Seth Price’s “Small Business Guide to Social Media Mastery” [Infographic]

This infograph does three things for this audience.

  • Shows the small business owner some good tips on generally accepted good practices on social media publishing
  • Highlights that you can stand out from the crowd by simply responding to your customers on social media
  • Gives some great examples of industry thought leaders to follow for additional information

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Visual.ly’s “14 Customer Experience Facts Marketers Can’t Ignore” [Infographic]

I like this infographic Visual.ly created. Though it’s mentioning marketers, the clear subject matter is how valuable your customers are, and the impact to a company’s bottom line if a customer doesn’t feel appreciated.

14 customer experience facts

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Don’t Battle Your Customers – Work With Them

Don't Battle Your Customers - Work With Them. image by Ryan McGuire. www.sociallysupportive.com

Don’t Battle Your Customers – Work With Them. image by Ryan McGuire. www.sociallysupportive.com

Companies have a vested interest in ensuring customers have the best possible experience with their product and their brand. For this reason, good sales personnel work very hard to match the customer with the product that best suits their needs based on the information a customer provides. When a customer shares a piece of their story and asks for a particular product, it may appear the requested product will not be the best match for the customer. You might look at their order history, in an attempt to provide the best service possible, and suggest that the widget being requested might not be the best fit. Let’s face it, if the customer purchases the wrong item and has a poor experience, the customer associates that experience with the company.

When the customer takes your advice, things go smoothly. But, what should you do if you are faced with a customer that does not accept your advice and insists on leaving the conversation with the merchandise or service they have in mind? For a good salesperson, this can cause inner conflict. On the one hand, you want your customer happy. On the other hand, you know based on evidence in front of you that the item requested won’t provide the best experience. What should you do? Is the customer truly always right?

Let me share a scenario with you.

A customer walks into an upscale shoe store and peruses the latest styles on display. The salesman, who is seasoned and has an eye for detail, can see that she probably wears a size 8 shoe. The woman glances his way and he comes over with a smile, thinking this will be a quick sale before his lunch break. They chat briefly about the weather and this morning’s traffic. The woman, clearly charmed with the small talk and the salesperson’s demeanor, points at a certain shoe and asks whether the man has that shoe in a size 6. The salesman thinks “oh no, she’s one of those…she thinks her feet are smaller than they are and this will take forever stuffing her foot into the shoe. She’ll be embarrassed and won’t buy anything, and I’ll be late to lunch.”

Now this isn’t the salesman’s first customer by far. He knows a thing or two. So he smiles and says “hang on, I’ll be back in a sec,” and heads for the stock room. A moment later he returns, shoe box in hand. The woman’s brow furrows as she sees the size 8 on the box. “I think you’ve picked up the wrong box,” she says. “Oh no, trust me, this is the size you want.” He begins to open the box, sure that she’ll be more pleased with the fit. But the woman is clearly becoming frustrated and he thinks “oh no, here it comes.” The woman says “Sir, I’m sorry, but I asked for an 8 and that’s what I want.” The salesman’s smile disappears and he says with all the patience he can muster, “ma’am, I’m sure that you think you want a 6, but I can see from the size of your foot that you will need an 8. I fit ladies in shoes all day and I’m certain that I know what you need.” The woman, now upset with being patronized by the sales clerk, responds by saying “I’m glad that you can tell the size of my foot. But I asked for a 6. The shoes are not for me, but for my daughter. Since you are so smart, I’m sure you can tell by my feet that I’ll also be leaving the store now.”

Sometimes, for whatever reason, customers choose not to freely share all the pertinent details that would allow us to see the entire picture. I recommend you start by asking questions to get a better picture. If the customer is reluctant or uncomfortable providing that surrounding data, it might be best not to pry, but to give your product recommendations based on the evidence you have at hand. Then, perhaps point out once, twice at most, the items that could make the product requested by the customer a less appealing choice than what you are suggesting. If the customer is still determined, and the requested product will not cause imminent danger or physical harm, I recommend allowing the customer the freedom to make their own choice. Customers want to feel like you hear them, and that you understand them, and they don’t want to feel like it is challenging to do business with you.

So, the next time you find yourself in this situation, feel free to give my recommendation a try. And rest easy knowing that you did your best to provide all the contextual information for the customer to make his or her own informed choice about your product set.

 

 

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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.

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Do I Have to Answer Every Question on Social Media?

Do I have to answer every question on social media? image by geralt. www.sociallysupportive.com

Do I have to answer every question on social media? image by geralt. www.sociallysupportive.com

For brands, having a presence on social media has become expected and necessary to thrive. Setting up that Twitter handle or Facebook page is relatively easy, and then you put out some content and do some paid media and try hard to stay relevant for your customers, which gets harder, and then there’s this content calendar and yayy, … now people are responding to you! Wait.. uh oh.. they’re asking questions.  Am I supposed to answer all these?

