Sign Your Name

English: marcelina fernandez signature. Españo...

English: marcelina fernandez signature. Español: Firma de marcelina fernandez. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may seem obvious, but I think it deserves stating. In social media, especially in a corporate social media channel, it’s so important to sign your name at the end of your post. If you are using a page or handle that other people also use, make sure there is a signature on that post.

Social media is the perfect vehicle to personify brand image with cheery, helpful customer support representatives. Customers can develop a relationship with the person that helps them, and warm feelings associated with a particular representative are then (hopefully) associated to the brand itself. If you can achieve this, you have something special going on with your social presence.

In order for this personification to occur, the customer must be able to identify the person they are interacting with and remember that person. People cannot identify with or build a relationship with a nameless string of text coming at them through social media. People can identify with Patty, or Bob, or Sarah.

So, go ahead and sign that tweet. It makes a difference.

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Facebook Customer Support Tab – Necessary or Irrelevant?

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Français : Logo de Facebook Tiếng Việt: Logo Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been spending countless hours researching whether a customer support tab on Facebook adds value or is obsolete. We know that at least half, if not most people are visiting Facebook via mobile apps, and those mobile apps don’t provide access to tabs.  So, I set out on the internet to see who was blogging on the subject, or writing articles, and I didn’t find much on the subject (if you find something, feel free to let me know, I always value information.)

Then I decided to visit Facebook to see which companies had support tabs. I found that in the service industry, companies focused on customer support had dedicated customer support tabs on Facebook. The list includes Zappos, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, FedEx, Dell, HP and Sprint. Before you say “how are THOSE companies focused on customer support?”, understand that their intention is to excel in this area, they may or may not actually succeed at that goal, or your experience might differer from the company’s desire. I found that most large cable television and satelite providers have customer support tabs on Facebook. 

If these companies provide customer support tabs, what’s the flipside? who doesn’t have them? I found that large brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, McDonalds, and AT&T, the really big players, do not have support tabs. I pondered the reasoning behind this. I tried to imagine whether these brands could really provide valuable customer support in the volume they might receive. Honestly, it seemed as though the types of issues or complaints would not really fit in those spaces… well, with perhaps the exception of AT&T. I’m puzzled by that choice.

As a consumer myself, I perceive that the presence of a customer support tab shows a company is serious about customer support. I’ve read that customers want customer support telephone numbers and other ways to contact a company clearly displayed and not hidden under mountains of data. A customer support tab would be a great place to showcase this information. Got content on your website that could help customers? Provide easy access links to that content right on your support tab, especially the most visited articles. This could increase awareness of your .com content to customers that may not have seen it before. Have a forum? Why not add a widget with your forums? HP does a good job of segmenting options into “I want to help myself,” (searching .com answers), “I want help from others,” (support forums), and “I want help from HP,” (HP support services).

So, where do we land? Is there value in developing and maintaining a customer support tab, or does the inclination of Facebook users to go mobile say that investments should go elsewhere? If so, where should they go? I’m inclined to think that if your company wants to show that you are service-conscious, a Facebook customer support tab is still a wise investment. What do you think?

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Surveys on Social Media Customer Experience

Young Girl with Cell

Young Girl with Cell (Photo credit: “PictureYouth”)

Many of the sophisticated customer care social media listening and engagement platforms are either already able to or are making plans to offer the ability to automatically send surveys to the customers you interact with on social media. These surveys can be used for straight net promoter score information (how likely are you to recommend our company/service) or customized to get detailed customer satisfaction information (on a scale of 1-5, how friendly was the social customer support representative you spoke with?).

I know that Frederick Reichheld (The One Number You Need to Grow) claims general NPS responses can be used for growth prediction. And Christopher Wilson (The Net Promoter Score: Part 2 of the Inc. Plan Social Media Series) talks about how to glean NPS from social media. He touches on a point that I think we’re all probably realizing in social media customer care: when you have customers complaining on social media, they perceive a gap between the marketing promises and the product delivery.

But, my questions are a bit deeper. I want to know whether it makes sense to do NPS surveys and CSAT surveys on interactions consumers have had with social media customer support staff. If they had reached out to us through a more traditional channel, like phone or email (yes, email is now a traditional channel, can you believe it?) they might receive a survey via email so we might understand customer perception of that touch point. But what about if they tweeted us or reached out on Facebook?

