a fantastic cruise. We bought the children these bubble making toys that play music (parents could do without the music, btw if Disney is reading) and a wonderful woman named Keisha from Jamaica was working in the shop. Seeing the sadness in the girls’ eyes when we found only one bubble want after looking all over the ship for these things, Keisha called to her leader and had another shop opened to bring more stock to her store. Wow. I mean everyone went all out.

Are you wondering what the point is? Here’s the point. You can do an amazing job with an amazing crew and hit the mark on every point. But if you’re not answering on Twitter, you might turn your customer’s experience from “unrivaled, unprecedented, hands-down NPS of 10,” into “It was great. But it was weird that they didn’t respond to my tweet….” and then a whole long story about  how @DisneyCruise misssed your tweet.

I struggled with whether to write this post because it seems a shame to call attention to one missed opportunity when so many people worked so hard to deliver a truly fantastic experience. And I will post about how going the extra mile can really leave a lasting impression on your customers to highlight all that great service. But the lesson here was important enough to share and can help us all out as business. And I’m sure this resonates with many of you, because it happens to us all the time. Something is almost stellar, but this one thing is distracting and overshadows the rest. And that’s what this lack of response on Twitter was: a distraction from an otherwise stellar performance by so many hard-working people behind the Disney Cruise brand.

Clean Up For Your Social Customers

Clean Up Your Mess image by pixabay.com www.sociallysupportive.com

Clean Up Your Mess
image by pixabay.com
www.sociallysupportive.com

 

Sometimes to make things right, you have to open things up and make a mess. Fixing can be terribly messy. Recently, my husband and I hired a handyman to do some home improvement work for us to get our house ready for sale very quickly.  My husband, who typically handles those items, remarked that though the man did acceptable work, he failed to clean up after himself. I looked around and realized he was right. There was still a film on the floors where the tile had been replaced, and where walls were sanded the dust had not been removed. It looked… well, it looked sloppy.

I thought about how, as a consumer, we really expect things to be put back in the condition they were before we contracted a service to be completed. Think about getting our cars serviced. How would we feel if our mechanic returned our vehicle to us with oil on the hood? Or what if when we went to a restaurant, the dirty dishes from prior patrons were left on the table? When we purchase a good or service, we expect full service.

For online services, think about reducing customer effort. The following three steps can help ensure we have “cleaned up our mess” sufficiently after our initial customer interaction on social media or in person:

  • Follow up with customers after an initial service request to make sure they did get the result they were expecting
  • Ensure the service was completed to customer satisfaction
  • Ask if customers have any questions or additional needs

So, get out there and clean up your mess. Just as with the handyman, the quality of your work will shine through if you tidy up after yourself when the work is complete.

Customer Experience Rules in 2015 Social Customer Support

Flash of Happiness. image by Kyrill Poole. www.sociallysupportive.com

Flash of Happiness. image by Kyrill Poole. www.sociallysupportive.com

As I briefly mentioned in 2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support, current thinking from research firms indicates that customer experience will be more more important than ever. Let’s take this apart and have a look at why and how.

We know, as consumers, that dealing with companies can be much more complicated than it needs to be, and take much more of something everyone has less of these days: time. We have to wait on hold, we are transferred a million times, and we just want one teensy thing. In recent years, thanks partly to the increase in social forums that allow customers to talk back, companies have caught on that we want things done faster and easier. This has resulted in companies receiving fewer reviews that indicate customers find them truly awful to deal with. Which is great. One side effect for companies is that the competition is also getting better.

Think about the advertisements you see on TV or the internet. Brands mainly pick one thing that differentiates their product from the other guy: they claim to be either 1) cheaper 2) better quality or 3) have better service. Apple (or Samsung, I wont’ judge your camp) have great quality and a focus on user experience. Costco aims to provide the best prices. Southwest is known for its service. So, if you’re not the best gadget in town, or the best available quality, chances are you need to be focusing on your customer service/experience. And these 2015 predictions are telling us that efforts to be just a little better than the next guy won’t keep customers coming back.