Yes, this feeling can be overwhelming. And to be honest, the answer really is different for every brand and every budget. But let me share a scenario with you.

Close your eyes. Imagine a retail store. It’s bright, shiny and clean. Employees are smiling and all dressed in crisp polo shirts with the company’s logo and they look all well-polished. A customer walks up to the counter and says to the man behind the counter “Hey, I’ve got a question about this here. Can you help me?” The employee, still smiling, sporting logo, stares silently, blinking at the customer. (ummm, awkward.) So, the customer tries again, “Sorry, maybe you didn’t hear me. Can you help me?” More blinking. Another customer walks up next to the first customer and says “I need to pay my bill.” The employee behind the counter turns to the second customer and says, “Certainly, I’m happy to help you with that, follow me.”

What just happened? Well, if you’re the first customer, what just happened was you lost all faith in that expensive, shiny store front and that logo that was attached to the chest of the employee who completely ignored you, that’s what just happened. If you’re the second customer, what just happened is an increased uncertainty about whether you will or will not be able to have your needs met at the store, because though you were helped, clearly the first customer was not. And, if you’re the employee, you probably felt slightly embarrassed that your face is attached to the logo that helped one person but not another. Wow, that’s a lot of feelings we just talked about.

How does this translate to social media customer support? Imagine you’re on Twitter, tweeting merrily, and you realize that your new tablet case has a defect and the fabric cover is peeling away from the plastic shell. “Dang, I just bought this!” you think. Then, realizing you’re already on Twitter, put faith in the universe and tweet out to the company, “help! my tablet case is defective.” You wait for a little bird to bring you a reply. Instead, crickets. You wait more. Nothing. So, you go to the company’s twitter page and you see that tweets after yours are being answered, tweets about “love this new pattern!” and “thanks for sponsoring our fun run!” receive “glad you like it!” and “hey, we love to help the community!” Well, what about you? You are a paying customer, you know, and… and well nobody’s listening to you! There’s the translation.

Both scenarios have to do with a lack of clarity around what the customer can expect from your company. The original intent of social media was to provide a space where people could interact socially. Businesses saw this as an opportunity to connect with consumers and convert them to customers, and many have had marked success. Customers have found this a convenient space to transact business. But not answering customers or answering only occasionally trains them that, though you have a presence on social, you are not fully able to transact business on social. It’s like a false storefront. So, what do you do? Set clear expectations with your customers. Decide whether you want to only be present on social, or whether you want to transact business on social media and make that your strategy. If you are a large business, you probably have the resources to staff people to answer inquiries either during certain hours or 24×7, whichever your audience demands. If you’re a small business and can’t afford staff but still want to transact socially, there are companies out there that will offer support services to you where they answer customers. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach by any means. The important thing is to develop a strategy and clearly set customer expectations, so they are sure of what they can and can’t do. Can’t afford to respond on social media? No problem. Just let your customers know what they can expect from you on social, and show them where they can go to get their needs met.

 

 

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How to Respond to Customer Reviews

How to Respond to Customer Reviews. image by Flavia Brandl. www.sociallysupportive.com

How to Respond to Customer Reviews. image by Flavia Brandl. www.sociallysupportive.com

Recently I’ve been asked for guidance on how companies should respond to customer reviews. So, I figured that readers of Socially Supportive may be wondering the same thing and decided to share my philosophy and a few pointers.

Frankie’s Response Philosophy: Customer Reviews
Whether it’s on your site or a consumer review site, a poor review of your product or service out there on the internet can really sting. If you’re anything like me, you want to reach out immediately to address the situation and make things right. People could see that, and this is your company! Before taking any action, take a step back and breathe.

Should You Respond?

  1. Re-read the customer’s review. Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and re-read the review. This can help you get past any residual hurt caused by the post and help you focus on what the customer has shared.
  2. Investigate the situation. Do some quick investigative work to locate the customer’s records and understand what happened from the company’s perspective. Remember, there are many vantage points of any interaction, and it’s helpful to gather all available information before deciding how to respond.
  3. Decide whether or not to respond. Next, ask yourself whether you should respond. This is an important step that is sometimes overlooked. There are some instances where a response from your company will not only not make the situation any better, but could, potentially, make it worse. Not every review warrants a response. If a customer review includes clearly unreasonable expectations, a reasonable person reading the review will likely discard that person’s review.

If you decide a response is warranted, follow the steps below.