The first thing I’m considering is the total volume of surveys and touches they already receive from the company. I recently read a piece by Becky Gaylord (Email Marketers: Customer Service DOs and DONT’S) about how Becky had a lovely customer experience at Sephora that seems it could have truly produced a loyal customer. Instead it crashed and burned as they over-informed her via email and topped it off with that cherry of a request to fill out a survey. Another thing I think about is the nature of the channel. If customer support on social typically begins with neutral or negative sentiment that we hope to turn neutral or positive, will the NPS reflected there paint an accurate picture? Or will this subset of customer interactions return a shadowy report of only customers that were dissatisfied to begin with?

I do know that I’m glad the sleeker listening and engagement platforms for customer service are gearing up to offer the ability to automate rather than having to cull through large CSV data downloads and manually pull the data, then manually run the surveys through other tools. I also know that the social media world is all about gathering as much data as possible. How NPS will fit with customer support transactions on social media, I’m not sure yet. I’ll circle back to let you know what I find out.

If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

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When To Step In on Forums

English: Tech Forums Thumbnail

English: Tech Forums Thumbnail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, here’s a question. On a new support forum, how long do you wait before you jump in and respond to customer questions? When I look out across the vast sea of forums, the response times are all over the place. For seasoned forums, where the base is large and the community is strongly rooted, it seems that very little moderator activity will still allow helpful conversations to flourish. On newer communities, though, it seems like more nurturing is required to get things going. I can tell you that without any tending at all, a new forum is not likely to spring to life and turn into a lush garden.

My thoughts right now are that if someone in the community posts a question that could be answered by other community members, giving between 12 and 24 hours on a new forum will give enough time to allow forum members to step in and participate, yet be responsive enough so that members don’t feel abandoned. I’m also thinking that if there is a question that no other community member could possibly answer, that the moderator should step in within an hour to provide assistance. This is especially true in technical forums, where the forum member is trying to complete a function or action and likely cannot complete this action without the aid of another forum member.

Do you have thoughts on this?

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Sound Advice from Entrepreneur Magazine

Social Media Outposts

Social Media Outposts (Photo credit: the tartanpodcast)

Entrepreneur Magazine posted this article by Jason Fell last month titled 4 Quick Tips for Using Social Media for Customer Service. He provides some sound advice on delivering customer care through social media.

His first tip is to keep a separate Twitter handle for support issues. I think this is a great way to not only separate out customer support inquiries from marketing efforts, but also provides an excellent opportunity to create a brand for your support. Branding your company’s help handle shows consumers the company takes customer experience and satisfaction seriously.

Before purchasing something new, I frequently seek feedback online. One great way to check the state of an organization’s customer service is to visit Facebook or Twitter to see what the public is really saying about a brand. I’ve found it true that any customer service flaw a company has can be greatly magnified on social media.

Secondly, he speaks to the importance of first contact resolution. I fully recommend this whenever you can pull it off. It can be tricky, but if you put some detective work into it, many times it’s possible to figure out who the customer is, find that account information and just reply back with an answer to the problem. It’s a bit tough if location information isn’t given, but I think it’s worth the time to give it your best shot.

Fell’s third tip deals with crisis. Crisis can be tricky. I would argue that unless your crisis impacts all or a great majority of your customers, consider benefit of broad proactive communication against the cost. If you can specifically geotarget a proactive post to impacted parties, I recommend it. But overuse of broad updates could start to be construed as spam to those unaffected. It would be a shame to have good corporate intentions result in a pile of messages to unimpacted customers that could serve to erode faith in the brand’s performance. I also say if you have a limited number of customers impacted by the crisis, though it may be painful, you might want to try answering each individual social inquiry, regardless of whether you have a proactive tweet or post out there. This, of course, depends on staffing constraints, but if you can reply with short, personalized responses to all the incoming questions, it can look much more responsive. I do acknowledge this is sometimes just not possible.

I fully agree with Jason’s point that training is a must-have. Traditional call center conversations take place on the phone where information is shared in a dyadic setting. Social customer support happens in a very public place. Thorough training and communication of expectations can really make the difference between simmering down a social site to boiling one over in short order.