So, what to do? Where to go? It’s All In The Details with Social Customer Support provides a few tips for getting started, such as asking customers what they want, improving the quality of your outputs, and using proper etiquette (this last one will likely get you much farther than you imagine.) What if you’ve already done those things, and you want to do more? See if some of these suggestions help.

Improving Customer Experience

  • Provide a Full Service Experience – In your customer’s journey, do they have to move from station to station at your store or be transferred several times on the phone or online chat? If so, do everything in your power to make that stop. If the transfers can’t be stopped, try a personal handoff. This will reduce customer effort and create a “wow” moment. I recently called USAA with an unusual financial question, and though the first rep couldn’t help me with my concern, she handled the details of explaining my needs to the next person on the phone. The next thing I heard was the new rep calling me by name and restating what he understood my question to be. That feels nice.
  •  Surprise Me – Is there some way that you can anticipate a customer’s need? It could be something simple. In E-Trade Nails It with their Customer Support I shared that they proactively changed my mailing address after being alerted to my move by the United States Postal Service. Nice, right? How much does it cost to link up with USPS and make that happen? I haven’t looked into it, but it made me stop and think about how smart E-Trade is.
  • Make Exceptions For Me – Ouch. I know, deviation from process can cost time and money. But I do believe customers that are shown compassion and understanding tend to develop positive feelings towards that brand. I remember several years ago a promotion took me from one city to another. I panicked as I realized at the airport that in the midst of the move, I forgot to pay the credit card bill. And, this was a big deal, because it had that nice zero percent interest associated with it. I remember telling my sad story to the customer service rep on the phone. She could have been snarky, or acted superior, or given me a lecture. Instead she chose to show compassion, and her company had the (uncommon at that time) policy of forgiving one late payment and thereby not immediately causing your interest rate to skyrocket. I clearly remember that, to this day.

Can you find a way to work one or more of these ideas into your organization?

Keep that Customer Experience Mindset Going

Keep That Customer Experience Mindset Going. Image by created by the 31st Communications Squadron, USAF. www.sociallysupportive.com

Keep That Customer Experience Mindset Going. Image by created by the 31st Communications Squadron, USAF. www.sociallysupportive.com

Do you ever go to meetings or training classes with new, random groups of people and have to complete those ice breaker activities? You’re going about your day, getting “real work” done, and then you have to stop what you’re doing to go play silly games and interact with people? It can feel really uncomfortable to get into these new situations with these new people outside of our comfort zones. But these exercises tend to be effective tools to take us out of our current mindset, outside of our comfort zone and get us into a more open and relaxed frame of mind. The truth is that learning new things and working well in groups is an important part of our jobs.

I bring up these scenarios because customer service can feel that way. Employees that interact with customers are typically have “down time” responsibilities such as filing, sending emails and the like that they complete between customer interactions. If there is a slow period with few customers, good momentum can build on those offline tasks. The first customer that requires assistance can feel like an unwanted interruption just when progress is being made. That can create stress, and allow a mindset to creep in that taking care of customers is interfering with the ability for the employee to take care of the customer’s immediate needs.

It’s helpful for us as leaders to recognize this challenge from our employees’ viewpoint and to help provide tools for employees to remember to switch mindsets and remember to put the customer first.

Tools To Help Remind Employees That Customers Come First

  • Model Behavior – Model the behavior yourself by stepping up and happily taking care of customer issues prior to daily chores
  • Discussion – Point out opportunities you notice, and suggest alternatives
  • Display – post your customer service vision and goals where employees can see them.

See if some of these steps help improve customer experience for your company!

E-Trade Nails It with their Customer Support

E-Trade logo. Property of E-Trade. www.sociallysupportive.com

E-Trade logo. Property of E-Trade. www.sociallysupportive.com

Customer experience is clearly still all the rage in business these days. We’ve gone from the age of making as many widgets as possible, to making them as BIG as possible, and then trying to get them as small as possible to selling experiences more than the widgets themselves. For some, making the transition to this experiential push is tricky, because it shifts shape and form and is different from person to person. That personal effect makes it challenging to mass produce.

