Say Good Morning

Happy Office Worker

Happy Office Worker (Photo credit: norsez (Thank you for 20,000 views))

Do you have those people at work that come in and cheerfully say good morning to everyone they see? You know when they’re coming; you can hear them chatting with each person they pass on their way in. What about the person who never says anything to anybody, just makes a beeline for the desk?

I have to admit, I vary depending on who the person is and their demeanor. This one lady I work with, who is very nice, would tell you that I hardly ever say hello in the morning and pass her right by. You know why? Every time I pass her desk she looks deep in thought. And to me, the work she does seems complicated, so I never want to break her concentration.

But the security guard at the front desk, he’s not that way. He doesn’t have to, but he’s made it a point to say good morning to every person that walks in the door. Not just half-heartedly, no. Not this guy. Though he’s soft spoken, he makes eye contact, smiles, and says “Good morning!” Then, as you leave his sight, he’s sure to say “Have a nice day.” Every morning. My impression of him over the past months has come to be “what a nice guy.” And now, I catch myself saying good morning to him before he even has a chance to say anything! If you told that to the lady whose office I pass every morning, I bet she would say “Really? Frankie does that?”

So, realizing how I feel when he says good morning, I made a point to share my impression with the nice lady at work that I ignore every morning. We both laughed, and she basically told me that she’s happy to have me interrupt her to say good morning. And now I do. You know what? She probably likes me more now. Why? I’ll spare you all the nerdy social science behind this (that I LOVE), but she probably likes me more because she thinks I like her. It’s the theory of reciprocal liking.

Now, what does this have to do with you? Your customers will like you better if they think you like them. An easy way to make people think you like them is to cheerfully extend social courtesies like saying “Good morning” and “Have a great evening” to your customers. On social, I love seeing the ” Goodnight ‘tweeps, we’re outta here!” posts at the end of the evening and the “Good morning, happy people!” tweets in the morning. They add a sense of positive energy, especially in the customer support arena, where feelings might be more negative. If you also have a physical presence, look up at your customers and say “Good morning, thanks for coming in!” or something to that effect. I do recommend varying the words used; Moe’s may do well shouting “Welcome to Moe’s!” at each customer, but I think personalizing your greeting works better.

So, good evening everyone. Thanks for stopping by the Socially Supportive blog!

Look at me, look at me!

"Here's looking at you, kid."

“Here’s looking at you, kid.” (Photo credit: ⌡K)

One of the most important things we can do to ensure good customer service is to watch it. Literally, to observe the transactions our folks have with our customers. Leaders send memos, make rules, start programs, and then after watching for a bit, let those initiatives be and assume their team is adhering to those decisions. But our teams probably need continual guidance and education to ensure that they fully understand not only the letter of the policies we have, but also the spirit.

Our teams need to be initially inspired with the right guidance on how we want our customers to be treated. We should demonstrate and educate on not only the processes we need to adhere to but also the feeling we want our customers to have as they interact with our brands. But after that first exposure to the concepts, we should continue to check in on a regular basis to help keep our teams on track.

Paying attention to your customer service interactions on a regular basis not only ensures your team has the right level of support and guidance, but also helps limit the number of surprises you may find after weeks or months of being disconnected.

So, have a look at that Facebook page or that forum. Hey, this one applies to bricks and mortar as well, so if you have retail location or call center, pop on in for a visit.

7 Things That Frustrate Customers on Social Media

138/365 Frustrated.

138/365 Frustrated. (Photo credit: martinak15)

You know what frustrates me as a customer of social media? The same things that annoy your customers on social media. Here they are; feel free to channel your inner customer, nod your head and say “me too!” out loud.

