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.

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.

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.

Service is Everywhere

I’m traveling today, and I want to share some experiences with you. I left my car at Park N Fly Plus in Atlanta this morning. The attendant patiently waited as I barely answered her questions while shuffling items from one hand to another. The shuttle driver almost dove for my carry-on and said “I’ll get that for you, ma’am,” so I wouldn’t have to lift the bag. Inside Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the TSA agent directing people through the line smiled and instructed travelers to do the same as she recited helpful information. The agent scanning my boarding pass engaged in polite conversation as she smiled at me.

In my quest for aspirin, the news stand cashier in the B terminal smiled warmly and asked if I’d like to donate an item to our troops. Once on the plane, I saw and off-duty Delta flight attendant assist a passenger very sweetly with her bag. Then the on-duty flight attendant, without a word, quietly re-adjusted the bag I placed in the overhead without a snicker, a lesson in bag-ology, or anything. All I could say was “Thank you so much!” as I realized that I, who never do things like that, was just spared a lecture.

Are you amazed? I’m not. Our corporate focus on customer support is becoming obvious. Now, of course, some days are not like this. But how lovely was this morning without incident, snicker, dissertation, or grouchy look from our friends in the travel industry? They are listening to us, and I have to say, if this morning was any indication, they are getting it right.

So, what does this say about social media and customer support? Here’s what I think it says. If Park N Fly, the TSA, Hartsfield-Jackson and Delta can deliver experiences like the one I had on a busy Tuesday travel morning, I would like to announce that the bar has just been raised for the rest of the world, including social media customer support. If we want to deliver exceptional customer support via social media, we’re going to have to take some of that smile and personality I experienced this morning and deliver it via the cold, hard cyberspace. Eeeek.

Start Delivering Great Social Customer Support Today.
Do this:
– Smile: Smile while you type. Get a mirror and put it next to your computer and smile at yourself. I had one at my desk for years, and many times people asked me if I really liked looking at myself or wanted to see if someone was coming up behind me. But the real answer is, if you watch the look on your face while you talk on the phone or interact on social media, you will become aware, and you may notice that the face you’re making doesn’t look very friendly.

– Listen: This one is hard, I know. We do listen, but sometimes when we want to respond quickly we listen for keywords only and then switch right over to solution-location mode. I know this because I have done this myself a time or two (author blushes.) Instead, try to really listen to all the words being said and the overall issue. Then, try to paraphrase without sounding scripted. That way, if you’ve misunderstood the real issue, the customer has a chance to correct before you spend much time “fixing” the not-issue.

– Empathize: A technique you can use to empathize that also helps in listening, is to visualize what the customer is saying. If the customer says the wrong sofa was delivered and she took all day off work to wait for this sofa and now she’s really mad because she clearly ordered the BROWN sofa and this green thing in her living room is clearly not BROWN, try this. Before the defense mechanism engages as you try to defend your company, close your eyes and imagine yourself as this woman. Your expectations have been violated. The wrong sofa probably threw off your schedule of lunch for your child and walking the dog, and now that this Saturday appointment didn’t work you just know you’ll have to take off a day during the week, but you have so many meetings. Now. return to yourself as the customer service person. Help the customer from this frame of mind.

– Wow: After you’ve smiled, listened and empathized, now you have an opportunity to wow the customer. One way to wow your customer is to shock her with a solution that makes little work for her or provides some benefit. What if you could get another truck with the right sofa out there today? What would it take to do that? Would you have to make some phone calls? Do you know? Can you find out what it would take? It’s not always possible, I know, but I think the important thing is to try to make things right. Make the customer whole, or as close to whole as possible. Customers are surprisingly resilient and understanding of mistakes when they are quickly made whole, or better than whole.

These are just a few quick tips that can help make for excellent customer support. Since Delta and the TSA are stepping up their game, maybe these tips can help us step up our game.

Any more thoughts? Love to hear them. Happy travels.

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Don’t Forget The Research

Research being carried out at the Microscopy l...

Research being carried out at the Microscopy lab of the . This photo was taken on July 28, 2006 using a Nikon D70. For more information about INL’s research projects and career opportunities, visit the lab’s facebook site. www.facebook.com/idahonationallaboratory (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I work with a great group of people who are a wealth of knowledge. (No, that’s not sarcasm, I really mean it.) I really enjoy learning things from people. Or being reminded of things by the smart people I work with. Which happened to me today, and I’d like to share it with you.

One of my earlier blog posts was about whether a Facebook customer support tab is still relevant (see Facebook Customer Support Tab – Necessary or Irrelevant?). When trying to determine the answer, you could decide necessity depends on the content offered to customers on that support tab. If the content is not making a customer’s life easier or more interesting, then the tab probably isn’t necessary. If there is meaningful content for a customer, then maybe a support tab is a good way to go. Well, then this could lead you to wonder, what information would a customer find useful? And how should this wonderfully helpful information be organized?