I had an experience with E-Trade last night that nailed it, in my mind. I’m still floored at the simple genius of it all, and the mass-production potential for other companies. My family has recently moved. If you’ve moved lately, you know how big of a task that can be. Things get broken, take longer than you think, and seem to drag on forever. And where is your magazine? I know I’m showing my age, yes I get the digital subscription too, but you can’t smell the fragrance samples from the tablet just yet (dear iPad/Android app developers, save some trees and work that out for us when you get time? Thanks.)

Anyway I went to the mailbox last night and saw an envelope from E-Trade with one of those yellow forwarding labels and I thought “Oh great, I forgot to change my mailing address with E-Trade. Yet another chore to do tonight. When I sat down and opened the envelope, I was amazed. E-Trade was reaching out to let me know that the United States Postal Service indicated I had changed my address, and so they went ahead and changed the address on my account for me. They just wanted to let me know, in case that’s not what I wanted them to do. Imagine my surprise and delight! One less task for me!

So, let’s look at risks here. Some percentage of customers (I would think a small percentage) may find this creepy and complain. It could smack of big brother. Some other percentage (I’m still thinking a vast minority) might not have wanted to change the address on their account, even though they forwarded their mail with the USPS. And, yet another small minority may have had their address changed in error, but this should be caught with the notice to the previous address.

I love this. I’m often caught saying at work and in life that our customers don’t work here. We do. So do as much for them as possible. This appears to be one low-risk strategy that could benefit more companies. I know I would appreciate it. Feel free to use this example as starting point for similar ideas. Are there things you can do to take care of the details for your customer?

Waiting Takes Too Long for Customers

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Yes, you read that right. Waiting is hard and it takes too long. It’s boring. Have you noticed lately that waiting feels much more difficult than it used to? We do all kinds of things to avoid waiting. Today we tweet out our question or post it on Facebook in an attempt to avoid waiting on hold with companies. We go online and click that “chat now” button instead of walking into the store for assistance. We do not want to wait. For things like automotive repairs that cannot be completed online, UGGGHH! We have to actually go there? I hope they have wifi so I can watch something on my iPad. If not I’ll just have to scroll through Facebook on my phone.

I know, this conversation causes many people to start talking about the “good old days” before people were so connected and could sit still for a while patiently. I remember those days, and they were boring. We also had far fewer items on our to-do lists, if I remember correctly. But regardless of our positions on whether we should behave in this fashion, the reality today is that we do.

So, what do we do about it, as business people trying to please our customers? Maybe try one of these things:

  • Decrease wait times – Make every attempt to decrease your wait times. Perhaps increase staffing, decrease length of interaction (whether in person, on the phone, on social or chat)
  • Increase fun things – Even if you’ve decreased your wait times, increasing fun or distracting things will make wait time seem shorter. In person, provide a television, wifi, coloring books or games for children. On hold, play a local radio station or hold info-tainment (factual entertainment tidbits). Steer clear of bland hold music if you can.
  • Let me wait from afar – Have you called Delta lately? If they have a hold time, you can press a button to have them call you back when they’re ready for you. Then I don’t really feel like I’m holding. Or, like restaurants, give me a pager or text me when it’s my turn.

These are things about the customer experience we can control to create a more positive interaction. Some cost more than others. Hey, if a box of crayons helps my customer smile, then maybe it’s worth the price!

The difference between easy and hard customer service

The difference between easy and hard customer service. image by Joe Loong https://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/2611640698/.  www.sociallysupportive.com

The difference between easy and hard customer service. image by Joe Loong https://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/2611640698/.
www.sociallysupportive.com

Recently I came across two vastly different examples of customer service I thought I’d share so that we might compare and contrast the customer experience.

Example 1: The Condo Rental

On the spur of the moment, I decided my family needed a weekend getaway to the beach. I started searching online for any available accommodations that would meet our needs (yes, I was categorizing ocean-front as a “need” in this case. No judgement, it was a need to me!) I was lucky enough to find the perfect property, that was managed by a vacation company I will not name. I went to book the condo online; however the process wasn’t working properly. I called the telephone number and spoke with a lady who was very nice, but not very forthcoming with information. She informed me the website had outdated information, and that the particular condo I found was booked for the weekend. And then there was silence. So I asked “do you manage other units in the building that might be available?” She said “yes.” More silence. “Do you think we could check to see if any of them might be available?” I pushed.  “Um, ok sure,” she responded. I’ll spare you the rest, but the conversation continued on in that way until I practically begged her to take my reservation. I would like to share that the unit we reserved turned out to be just what I “needed,” ocean front and all.