Customer Review Response Steps

  1. Reply with an offer to investigate. Try saying “Let me look into this for you. This is not the experience we want you to have.” This does a few things. It admits no guilt or fault, but publicly shows the company is listening and wants customers to have a good experience.
  2. Ask the customer to contact you, or agree to let you contact him/her. This is important because it takes the conversation offline. The internet is largely a public domain, and your conversation online is not only with that customer, but also the rest of the internet. Unless the customer’s experience is very basic, other customers will not benefit from the minutia of this customer’s particular details. The point here is to let the customer (and the world) know that you are interested in getting to the bottom of things. If the customer does not respond, respect this. Again, the customer has the right to post an online review without the expectation of responding to you. Your other customers will recognize that you did offer assistance.
  3. Discuss the issue with the customer. When you are able to contact the customer, ask what happened, in their perspective.
  4. Do the right thing. If the customer has been wronged, do what you can to make the customer whole. Refund monies owed, repair damaged items, make the situation right. If the customer is not entitled to damages, be careful. Courtesy can be extended as a good will gesture; however giving customers concessions they are not actually entitled to can backfire. You don’t want your social media channel to be seen as a way to get free goods or services when no wrong has actually been done. Remember that a person who has posted about the wrong they’ve encountered is more likely to share the remedy publicly.
  5. Close the loop publicly. If you have been able to satisfy the customer and repair the relationship, feel free to publicly post about how glad you are that the customer gave you the chance to make things right. Do not post the remedy (what you gave the customer or did for the customer) publicly. Each situation is unique and you do not want to advertise a particular customer resolution.

Remember that any feedback at all is helpful to your company and, as cheesy as this sounds, really is a gift. Many of us (myself included) will not take the time to provide feedback; we just take our business elsewhere. Experiencing the business process through your customer’s perspective can be a truly eye-opening event.

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Know Your Customer to Improve Social Customer Experience

One of the first things taught to writers is that before you write a single word, you must first know your audience. This is true of authors, playwriters, speech writers, journalists, and, yes, bloggers too. It’s

Know Your Customer to Improve Social Customer Experience. Image by PDPics. www.sociallysupportive.com

Know Your Customer to Improve Social Customer Experience. Image by PDPics. www.sociallysupportive.com

helpful for us because it keeps us on target by sharpening our focus. Are you wondering why this matters to you as a person delivering customer experience? Good. Read on.

Let’s talk about football. Superbowl 49. Well, ok let’s talk about the commercials. Did you see the one about the guy with the Doritos bag on the airplane? How about the one with the screaming goat (or were there two with screaming goats?) Or that tear-jerker with the race car driver dad trying to balance work and home life? That one was my personal favorite. Sometimes it feels like these advertisers really get you, they really nail it. What about that insurance commercial, you know the one where the kid never got to grow up because of an accident in his house? Ouch. First, what a buzz kill in the middle of the Super Bowl. Your friends are over, you’re having drinks and snacks, in the mood to celebrate life and cheer for your team, and then this comes on. Second, does anyone have a friend who unfortunately had a child that died at an early age? I do. Can you imagine how horrible those friends felt watching that? What about couples who can’t have children that are reminded of all those milestones they won’t see their children go through. Yeah. Feels like those ad agencies really missed the mark, doesn’t it? Anybody run out and buy insurance after that commercial? I’m betting not.

So, what does all this have to do with your customer experience? Just this: know your customer. The reason these ads worked or didn’t work is because of demographic research. The commercials were slanted to father/child relationships because demographic research from last year showed that men weren’t really identifying with the 1960’s image of man as having little to no involvement with child rearing, and we know that today many more dads split child care duties or maybe outpace their wives in that department. GoDaddy even pulled their commercial before the Super Bowl because a preview before the event drew huge criticism. When they wrote a commercial that showed a couple happy to have their lost puppy returned because they planned to sell it to Danica Patrick on their website, they vastly misread how the general public would react.

In our general interactions with customers, we need to first endeavor to learn who we are talking to before we make assumptions about what that customer wants or needs. If you start off talking about how great it was that New England won right off the bat, there is the possibility your customer a) doesn’t even know that New England was in the Super Bowl; b) disagrees with you vehemently and thinks it’s a disgrace that Seattle didn’t win. Ask questions before making statements or recommendations. Test ideas and products on your target market before launching. Give free samples. Ask friends and neighbors. This research before launch might slow you down a bit, but it could save you heartache in the long run and get you much closer to the end result your customer is seeking.

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Keepify’s 14 Customer Experience Facts Marketers Can’t Ignore [Infographic]

The title says “marketers;” however I believe this infograph by Keepify really speaks to customer experience as a whole. I think the last point is especially interesting: only 12% of current marketing spend is used to to retain customers. Here’s something that is not included in the infograph: some companies spend no marketing dollars at all to tout exceptional customer service. Providing excellent customer support on social media is a great venue in which to showcase your company’s great customer service.

14 customer experience facts

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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?

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