Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference?

Yes. (I know, you’re thinking “wow, she just came right out and said that with no hesitation.) I’ll say it again. Yes. And here’s why.

My family and I recently returned from a Disney cruise. The children had a wonderful time. They giggled, squealed, and chased beloved characters all around the ship. They dressed up in beautiful costumes and were treated like royalty. We all enjoyed excellent service from the staff aboard ship. They referred to the girls as “princess,” asked about our days, and even sang Happy Birthday to the girls (they’re twins, you see.) It was lovely.

But something happened prior to the cruise that… well, it clearly doesn’t negate the efforts of so many people working so hard on the ship. Our stateroom was impeccably clean, our servers were excellent, and the ship was so well designed. However one event kept entering my mind. What was it?

They never replied to my tweet. Yep. I had reached out the day before the cruise

Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference? Yes. www.sociallysupportive.com

Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference? Yes.
www.sociallysupportive.com

asking for assistance because in all the mad rushing to get loose ends tied up before the cruise, I remembered that I hadn’t ever called to schedule the girls’ birthday decorations for the stateroom. Because, you see, with twins it’s a bit different sometimes. Reading the fine print on a decoration package can save hours of tears because there was only one toy included with the decorations. eek. Don’t need that when we’re all in the close quarters of a stateroom.

So I called them, and I explained my situation. The care agent on the phone told me that there was nothing she could do for two reasons: one, I hadn’t called within the required 3 days, and there would be no exceptions for any reasons; and two, they had no provisions for twins and I would not be able to purchase a separate, second toy. And no, there was nobody else to speak with that would tell me anything different. Well, I do understand that I was outside of that 3 days, and I can imagine they might really need 3 days to plan hanging up decorations in a stateroom. But, being a parent, I decided to swallow my pride, admit my mistake publicly, and see if perhaps I could get a reprieve from the online world in order for my girls to have those little decorations in the room.

I tweeted out to @DisneyCruise confessing my error and asking if anything could be done. No reply. Ever. I had wondered, being that this was our first Disney cruise, whether that was a sign of things to come. But it wasn’t. Everyone worked really hard to ensure that we had a fantastic cruise. We bought the children these bubble making toys that play music (parents could do without the music, btw if Disney is reading) and a wonderful woman named Keisha from Jamaica was working in the shop. Seeing the sadness in the girls’ eyes when we found only one bubble want after looking all over the ship for these things, Keisha called to her leader and had another shop opened to bring more stock to her store. Wow. I mean everyone went all out.

Are you wondering what the point is? Here’s the point. You can do an amazing job with an amazing crew and hit the mark on every point. But if you’re not answering on Twitter, you might turn your customer’s experience from “unrivaled, unprecedented, hands-down NPS of 10,” into “It was great. But it was weird that they didn’t respond to my tweet….” and then a whole long story about  how @DisneyCruise misssed your tweet.

I struggled with whether to write this post because it seems a shame to call attention to one missed opportunity when so many people worked so hard to deliver a truly fantastic experience. And I will post about how going the extra mile can really leave a lasting impression on your customers to highlight all that great service. But the lesson here was important enough to share and can help us all out as business. And I’m sure this resonates with many of you, because it happens to us all the time. Something is almost stellar, but this one thing is distracting and overshadows the rest. And that’s what this lack of response on Twitter was: a distraction from an otherwise stellar performance by so many hard-working people behind the Disney Cruise brand.

Salesforce Desk’s “7 Ways to Provide Exceptional Customer Service for eCommerce” [Infographic]

In this infograph, Zendesk points out that providing multichannel support is a key factor in ensuring customers shopping online can receive the service they need.

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.

 

 

It’s All In The Details with Social Customer Support

It's all in the details with social customer support. USAA logo, property of USAA.  www.socialysupportive.com.

It’s all in the details with social customer support. USAA logo, property of USAA. www.socialysupportive.com.

Let’s talk about Net Promoter Score (NPS) for a second. This is a measurement on a scale from 1 – 10 based on a simple question: How likely are you to recommend this company to someone else? 1 is least likely, 10 is most likely. Any score from 0-6 considers the respondent a detractor. 7-8 is neutral, and a score of 9 or 10 labels one a promoter for that brand. Subtracting the total detractors from the promoters (while omitting the neutrals) yields the overall score. Of course, to ensure the validity of the data you must ensure an automatic survey set to avoid only happy transactions being calculated. The overall score of is thought to be a strong indicator of future growth potential for that company.