Example 2: Right House, Wrong Package

I ordered a Keurig drawer and two ballerina jewelry boxes online at JC Penney, along with some bench cushions. A week or so later, three boxes arrived on my porch. Two of the boxes contained the bench cushions, as I expected. When I opened the third box, I was surprised to see a Keurig drawer that appeared to have been re-taped and two battered shoe boxes with rubber bands around each box. When I called customer service to report the mix-up, a nice lady named Autumn apologized for the inconvenience and immediately keyed a new order for replacement items to be shipped. I asked if I could return the items that did not belong to me to my nearest JC Penney by the end of the week, and she said that would be fine.

Customers do not expect flawless execution by corporations with every transaction. It would be nice, but most of us consumers are reasonable enough to know that just isn’t possible. What we find, though, is that when proper attention is paid and the company moves quickly to rectify the situation with little or no effort from the customer, customer satisfaction can be saved. I would argue that when there is a mix-up, and it is fixed right away with a little apology and a human touch, that can create more customer loyalty than might have existed without the flub in the first place. Now, JC Penney and I haven’t always had the best relationship, but past few times I’ve needed them, their customer service reps have been able to quickly solve my problems. With me, that goes a long way.

So, as usual, let’s consider our own organizations. Is there room for improvement in your company when customers report issues? Do you offer assistance on Twitter, but then require the customer to always call customer support to get assistance? Are you asking for customer information when you really don’t need it? See if a policy change could create some customer loyalty for you.

Get To Yes in Social Customer Support

Get to Yes in Social Customer Support. image by pixabay.com  www.sociallysupportive.com

Get to Yes in Social Customer Support. image by pixabay.com
www.sociallysupportive.com

Let’s talk about merging. You know, good, old-fashioned highway merging. The concept is (as I understand it) that as two lanes become one, the people in those two lanes keep a normal pace of traffic until such time as the lanes come together. When this happens, the cars should come together, like a zipper, one and then the other, to form a single line. This takes cooperation from both parties, but it seems simple enough. I was driving to work this morning, trying to wake up and drinking my coffee, listening to some upbeat music on the radio. As I approached this merge point on the highway, I stayed in my lane that was going to merge with the lane next to me, and followed that white line to edge over. The person next to me must have a different concept of merging, because he sped up from behind me to get even with me, and blocked this merging action, forcing me to slow down. He basically entered my universe and said, quite clearly, “NO!” So, what can I do but slow down, and slow down the person behind me, and slow down the person in the lane behind him? Not much. Because he said “NO! I’M FIRST!”

His action came from a place of no, of not accepting what was happening around him. This can happen in customer support too. When we come from a place of “no,” whether it’s subtle or right out loud, it causes discomfort and things don’t flow easily like they could. It also creates negative feelings that, by the way, attach themselves to your brand. If that guy on the highway had a brand or a logo on his car, you can bet I’d associate his actions and my subsequent feelings about those actions with his brand. Anytime we tell a customer “I can’t do that,” or “That’s not the process,” or “You need to…” we are coming from a position of “no.” Perhaps today we can take some time to ask ourselves what it would take to get to “yes.” How far, exactly, are you from yes? Is there a small process or policy you could alter that could get you to “yes”? Are you missing something that could get you to “yes”? Certainly we must all say “no” sometimes, but I think after review you might find a few occasions that could easily be changed. The guy running me off the road to be first this morning was really probably much closer to “yes” than he thought, and I bet he could have made his own day a bit brighter by saying “yes” to me because he would have already gotten a good deed out of the way.

Think about how you can get to “yes” today. Would a few little steps help your brand be associated with positive experiences rather than negative ones?