Check out the article, I highly recommend it. I’m also interested in your thoughts.

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Delta Orders Pizzas

English: Delta Airlines Cookies snack.

English: Delta Airlines Cookies snack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut (Photo credit: PatrickOhnewein)

Delta used its Facebook account to showcase customer care that exceeded normal practice. During a three-hour wait on the tarmac caused by weather delays, airport employees ordered pizza for passengers waiting on the airplane. NBCNEWS.com’s Ben Popken reported the flight left Boston headed to Atlanta Monday night, but had to divert to Knoxville due to weather in the Atlanta area.

Delta shared the link to the story on their own Facebook page today, with this comment: “30 pizzas on us. Big props to this Delta crew for thinking on their toes – and with their stomachs: http://on.today.com/16K8tuE“.

Within two hours, the post had been shared over 200 times and received 147 comments, with sentiment trending toward positive.

Now, this story isn’t exactly social customer care, but it does speak to great customer service in the field that can produce social brand ambassadors when posted online.

What do you think about this?

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Facebook Launching Ranked and Threaded Comments

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

InsideFacebook reported yesterday that Facebook will be rolling out the ability for users to respond directly to individual post comments. Further, ranking based on individual Facebook user connections and level of post engagement will be applied. So, for example, let’s use Bob and Harry. If Bob’s friend Harry commented on a post, or replied to a comment on a post, it seems Harry’s comment could be displayed to Bob before other comments. It also seems that the comments with the most engagement may be displayed higher in the thread than those receiving fewer responses.

What can this mean to social customer care? Potentially many things. When customers are pleased with an event, this can positively drive brand embassador comments right to the top of a thread. Conversely, if customers are upset about a recent price increase, or are rallying for a service to be provided, one comment by a customer can be echoed by many customers very quickly. This is what I call the “pile on phenomenon”. Raising these detractor comments to the top of the pile can encourage more and more customers to weigh in because they are more visible, and because many other people have already weighed in, there is more perceived safety in responding.

In the InsideFacebook article, Britany Darwell reports that page admins will be able to reduce the post ranking without deleting the post, though the procedure for that is not mentioned. It is also unknown whether any social care-focused listening tools will be able to automate the process of post rank reduction.

How do you think this change could impact social customer care?

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An ADT Experience

ADT

ADT (Photo credit: tom.arthur)

A few months ago, I had an issue with my ADT alarm system. The back door was not set on delay, so when my husband would get up in the night to let our dog out, we would inevitably set off the alarm. I called ADT to ask where in the owners’ manual I could find the instructions on setting a delay to that door that would allow us to input the security code. I was informed this could only be done by having a technician come to the house, and that trip would cost more than $100. Well, being interested in social care, I wondered if voicing my frustration with this reality would help ease this situation.

When I reached out to ADT on Facebook, they responded quickly. The very next day there was a technician at my house, free of charge, correcting the situation for me. Some worry that this behavior trains customers to go straight to social media and air their concerns in public, where companies traditionally don’t want them aired. While I do see (and worry about) this point of view, I also can’t shake the feeling of warmth and loyalty that arises from the knowledge that when I felt wronged (whether I was truly wronged or not), that ADT created in me a feeling that I mattered. ADT linked their brand name with a good feeling in my brain and it cost them a little more than $100. Isn’t that what brand marketers strive to do?

Though I’m not sure yet whether this is the right or wrong way to do it, I did stay with ADT and spend more money on a system upgrade a few months later.

Where do you stand on this issue? Should social care interactions get top priority and first-class treatment?

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Welcome

New welcome mat from my parents

New welcome mat from my parents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Customer care has emerged in the social media landscape. In hindsight it seems only natural that once we begin releasing data out into a communication vehicle, the audience we are delivering to will respond…because they can. Corporations have long had the resources to share anything they like, but now the public has been given a chance to respond. And they sure do.

We moved quickly to provide customer service in social media to respond to an immediate need. Those of us that are passionate about providing excellent customer service want to know, now that we’re out there in the social space, what we can do to find better ways of serving our customers on social media.

This blog is to help share ideas and information that could help us find our way toward achieving top-notch customer service in the channels where our customers choose to communicate.

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