  • Ignore me. I’m here, asking you a question or making a statement. If you choose to not answer, I’m likely to feel ignored. I don’t want to be ignored. I matter. Let me know I matter.
  • Make me wait. If I ask a question and you respond quickly with “let me check on that for you,” I’m happy. For now. But don’t make me wait days to answer my question. This may make me grouchy, unless expectations are set up front. Try to set those expectations or check in regularly with updatees. I want to know you haven’t forgotten me.
  • Request that I email you. Yep, I said it. It’s annoying. There are times that I know we need to take it offline. But not every time. And not in every case. If I ask you the address of your store, you can answer me online. I’m impressed anytime I ask a question and get a quick answer online that actually saves me time and effort.
  • Use unnatural language. We’re past that, right? Those scripted phrases from phone calls had their place in a more formal time; however we’re on social media now. Share your personality (within reason) and speak to me as if we’re chatting over a coffee.
  • Argue with me. Especially if I’m already worked up. You may feel that you have proved your point; however I’m still not happy. Better to acknowledge my feelings and understand that I may see things differently than you intended.
  • Go on and on and ON. I’m on social in the first place asking you to engage with me because I’m impatient. Try using journalism tricks to keep your answer clear, crisp and concise. I’m glad you are empathizing with me, but I’m driving/reading/watching TV/talking to my family and my attention is divided. Make it easy for me to understand what you’re saying.
  • Don’t try too hard. Yep, I went there. If I’m on social engaging you, I expect elite service. I want you to know who to reach out to. I want you to think creatively to solve my problem. In short, I want you to make something happen. If you can’t make something happen, I’m probably disappointed and talking bad about you (on social and in person).

Have your own pet peeves? Feel free to add them.

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.

Macy’s Anticipates Customer Need

English: Macy's Department Store in New York City.

English: Macy’s Department Store in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got a phone call today. From Macy’s. My girl Macy called me to say that the purchase I made online would be shipped in two separate orders to get them here as quickly as possible. You know, just in case I was wondering how I should expect my order to arrive. By the way, this order was prompted by an email that came to my inbox reminding me of the Super Saturday Sale. I was able to click right from the email to the extra 20% off that was calling my name. I say “reminding me” because Macy’s texts me all the time to let me know when sales are happening. Just like a good shopping buddy would.

Wow, did you get all tangled up in my social relationship with my girl Macy? Are you wondering if I feel bothered, irritated or smothered by this? Surprisingly, my answer is no. Because Macy’s is doing a great job anticipating my needs as a consumer. Of course I want to know when Super Saturday is. Of course I like getting a little phone call to let me know they shipped my order in 2 separate packages. And, conveniently, if you don’t feel the same way, you have the ability to opt out of any of these interactions at any time, with easy instructions through each media channel.

I don’t think each company has to go to this level of support; in fact, that may get to be too many phone calls and emails. However, I think what is important is to find the right mix of social support for your customers. Find out what level of service your customers prefer, and in what channels. Then give it to them. Notice how I classify that email from Macy’s alerting me to sales as a customer support practice? On most planets I think people refer to that as marketing. To me, it’s a great service, because I don’t have to check the site or read the newspaper or even watch television to find out about upcoming store events. I just look at texts or emails.

I hope this sparks some ideas. The more we get ahead of customer need instead of running behind it, the better off we’ll be. Need anticipation is a great way to reduce customer effort. So, feel free to put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and see if you can do some of the work for your customer by anticipating their needs. And Macy’s, if you’re listening, keep texting, emailing, and calling. Just don’t tell my husband.

Remember Me

English: Light bulb patent application. Photol...

English: Light bulb patent application. Photolithography reproduction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that of all the things I might dislike about customer service experiences, having to repeat myself is the thing I find most frustrating. Think about how much time it takes to recall whatever your story is to share it with the next new person you are working with in any customer support channel. Face to face at the bank. On the phone with the doctor’s office. At your pharmacy. Your child’s school. By the third time you I relay the same story, I start to think “Is this really worth all the effort?” in my head.

We know that today, customer churn is top of mind. Keeping customers is less expensive than attracting new ones, and we all want the entirety of the customer experience to be great. What makes a great customer experience? In my experience, the interactions I have with companies are what impact my impression of companies I deal with. For example, when I’m sitting at home wondering “when was that gift basket supposed to be delivered?” I immediately think “well, how can I find out? How long would it take to find out? Do I have to call them? Will they answer the phone at 9pm when I have time to call them, and how informed, articulate and generally amenable is the customer service rep that answers the phone? And, all that sounds hard, so do I really have to call? Can I just tweet to @giftsgalorenstuff ‘hey did my basket make it?’

