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.

How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal?

How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal? www.sociallysupportive.com

How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal?
www.sociallysupportive.com

We know from recent customer surveys that a resounding theme exists in responses from consumers who want to do business with companies that care about them. “Don’t treat me like just a number,” they write. Or, “I want to feel like somebody at that company cares about me.”

We also hear that digital interactions such as chat, social media and texting are cheaper and that customers actually want to engage with brands through these avenues. But, how do you deliver an interaction that feels personal without delivering a warm and empathetic human voice on the other end?

Good question. We know that eye contact, warm smiles and an open-armed stance show people in person that we are open to what they have to say and willing to work with them. In a call center environment the visual clues are missing from the conversation, so we teach agents how to enhance verbal connection by ensuring they wait to speak until the customer has finished, being very polite and repeating what they understood the customer’s need to be. We also encourage them to smile while talking, because believe it or not, customers can “hear” a smile (it’s really true, if you didn’t know. Technically, the tone of your voice can change a bit, you can form your words differently because of the shape of your mouth, etc.).

So…then what happens online? What should we be teaching our chat agents and our social agents to ensure that these online interactions feel personal? You can’t see or hear the consumer, there are just these words on the page with few context clues to draw from.

Here are some high-level concepts to share with your reps to ensure they are providing online service that will feel warm, memorable and inviting.

5 Steps to Personal Online Customer Support

  • Research: Before an agent ever interacts with a customer online, I recommend that you provide them with data around who your customer is, generally speaking. Usually upon hire, an orientation is given that explains the services your company offers and to whom those services are provided. For example, let’s say you are a computer parts retailer. You provide online chat for your customers in case they have questions about computer parts. your internal market research indicates that your customers are primarily from the U.S. and 60% male between the ages of 21 and 50. Because you are a retailer and not a wholesaler, you know that most of your customers are end user hobbyists and not businesses using your parts to resell to others. Providing this information to your agents before they ever engage with a customer is a great idea, because it helps them understand who they are talking to. They can guess that these customers would be interested in the much talked about latest software release, new advances in processing speed, etc. If your social media team were being trained rather than your chat team, perhaps you can research your Facebook insights in Business Manager to understand additional information about the customer.
  • Prepare: Once the agent is out of training and on the floor, it’s a good idea to be ready when that interaction comes. Online transactions have a bit of an advantage over phone calls in that some sort of data is usually passed to the agent before the customer is “live” with them. Perhaps your phone reps get a customer account delivered to their computer screen with the initial call, but you’re live at that point with the customer and quickly scanning to see what’s happening. In the online chat space, typically the customer has stated their inquiry in a pre-chat survey and is in queue waiting on an agent. Train your reps to take the time to fully read and understand the customer’s inquiry before they engage the customer. For social media, because initial response time expectations are a bit longer than on chat, you can take this a step further and see how far you can get resolving a customer’s issue before you ever reach out to them. Yes, your initial response time is possibly longer; however when you reach out to the customer, it feels as if the agent is engaged, prepared, and knowledgeable about the customer’s inquiry.
  • Listen: Ok, in the digital space it’s probably more accurate to use the word “read.” Have the agent read all of the words the customer has written to ensure that no assumptions are made. This is an easy place for online interactions to go from being helpful and satisfying customer issues, to being a huge waste of time for the customer. Thoroughly reading and understanding what the customer’s issue is avoids the agent taking time to solve for what they thought the customer needed help with, rather than what the customer actually wanted assistance with.
  • Ask: A colleague of mine once shared that he would ask three questions of a person before providing a single answer. This was to ensure that he fully understood the question before providing an answer. Brilliant, right? Let the agents know that it is a good idea to ask as many questions as necessary to ensure the answer they’re about to provide is truly the answer the customer requires. This pairs directly with “Listen” above. Skipping this step, in my experience, is the primary cause for customers feeling that only very simple transactions can be conducted online, and that for “tough questions” they need to call in. When executed properly, this step ensures that very complex troubleshooting can be conducted in online channels.
  • Share: Let’s not forget this one. The agent should share with the customer what should be done and why before getting started. Now, by “why,” I don’t mean that we should burden the customer with all the technical specifications that allow that agent to do the task. That’s wasted handle time and, quite frankly, the customer is not going to perform the transaction so we can skip all that and save everyone time. What is helpful is that after all the listening and asking of questions, we share the diagnosis with the customer. This is important because it’s possible that the agent has made an incorrect diagnosis. Sharing the high-level plan with the customer and asking if they are ready to correct the problem can prompt the customer to share additional details they hadn’t known were relevant before. This extra information could completely change the diagnosis, and might send the fix into a different direction. This step of sharing can again save precious time for the agent and the customer.

