Tip Sheets for Social Customer Support Reps

EXCLUSIVE - Waffle House grill cook cheat sheet

EXCLUSIVE – Waffle House grill cook cheat sheet (Photo credit: nickgraywfu)

Have you ever lost your cell phone, and realized that you don’t know anyone’s telephone number by heart anymore? Thank goodness for cloud storage, so your new phone can magically have all the data you need at your fingertips. It’s just much easier to get done what you need to do when the data you need is right there.

The same is true for your customer support staff, social or otherwise. Providing a tip sheet, or quick reference guide, is the easiest way to ensure that your team has the most important information right at their fingertips. This helps them project a confident, well-informed image to your customers and helps them feel more self-assured and knowledgeable. The smarter they feel about the product or service they’re discussing, the more they’ll feel comfortable talking to customers about it.

Here are just a few ideas of things that could be helpful on a tip sheet:

Cheat Sheet Items

  • Mission Statement – It doesn’t have to be fancy, It’s just a good idea to make sure the team sees the big picture.
  • Quality Standards – Which tasks can I complete that look like good service to our customers?
  • Priorities – If many things start to happen all at the same time, which should I do first? Which should be put off?
  • Contact Information – Let the team know who can get what done, and how to reach those people.
  • Emergency Information – List instructions for emergencies.

Social Customer Support Cheat Sheet Items

In addition to those above, add these for your social team:

  • Hours of Operation – When are posts expected to be answered?
  • List of Monitored Channels – Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? YouTube? A comprehensive list helps ensure nothing is missed.
  • SLA – Desired time to response for each channel. This is particularly helpful with multiple channels
  • Thresholds for escalation – Let your team know how they can tell it’s time to escalate.  (X number of posts on the same topic in X hours need to be escalated)

Each business is different, but generally these categories of information can get even new or temporary employees through challenging situations.

Using Social Media for a Retention Aid

A life preserver, or toroidal throwable person...

A life preserver, or toroidal throwable personal flotation device. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I’m about to write is not a new concept, but I’m hopeful it will help us regain enthusiasm. When the idea of providing customer care through social media came about, the air was filled with the excitement of possible uses. One of those uses is as a retention vehicle.

Keeping customers, as we’ve discussed before, is much less expensive than attracting new ones. If you have a marketing department, I bet they have lots of research to share with you on the subject. So how do you keep customers from leaving? What if you could get early warning that they’re thinking of leaving, and save them right before that happens? Well, in days past, companies weren’t necessarily privy to those conversations. But fast forward to this wonderful “sharing” age of social media, and you can listen in on plenty of public conversations happening about your brand. What do people like? What makes them mad? Who’s thinking of leaving?

Wow, we can hear when people are thinking of leaving? Yes, we can. And what should we do with that information? Well, I think we ought to dive right in and understand what’s not working for our customer, and get to a place where it’s working. Really, really quickly. That makes sense, right? So the last post I wrote, “Connections Into Social Customer Support,” would apply here as well. That quick connection into your retention department (whether your retention department is thousands of people strong, or just Suzie, from down the hall, towing the line on her own) matters not. What matters is making sure that when your customer says he’s had one or more experience that makes them want to leave, someone with the authority to make that customer better reaches out to provide assistance.

This may seem like we’re training customers to come to social media and complain. And maybe more will. But those may be the people that were just going to leave without saying goodbye. Demonstrating your willingness to assist customers in a public environment sends a strong message to all watching that when customers express frustration, your company reaches out to acknowledge the customer concern and attempts to make things right.

Connections Into Social Customer Support

Plug

Plug (Photo credit: Samuel M. Livingston)

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

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

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

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

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

Are You There?

Recently there was a story in the news about a store that didn’t clearly have its hours of operation listed. The store was in a shopping mall, and it kept different hours than its neighbors. One night the front door wasn’t properly secured. A group of shoppers entered the store, selected their items and, confused, left money on the counter to pay for their selected items.

Open sign in Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA

Open sign in Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Customers should not have to guess whether you are open and ready to serve their needs. Hours of operation and support should be clearly indicated on digital properties (web sites, Twitter and Facebook, etc.) just as they should on premise at a physical location. Representatives should be punctual to make sure that the posted hours are consistent with the actual experience. You know that feeling when you call into a call center and the hold message just spins and spins? If you later find out the business wasn’t even open but no notice was given that you should not wait on hold, you will likely wind up feeling cheated out of your time. Likewise, sending a tweet out to the universe with no response can feel like being ignored.

So, clearly post those hours of operation, and then live up to that brand promise. That’s what it is, after all: a promise of service available during a certain time period.

Keep Your Social Media Customer Support Staff Informed

Knowledge will make you free

Knowledge will make you free (Photo credit: tellatic)

You know that feeling when you are shopping for something, and you get to talk to an employee who has all the answers your looking for? And then gives you more information you didn’t even know you wanted? I love that feeling. I tend to buy more from people like that.

Informed staff can provide more than just information. They convey a sense of confidence and faith in the brand, and can put customer fears to rest. There are many areas of information that you can share with your team to ensure happy, trusting customers.