Sound familiar? So how great would it be if, when I reach out to the company, they act like they know me? Can they just (if they can figure it out from my Twitter handle) respond and say “if you’re talking about that chocolate heaven stack sent to Hoboken, it got there 2 hours ago.” Of course, that’s a convenient case where proprietary information isn’t really an issue, and the Twitter handle can be linked back. But more and more customer support-focused social engagement tools have the ability to link internal account information to customer’s social accounts. And hey, even if you can’t fully answer the question, you can still add whatever personal context is prudent to let customers know that you know them and remember them.

How easy is it to tweet a question to the universe and get the right answer? It’s easier than digging through email to find the confirmation email and clicking through to the company’s website, or even clicking the embedded link in the email that takes you directly to tracking information. If service is really the new retention, then shouldn’t the company dig through their records and click a link for me? (lightbulb goes on.) Yes, we have evolved to that place with social I believe. In customer service we used to be able to say “well, if you can find that confirmation number for me, I’ll be happy to look into it for you.” Social media says “Hey Company XYZ, it’s Frankie, where’s my gift basket?” and infers that you, company XYZ, should go find your own confirmation number based on my name. And I think the company that can accomplish that task regularly probably gets the repeat business by reducing customer effort. I know it works for me personally.

So, tomorrow, when you’re dreaming up ways that you can make a huge impact at work, try a little of this. I bet you can change quite a few customer experiences. And it’s probably easier than you think.

Let’s Not Fight, Shall We?

McDonalds Happy Meal

McDonalds Happy Meal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Picture this: a McDonald’s drive thru speaker, a drive thru worker, and a carload of parents and cranky toddlers disgruntled from leaving the park before they were ready. The only thing that separates them from nap time is the Happy Meals that are calling their names. It’s great that McDonald’s offers smaller french fry sizes and sliced apples in the Happy Meals now. That makes my husband happy.

What does not make me happy is the fight about the drinks. The drive thru lady says “what drinks do you want with the meals?” and my husband says “we don’t want drinks.” How do you think the drive thru lady responded? “You have to have a drink,” she says, sounding disgusted.

Ok, it’s really hot outside and the kids are crying. They have ice water in their cup holders. We don’t need the milk or (heaven forbid the sugar rush) soda or juice. Now, I do realize that the price of the meal is discounted by the price of the drink so that your point of sale system can account for and charge the drink. I served as the drive thru queen of a fast food place through high school and am familiar. I’m fine with you charging me for a drink because that’s what the meal costs. But I don’t really have to have a drink, I just have to pay for one.

Fast forward to the window where the drive thru lady tries to hand us the ice waters she’s prepared, where my husband again informs her we don’t want the drinks. Her demeanor changes from disgust to disbelief when she repeats “You don’t want a drink?” Nope. We don’t want the drinks. All six cup holders are full, and as we can’t pass you trash through the window anymore, no, we don’t want a drink.

How could this situation have been improved? Had the drive thru worker listened to and accepted the original customer request to not have drinks, and simply informed us of the necessity to charge for the drinks, my husband would have said “that’s fine.” Time and materials would have been saved because ice waters would not have been prepared, and the customer experience would have been much more enjoyable. Instead, attempts to force customers to comply with rules that make process easier for the business actually makes things harder.

This can be translated to social customer support as well. If your customer makes a statement or request that seems reasonable, take a moment to determine whether it is appropriate and feasible to bend to meet customer desire. The experience delivered can drive customer satisfaction and loyalty, and could turn out to be an easy way to make an ordinary interaction memorable. In my experience, taking a little time to ponder possibilities can provide many more options for customers. This can reduce the number of times the phrase “you have to” is spoken to your customers. Who likes to hear that? Not me.

Make Feedback Easy

Hampton Inn

Hampton Inn (Photo credit: Mark Sardella)

Last night my family and I stayed in a Hampton Inn in Greenwood, Mississippi. It’s a small town on Highway 82. There are several hotels in town, many with (I’m fairly certain) comparable amenities and features. I do recall the bed being pretty comfortable. But that’s not the most memorable part of the stay.

The most memorable part of our stay was Mary. The Hampton Inn offers free breakfast like so many hotel chains do these days. Ours in Greenwood had a rather nice setup, with just about everything you could want, short of a line cook and a hot grill. As my family and I wandered in, Mary came straight out to meet us. She said good morning. She doted over the kids. She made meal suggestions and pointed us to utensils and extra napkins. As a matter of fact, Mary came out of the kitchen every time a guest came through and treated them as though they were relatives in her very own kitchen at her own house. And not the relatives you wish would leave, but the favorite ones you’ve been waiting to see, and really hope have a good time and want to come back.