I find myself wondering this: what do the highest scoring companies do that return these fantastic results? Well, some of it can be observed as a high quality product. Apple is brutally dedicated to design simplicity. Trader Joe’s offers products you can’t find anywhere else. Other components include a commitment to customer service. The hostess at Chick-fil-A comes around asking if you need anything as you eat your meal. USAA lets you know about other services you might find beneficial, and changes addresses for all products at the same time. Southwest is known for excellent customer service from happy employees. And Amazon, well, I’m not sure if their customer service is great or not because I tend to receive my packages on time (or early) and in good condition.

So what can we do to be more like these companies? Well, measuring NPS is great, but you don’t have to institute a big survey program to get started on making customers happier. .  If you re-read the previous paragraph, what you might find is that regular attention to small details gets noticed by customers in a big way. Southwest is being nice to customers; same with Chick-fil-A. They’re just using their manners. Amazon and Apple are paying attention to quality on the front end to improve brand image and minimize customer service needs (hopefully) on the back end.

Social isn’t a place. It’s a way of thinking. When we say “social” we tend to think only of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. But the point of social is to benefit from interacting with people and benefiting in some large or small way from the collective knowledge. Ask your customers what is important to them. Make every attempt to deliver quality the first time, based on what they said they wanted. If you make a mistake, use your manners to apologize and make it right for the customer.

Ask Yourself These Questions to Deliver on the Details:

  • Can I ask my customers what they want? If I can’t ask them all, can I ask a few for general knowledge?
  • Is there a way I can quickly and inexpensively improve the quality of my work?
  • Is there an opportunity for me to use proper etiquette more regularly?

Keep that Customer Experience Mindset Going

Keep That Customer Experience Mindset Going. Image by created by the 31st Communications Squadron, USAF. www.sociallysupportive.com

Keep That Customer Experience Mindset Going. Image by created by the 31st Communications Squadron, USAF. www.sociallysupportive.com

Do you ever go to meetings or training classes with new, random groups of people and have to complete those ice breaker activities? You’re going about your day, getting “real work” done, and then you have to stop what you’re doing to go play silly games and interact with people? It can feel really uncomfortable to get into these new situations with these new people outside of our comfort zones. But these exercises tend to be effective tools to take us out of our current mindset, outside of our comfort zone and get us into a more open and relaxed frame of mind. The truth is that learning new things and working well in groups is an important part of our jobs.

I bring up these scenarios because customer service can feel that way. Employees that interact with customers are typically have “down time” responsibilities such as filing, sending emails and the like that they complete between customer interactions. If there is a slow period with few customers, good momentum can build on those offline tasks. The first customer that requires assistance can feel like an unwanted interruption just when progress is being made. That can create stress, and allow a mindset to creep in that taking care of customers is interfering with the ability for the employee to take care of the customer’s immediate needs.

It’s helpful for us as leaders to recognize this challenge from our employees’ viewpoint and to help provide tools for employees to remember to switch mindsets and remember to put the customer first.

Tools To Help Remind Employees That Customers Come First

  • Model Behavior – Model the behavior yourself by stepping up and happily taking care of customer issues prior to daily chores
  • Discussion – Point out opportunities you notice, and suggest alternatives
  • Display – post your customer service vision and goals where employees can see them.

See if some of these steps help improve customer experience for your company!

E-Trade Nails It with their Customer Support

E-Trade logo. Property of E-Trade. www.sociallysupportive.com

E-Trade logo. Property of E-Trade. www.sociallysupportive.com

Customer experience is clearly still all the rage in business these days. We’ve gone from the age of making as many widgets as possible, to making them as BIG as possible, and then trying to get them as small as possible to selling experiences more than the widgets themselves. For some, making the transition to this experiential push is tricky, because it shifts shape and form and is different from person to person. That personal effect makes it challenging to mass produce.

I had an experience with E-Trade last night that nailed it, in my mind. I’m still floored at the simple genius of it all, and the mass-production potential for other companies. My family has recently moved. If you’ve moved lately, you know how big of a task that can be. Things get broken, take longer than you think, and seem to drag on forever. And where is your magazine? I know I’m showing my age, yes I get the digital subscription too, but you can’t smell the fragrance samples from the tablet just yet (dear iPad/Android app developers, save some trees and work that out for us when you get time? Thanks.)

Anyway I went to the mailbox last night and saw an envelope from E-Trade with one of those yellow forwarding labels and I thought “Oh great, I forgot to change my mailing address with E-Trade. Yet another chore to do tonight. When I sat down and opened the envelope, I was amazed. E-Trade was reaching out to let me know that the United States Postal Service indicated I had changed my address, and so they went ahead and changed the address on my account for me. They just wanted to let me know, in case that’s not what I wanted them to do. Imagine my surprise and delight! One less task for me!