Tenacity is a Key Service Differentiator in Social Customer Support

Never Give Up. image by lettersfromlaura. www.sociallysupportive.com

Never Give Up. image by lettersfromlaura. www.sociallysupportive.com

Walt Disney has been quoted as saying “The difference in winning and losing is most often… not quitting.” This applies to many areas of life, but today I’d like to apply the concept to exceptional customer service.

Often, as a customer, I have asked for things from customer service professionals and been told, very quickly, that it is impossible to grant my request. Further probing, and tenacity on my part, often changes that answer. My experience seems quite common lately. Customers that exert the most effort toward reaching their desired result seem to more commonly achieve their desired end state. This has been the way of the world for quite some time.

But, let me ask you something. Are you noticing a change? Perhaps it’s small, but I have seen change. I have consistently received exceptional customer service from USAA. I even  have received great customer service from the branch personnel at Chase Bank (but, of course, read Chase Ambushes My Twitter IPO Trade with Poor Customer Service before we get too excited about that).  Could it be that companies are catching on to the fact that good customer service can be a unique selling point for your brand? It seems possible to me.

What does that mean to you as a business? Well, I think it means that those who are not catching on to the importance of remarkable customer service (remarkable, meaning literally that it is worth talking about), when compared to otherwise equal competitors, may be at a disadvantage.

What’s one thing you can do today to move the needle on your customer experience? Be tenacious. Teach your customer service staff to be tenacious. If you think about the common thread behind poor customer experiences you’ve had, many of them can be linked to a lack of tenacity on the part of the customer service rep. Nobody went out of their way to try to make a difference for you, to try to get you what you needed. Now, think about the last great customer experience you had. I bet that person got the result you were looking for by trying a little harder. Maybe they made that extra phone call. Or maybe they spent a few more minutes with their leadership to get you what you needed. Either way, they were trying. They were trying for YOU. And they tried harder than other people have in the past.

We can all do this. We can spend a few extra minutes tracking down an answer for a customer. We can offer to lend a hand, or put in the good word, or ask one more person for help on behalf of a customer. It just takes more tenacity than the competition is willing to expend. Give it a try.

 

Great Customer Service is Like Paying It Forward

Great Customer Service is Like Paying it Forward. www.sociallysupportive.com. Photo by socialprecision.com

Great Customer Service is Like Paying it Forward. www.sociallysupportive.com. Photo by socialprecision.com

Here’s a thought: Great customer service is like paying it forward. I spend quite a bit of time researching great customer service. I think about my own customer service experiences and I hope to deliver great customer experiences. So I ponder which events and experiences leave me with the biggest impression. I was having a discussion with a colleague today about paying it forward and how great that is for the universe, and then it occurred to me: great customer service is like paying it forward.

If you think about the last time you thought “Wow, I am truly impressed with the experience I just had,” I bet you’ll think about someone who went above and beyond. Look at this list:

Above and Beyond

  • She was nicer than anyone else I’ve spoken to there
  • He showed more enthusiasm that I’ve ever seen
  • She took more time to answer my question
  • He seemed more interested in what I had to say
  • She was the best listener
  • He was more patient than the other one

Do some of these ring a bell? All of these have in common that someone did more than the bare minimum while completing a task. Now, combine this with anticipation. If you provide more before you are even asked, this is considered anticipating customer need.

Anticipating Customer Need

  • A hotel worker notices a guest walking toward the door dressed professionally, without an umbrella. The hotel worker runs toward the guest, umbrella in hand, to lend assistance.
  • A drive-thru worker takes a paper towel and wipes droplets of soda from the cup before handing it through the window to a customer.
  • A service writer at a local repair shop hands a coloring book and crayons to a five-year old boy

These are the interactions we remember. These actions create the brand. And in none of these cases did a customer ask for something. The employee is just… paying it forward. The employee is doing something unrequired and unexpected out of the kindness of his or her heart, with no immediate hope of compensation for that act. Paying it forward.

So, as we talk to our employees about giving something that “extra touch,” or “smiling at people,” or whatever else we say, maybe we should talk about paying it forward. Maybe we say that by thinking about what we would want in that situation and offering it to the customer before asked, we can really make another person’s day better. If I have a better day while patronizing your business, doesn’t it make sense that I will associate your brand with feeling good?