  • Product/Service Information – It’s critical that your team is fully knowledgeable on all product and service information and pricing. If your staff can’t answer questions on your own goods, it can cause a lack of confidence in the ability of the brand to deliver.
  • Mission Statement – A well-written company mission statement tells an employee many things, including the main goal the company hopes to achieve and an indication of the way in which the company hopes to achieve that goal.
  • Brand Voice – Each brand develops its own voice in the marketplace. Correctly training on the tone and tenor that suits your company will really help your team stay true to that voice. Consistent brand voice helps your customers feel confident in that brand promise.
  • Corporate News – Customers have easy access to plenty of news and information about your company. Providing that same information to your staff ensures they appear well-informed.
  • Insider Information – When possible, inform your team of changes before the general public is made aware. This allows them to keep their expert status.

These few steps can help your company look buttoned up and prepared to assist customers with all their questions and concerns. And, aside from creating confident customers, a great side effect is that your employees will feel confident too. That’s great for morale. So, ask yourself what you can do today to get your team prepared to answer the questions customers may be asking them tomorrow.

Infograph: Salesforce Desk’s “Which Industries Get the Most Customer Service Complaints?”

Interesting infograph published by Salesforce Desk on customer service complaints by category.

Using Social Media to Teach Customers

Classroom Chairs

Classroom Chairs (Photo credit: James Sarmiento (old account))

One of the benefits of developing relationships with your customers via social media is the opportunity to provide education.  Customers don’t really want to call you with their questions and concerns; honestly some customers may even prefer to look up the answer for themselves rather than ask you on Twitter or Facebook or other social channel.

The barrier to self service can be a lack of awareness that self-service materials exist or how to locate them. Say you run a dry cleaning service, and you’ve decided to provide helpful information on fabric care and cleaning (I don’t know, I’m making this up. Go with me here.) A customer tweets at 8:30 am panicking over a stain on her suit she’s been trying to get out since 7am for her 9:00 am meeting.

Here are 3 steps to raise awareness and educate customers:

  1. Solve the immediate need –  Step in and tell the customer there is no need to panic. Give quick instructions on how to remove the stain within her current constraints (meeting in 30 minutes, drugstore 2 minutes away, apply these chemicals and voila, stain gone in time for meeting.)
  2. Provide additional information that could help next time (Suzie, here’s a link to our site where you can get information to solve your stain issues in the future)
  3. Advise of relevant services your company provides (Also Suzie, our facility at 9th and Main opens at 7am and will take care of stains for you on-the-spot [pun intended] for a tiny fee. We hope you’ll think of us next time).

We know the spirit of social media is all about community and helping, and not so much about cold selling. However, in this case, Suzie knows that rather than spend 2 hours fixing a stain, she could save the panic and just head on over to 9th and Main next time.

River Pools and Spas has created a blog and educational section to help educate customers about buying and installing in-ground pools. Providing this information to customers, regardless of their intent to buy from your company, not only establishes them as an authority on the subject, but also goes a long way to creating a relationship of trust before consumers have ever stepped foot into their showroom.

Now, take a look at your business model. Could you do something similar?

Make it Easy

2001 Atlanta Trip with Wendy

2001 Atlanta Trip with Wendy (Photo credit: dharder9475)

You may have read my last post about Macy’s, and how I love that she texts me to let me know when the sales are happening. Well, recently my love turned colder when I went to return a pair of shoes and a dress. See, I went to return everything at the Calvin Klein counter (because I love Calvin Klein) and I intended to purchase more items after my return was through. But, that dream came to a screaching halt when the sales rep dumped my box upside down on the counter, saw the pair of shoes in the box and said “oh, you’ll have to return those upstairs at the shoe department.” I said “you’re joking.” She said “No ma’am, I’m sorry, shoes wants their shoes returned upstairs.” I thought “Really?” So, you know what I did? I went upstairs and returned both the dress and the shoes to the shoe department, and then left. No shopping at Macy’s.  I took my money to another store to buy my $300 worth of Calvin Klein dresses that same day.

So, what happened there? I’ll tell you. The store has a policy to make things more convenient for the store and less convenient for the customer. This can irritate customers. And though customers may not say in words that they dislike the process, but they can certainly speak with their wallets. That’s why reducing customer effort is so important. Customers will pay a premium to be treated well.

How could the scenario have gone differently? Picture this. I’m walking into my favorite section of Macy’s, the Calvin Klein section. The sales clerk notices how distracted I am by the new dresses and says “Don’t you just love that blue one? We just got those in and everyone has been looking at them. If you like, I can finish this up for you while you go have a look.”  And then a few minutes later I’m pulling out the credit card. Zip zip. Macy’s makes $300 in a few minutes.

So yes, the clerk would have had to put those shoes aside and later someone would have to come retrieve them. But each time we place a barrier in front of our customres, we run the risk that they will walk out the door with their money. Heck, I exerted EXTRA effort to go to a completely different store to spend my money. I was spending money that day, and if Macy’s didn’t want it I was happy to give it to someone else.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • Are all the tasks I ask my customer to complete really necessary?
  • Do I ask my customer questions I don’t really need the answer to?
  • Is there a way that I can anticipate the wants/needs of my customer and solve those needs before they have to ask?
  • If I were the customer, how would this feel to me?

In your business, I invite  you to think about the processes you have in place to reduce your own workload. Now, think about whether those barriers could potentially cost you sales. And then decide if there is a way you could change those processes to make things easier on your customer. If I react that way with my beloved Macy’s, I assure you that your customers, equally loyal or less loyal, may do the same to you.