So, let’s look at risks here. Some percentage of customers (I would think a small percentage) may find this creepy and complain. It could smack of big brother. Some other percentage (I’m still thinking a vast minority) might not have wanted to change the address on their account, even though they forwarded their mail with the USPS. And, yet another small minority may have had their address changed in error, but this should be caught with the notice to the previous address.

I love this. I’m often caught saying at work and in life that our customers don’t work here. We do. So do as much for them as possible. This appears to be one low-risk strategy that could benefit more companies. I know I would appreciate it. Feel free to use this example as starting point for similar ideas. Are there things you can do to take care of the details for your customer?

Waiting Takes Too Long for Customers

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Yes, you read that right. Waiting is hard and it takes too long. It’s boring. Have you noticed lately that waiting feels much more difficult than it used to? We do all kinds of things to avoid waiting. Today we tweet out our question or post it on Facebook in an attempt to avoid waiting on hold with companies. We go online and click that “chat now” button instead of walking into the store for assistance. We do not want to wait. For things like automotive repairs that cannot be completed online, UGGGHH! We have to actually go there? I hope they have wifi so I can watch something on my iPad. If not I’ll just have to scroll through Facebook on my phone.

I know, this conversation causes many people to start talking about the “good old days” before people were so connected and could sit still for a while patiently. I remember those days, and they were boring. We also had far fewer items on our to-do lists, if I remember correctly. But regardless of our positions on whether we should behave in this fashion, the reality today is that we do.

So, what do we do about it, as business people trying to please our customers? Maybe try one of these things:

  • Decrease wait times – Make every attempt to decrease your wait times. Perhaps increase staffing, decrease length of interaction (whether in person, on the phone, on social or chat)
  • Increase fun things – Even if you’ve decreased your wait times, increasing fun or distracting things will make wait time seem shorter. In person, provide a television, wifi, coloring books or games for children. On hold, play a local radio station or hold info-tainment (factual entertainment tidbits). Steer clear of bland hold music if you can.
  • Let me wait from afar – Have you called Delta lately? If they have a hold time, you can press a button to have them call you back when they’re ready for you. Then I don’t really feel like I’m holding. Or, like restaurants, give me a pager or text me when it’s my turn.

These are things about the customer experience we can control to create a more positive interaction. Some cost more than others. Hey, if a box of crayons helps my customer smile, then maybe it’s worth the price!

Review: Ashley Verrill’s “How Experts Would Fix 8 Twitter Missteps”

Recently, Ashley Verrill of Software Advice wrote an article titled Social Support #Fail: How Experts Would Fix 8 Twitter Missteps. I’ve included a slideshare for your convenience.

[slideshare id=32041022&doc=howexpertswouldfix8twittermissteps-140307100259-phpapp02]

Verrill pulled tweets to 130 socially active brands with negative sentiment that mentioned “customer service” in the post text. She then selected sample tweets and asked experts in social customer care how they would answer differently. After reviewing the article and the slides, I noticed one common theme in the company’s responses: complete lack of a personalized response. In some cases, the companies didn’t respond at all.

Total lack of response is equivalent, in my mind, to a customer coming into your retail location, asking you a direct question, and you ignoring them as you walk away, with no explanation given. I believe this causes the same feeling for customers in person or online. We would never do that in person (I hope. Otherwise we have bigger challenges to overcome.) and so should never do it online. The only exception would be ignoring blatant trolls after initial attempts to provide resolution have failed.

Responding with an irrelevant or unhelpful comment is almost as bad, if not worse, than no response at all. At least a customer can give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you missed the post or were so busy helping others that you couldn’t respond in time. When your response is to simply say “we received your feedback,” or to direct customers to another channel for service, you are essentially saying “our presence in this channel is strictly to drive you from the channel of your choice to the channel of OUR choice.” Customers came to you for support on Twitter or Facebook because that’s how they prefer to communicate right now. Your superior customer service could mean the difference between a customer being yours and a customer being theirs. Many times, it’s just as easy to provide good customer service as it is to try to avoid providing it, so if you’re going to answer on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, providing the best possible customer service directly in that channel right from the beginning could really help you stand out among the competition.

“Regardless of whether companies want to acknowledge it, consumers are going to use social media to complain and provide feedback on their experiences. Yes, in previous years it’s true customers didn’t necessarily expect to get a response, but that is no longer the case. An increasing number of consumers today expect a response, often times within a few hours (or less). Just look at this tweet from Ann Gregory: ‘@AskTarget maybe try helping @stacyreno resolve her issue?’ I’ve seen these kind of interactions over and over again. When you consider the propensity of these messages to travel further, faster in the social space, it’s easy to see how ignoring social customer service requests can be detrimental to your online reputation.” – Ashley Verrill, customer service researcher at Software Advice.