Before we left, Mary came out with a couple apples and bananas. She said we should take them for the girls, you know, in case they got hungry later in the car. We drove several more hours before making it back to Atlanta, unloaded the car and got situated, and I’m still thinking about Mary.

There were other positive things about the hotel stay, too. The night clerk (I didn’t catch her name) was very nice when I rang down and asked if I could stop by to pick up extra shampoo. She had a few bottles waiting for me at the front desk by the time I got down, and made sure to ask if I needed anything else and assure me that anything I needed, I should let her know.

So… you know what’s frustrating? I was so pleased with Mary that I wanted to let Hampton Inn know right away. I mean, as my husband drove us out of the parking lot I was on the iPhone looking for their Facebook page to tell them. And I couldn’t find them. Well, really, they had many custom pages for different particular hotels, one page that could have been them but it was hard to tell on the phone view. And then when I visited the site I couldn’t clearly find a place for compliments or suggestions. With cell reception in Greenwood being what it is, the slow speed got me frustrated and I decided it would have to wait. The result being that I’m blogging before I’m able to let Mary’s employers know that she is awesome.

My suggestion is to make feedback easy for customers. Where’s your Facebook page? Can I find it? Do I know it’s really the one I’m looking for? Is it easy to find you on Twitter? Don’t make me email you. Don’t make me mail you a letter. That sounds hard. You may miss out on my compliments.

I will do those things for Mary, because man, that lady was awesome. If you’re looking for someone to really make your guests feel at home, run out to the Hampton Inn in Greenwood, MS around breakfast time and go see Mary. But if you want to know before my blog readers do that you already have a Mary in your employ, I suggest you make feedback really easy.

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

The Element of Surprise

Shocking Awe!

Shocking Awe! (Photo credit: The Opus)

I think I may have surprised someone today. I just reached out. I picked up the phone and called a consumer that had a concern.

At large organizations we implement practices and procedures and protocol to make sense of the many varied activities requiring attention. The intention is pure: help people understand what they should do, how they should do it, and under what circumstances. But sometimes all of these measures that inform and protect can simply be a barrier to doing the right thing quickly. I know this because I am sometimes the “we” that designs the afforementioned practices, procedures, and protocols.

Today I had a consumer ask a valid question on Facebook about an advertisement. My team reached out to me to find out what the answer was and how we should respond. Well, we want the consumer to have correct information, and we want him to get the right message from that information. And so we think about what should be said before we respond, to make sure the answer correctly states the company position, the steps we are taking to investigate his question, all of that. I happened to be running late for a meeting with my team but wanted to close the loop for this consumer. Once I had the answer, my normal course of action would be to word the answer responsibly and send it on to someone that sends it on to the person that will answer the question. But all of those people were in the meeting I was running late for. So I thought, “well, this seems too complicated.” And then it hit me and I felt that quick sense of certainty you get when the answer is so simple.

I just picked up the phone and called the consumer directly myself. I think I probably scared the guy; surely he wasn’t expecting my call from his Facebook inquiry. But I thought, in social, isn’t the point to be social? If a consumer socially reaches out to point out a question he has, isn’t it just as social for me to pick up the phone and call him with my answer?

I know, I can hear the questions. Shouldn’t you answer the consumer in the preferred channel of choice? Shouldn’t you let the team close the loop to gather the metrics and fully understand the interaction? I thought of all those things quickly. But then what I got to in the end was, when you subtract out all the technology, there’s a person that asked me a question, and I know the answer, and isn’t the most direct thing for me to do just to… answer the question?

So I did. And I followed up with a return email thanking him for bringing up his question. And our team will close their loop somehow. But now, our consumer knows that when he tosses a question out into the cosmic void, a legitimate, sensible question, that someone really reads it. And that someone is sensible and can pick up the phone and provide him with a sensible answer. And thank him for bringing up the question.

Since we’re all so concerned about customer experience, I thought that if I were a customer, I might respect that. And whether he becomes a customer in the future or forever remains a consumer, won’t it be nice to know that he’ll hopefully remember I called him personally and took the time to acknowledge he had a legitimate question and that I was reaching out for an answer? I think I would like it.

Open to your thoughts.