While researching existing Facebook customer support tabs, I came across the HP Customer Support Tab and fell in love with the concept. (Check it out for yourself at https://www.facebook.com/HP?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/HP/app_447787101922291). On this page, depending on your preference, you can choose from 3 clean options:

  • I want to help myself (which links to self-support information you can read on your own)
  • I want help from others (which links to the HP Support Forum)
  • I want help from HP (which directs you to a list of options for contacting HP essentially)

“Brilliant!” I thought. Just brilliant. I need look no further, I found my favorite layout for Facebook customer support tabs. Clean. Simple. Useful options that make your life so easy. So, in my discussion with my brilliant mentors and colleagues, I toss this out as the best thing that ever happened in the world. And the strangest thing happened. These people I work with, that have much experience in the space… they disagree. WHAT? What just happened? Surely they couldn’t! Surely they jest! What could be better than a solution that gives you three possible paths to solve your problem?

Well, they preferred an option where the company help option was more prominently featured, and thought the options for support forum and self-support should be offered later. The theory given was that if a customer is trying to reach out to you on Facebook, they want to discuss it with you directly on Facebook. That’s why the came. “But if you give equal options, maybe the motivation isn’t really to post publicly on the page, maybe it’s to find options,” I said, now defending my emotional decision about the brilliance they clearly missed. And back and forth we went, debating.

Then, because as I said, the folks I work with are brilliant, the real answer came out. Perhaps a usability study of some kind would reveal what the majority of users think. And then it hit me. I was making a broad assumption based on my lone opinion that people would prefer what I prefer. Sigh.  So, it was getting deep. Then another sharp tool in my shed of smart people I associate with said that maybe the usability could be done by asking community members that might use the customer support tab what they think. See? Smart people.

Social media is very shiny, and can be disorienting. We’re completing familiar tasks in a new environment, and this can cause even the best of us to forget core concepts like usability studies, asking people what they want and getting feedback before delivering something still makes sense. So from this experience I assembled a few good questions to ask before settling on a design for a Facebook customer support tab:

  • Do I need a customer support tab?
  • What should I include on this customer support tab?
  • Why will people come to this tab?
  • What will they expect to see or do?
  • How would the page be best organized?
  • What is the best approach for my usability study?

Do you have any questions to add to the list?

Fix the Process

English: It's a simple picture of a magnifying...

English: It’s a simple picture of a magnifying glass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you ask me, social media is like a magnifying glass, or those 10x magnifying mirrors women use to apply makeup in the morning. If you’ve ever used one of these, you know that you might feel like you need a good therapy session afterward.  Every problem, every blemish, everything that you’re already so self-critical of about yourself is made larger than life and reflected back at you.

Every flawed customer interaction can be magnified and served back to you as customer complaints on social media. And savvy executives are watching their own social spaces (go, you savvy execs out there!). This real-time access to customer experience and opinion is just what  companies have needed. But, if you’re running customer care for these spaces, oh boy, get ready.  The pressure is on to answer customer complaints, and fast.

Companies can rush to silence complaining customers by providing relief to just those customers that voice concern; however, without real change, those complaints will just continue to arrive on corporate social media properties.

So, how do you get to real change? Investigate, determine root cause, and correct. For example,  if customers complain about products arriving late, certainly help those customers that complain first, but then also dig deep to find causes and find out how often it happens. Do you have a call center? Chat reps? Do they get the same complaints? How many? And for how long? Was a policy or process change enacted around the time that the complaints started? Or has the process always been this way? Is there a reason the process has to remain in its current form, or is there a potential change that could produce an improved customer experience?

All this investigation requires an organizational culture that can collaborate and is open to change. Launching social media was a pretty big change a few years ago, so if you’ve been around a while, chances are you have a culture that can withstand some policy investigation (I hope). All this detective work takes some time, usually on the part of your social customer support team. First, they have to dig to the root of the issue for the initial customer, and then, they have to ask for other departments to pitch in and provide data on past complaints. Some departments may not want to share that they’ve had a number of complaints on an issue, but if the culture is really about improving customer experience, and you approach the request right, you might be surprised to find that the department is glad someone else noticed there was an issue (“finally” might be a word you hear once or twice).

So, if you’re up for it, give it a try. Be nice (No finger-pointing. We’re all in this together!) and use all your social charm inside the company to see what you can get done. It feels really good when you know that future customers won’t have that same-old issue anymore now that you’ve used the data from social media to solve a nagging process issue.