The article shares 6 types of mistakes to avoid. Here are those mistakes and my thoughts on each:

  1. Don’t Leave Your Customers Hanging – This refers to not answering customers at all. As I wrote above, I couldn’t agree more. They asked a question or made a statement they expect you to respond to. Nobody likes to be ignored, and customers don’t want to pay you to be ignored.
  2. Don’t Tell Customers to Do Something When They’re Upset – Agreed. Providing customer support in social media began as a way to meet your customers where they are, which extends convenience to them and reduces their level of required effort. For example, if a customer says “You lost my luggage, help!” and your response is “email us at lost@lostluggage.com to let us know,” you’ve missed something. They just did notify you. Why don’t you email your company for the customer? Otherwise, you’ve created an additional layer of unnecessary complexity in your own organization.
  3. Don’t Just Respond – Tell The Customer You’re Here to Help – This one is tricky. You must first actually be prepared to provide assistance in this channel before you tell the customer you want to help. For example, if someone requests an account credit, I would recommend that you say “I’m here to help” only if you really intend to help. That being said, I think that if you’re answering on a channel, you should empower your team to resolve issues, right then and there.
  4. Choose Your Words Carefully – Yes. Especially on Twitter. I recommend you carefully consider how to let the customer know you care, you can help, and plan to do something that will help. As a customer, I want to know that sending you a DM will actually result in problem resolution. I want your request for my DM to show me it’s worth my time and you are empowered to make things right.
  5. Don’t Forget to Close the Issue Publicly – This is so important. On a telephone or in an email, dyadic (one-to-one) conversations are clear, and we know when resolution occurs. One of the benefits of social media, though, is that when done correctly, a greater audience has visibility to the issue, the support and the resolution. This potentially saves another customer from having to contact you. You can solve an issue one time for multiple customers. Also, prospective customers can see that you follow through on your promise to deliver solutions.
  6. Ask the Customer for a Chance to Rectify the Experience – When your customer is upset, try asking “What can I do to make this right?” This does a couple things: it shows the customer you are interested in a collaborative solution, and it also takes the customer from a position of venting to a position of considering options. The customer then feels compelled to reciprocate your collaboration and tries to think of something to make him/her feel whole again.

Have a look at the article and the slides to gain insight on how experts say they would have responded. Experts responding include Kim Garst, Shep Hyken, and Dave Evans, all of whom I follow on Twitter.  Happy reading!

Manners Are Important for Social Customer Support

Tea Party (Explored)
Proper Manners for Proper Peoplembelgal / Foter / CC BY-NC

Have you ever been conducting a business transaction with someone that seems to be going really well, and then something the person says something that seems to come out of left field? That happened to me recently. My husband and I were buying a car at a car dealership. Everything seemed to be going fine. Our salesman was helpful, courteous, and seemed very personable. He asked about children, how we like Atlanta, and engaged in the other usual pleasantries. But, right before we left, he made a disapproving comment about the political affiliation he assumed one of the subsidiaries of my employer had. Wait, What? How did we get there? It was a very strange comment that really served no purpose except to turn the mood awkward. I thought that odd, coming from a car salesman, whose livelihood depends in part on establishing and maintaining good relationships with people.

So, I thought perhaps we could all use a few reminders on proper social etiquette. Here are 5 things to remember.

5 Tips on Customer Care Etiquette

  • Be Professional – Keep the conversation to business and common pleasantries like the weather, sporting events and kids. Stay away from politics, religion and personal views.
  • Be Positive – Customers appreciate a positive experience. If they have a negative experience while interacting with your brand, they may associate your brand with negative emotions. Nobody wants that.
  • Remain Focused – Remember your customer is the center of attention during any business transaction. Do not ask the customer to wait while you handle routine tasks like finishing an email or talking to a colleague. Handle the customer first.
  • Eliminate Interruptions – While working with customers, advise colleagues or vendors to wait until the customer transaction is complete. Your customer may question your priorities if you ask them to wait while you chat with, say, the delivery man or your receptionist. In social media, interruptions and distractions can increase your handle time.
  • Say “Thank You” – Customers have a choice of vendors. When they choose you, show your appreciation. Besides, nobody hears “thank you” enough, do they? So, say thank you.

Try these out. Start today. I can tell you I do not want to be the subject of a blog post like this. I would much rather have someone write about the exceptional service I delivered and the great memories they have of their interaction with me.

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.