There you have it. Five Steps to Personal Online Support. What.. what’s that? Oh, right. Those steps above seem to be outlining how to have efficient and effective troubleshooting with a customer online. So, how is that personal, is that your question? Let me explain.

The reason customers report feeling disconnected during online interactions is because the agent isn’t listening to them, doesn’t share information, or doesn’t explain what they’re doing. Chat and social media interactions seem challenging to customers because there isn’t an ability to say enough words to get the agent to understand what the real issue is. The agent is trying to finish the transaction expediently since it’s an online channel, and this can cause a rush to figure out the customer issue. This rushing causes incorrect diagnosis, which, then, leads the agent to perhaps solve the wrong problem or be ineffective at solving the right problem. The customer feels like the agent doesn’t care because the agent isn’t sharing any information and doesn’t understand what they’re trying to convey. (phew, did you get all that?) Time and time again, reviewing thousands of online interactions over the years, this is what we see.

What does  feel like caring, personal interaction to people is, of course, saying hi, how are you, how is your day going, etc. And agents are already doing this. But what really, truly feels like caring is when people listen and people help. We’ll of course assume that your agents want to help and wish they had time to listen. By providing them with these steps above and the assurance that it’s ok to take their time to ask some questions, I believe your agents will thrive and your NPS scores will improve.

Have a look at your chat or text transcripts, or review your social media interactions. If you find this to be relevant to your situation, but are concerned about an increase in handle time,  I recommend you try a pilot with just a few agents. The handle time impacts will then be contained, and you can compare the results of the pilot group against those in regular population. Happy trials!

Why Provide Social Customer Care?

Why Offer Social Customer Care? www.sociallysupportive.com

Why Provide Social Customer Care? www.sociallysupportive.com

Businesses today more than ever are all about running as lean as possible. The digital space makes it easy for competition to pop up everywhere, and may times that means a race to be the lowest-priced option if all else is equal. So, it makes sense that leaders want to be sure something is necessary before spending limited budgets to begin a new project.

Social media customer care is no exception. Sure, you hear that competition is providing it, but where would you even start? That sounds expensive, and, well… it sounds hard. What are people even getting out of that? And why would you want to spend money to air your dirty laundry?

These are very valid questions, and the savvy executive will do good to ask themselves these questions. They deserved to be answered. So, here are a few answers to them.

Three Reasons (and a bonus) to provide social customer support

  • Customers Expect It. Even if you do not personally have a Twitter or Facebook account, that’s ok. Go to these sites and search for your biggest competitor. Is he there? If he is, then he has access to millions of eyeballs at a time when you do not. True, you might be advertising in another way or at another time. But think of it this way. If there was a cocktail party where plenty of customers with money were casually mingling, and businesses like yours could go and chat it up with those paying customers, you’d want to go, right? Now imagine that your biggest competitors are all there too. Did you just get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are missing a huge opportunity? Well, that’s healthy, because you are. What if none of your competitors are there? Well, if you show up, and they do not… who has the advantage now?
  • Lifestyles Demand It. I recently heard Richelle Carrol, Director of Social Servicing for USAA, discuss social media customer care on a podcast (Focus on Customer Service, hosted by Dan Gingiss and Dan Moriarty. Great show, highly recommend it.). If you’re not familiar with USAA, they are a financial services company specifically for military members and their families. USAA also happens to be known for brilliant customer service with sky-high NPS scores, right up there with the likes of Apple and Chick-fil-A. Anyway, Richelle recalled one interaction where a deployed soldier was chatting in with USAA to complete a transaction while being fired upon. Fired upon! She pointed out that might have been the only five minutes he had that day to take care of his life event. Now, not all transactions are that serious, for sure. But gone are the days when most wives were at home all day and could call the electric company between the hours of 8am and 5pm. Today, people are on the train, commuting to work. They’re waiting at the airport to catch the next flight. These times are not always convenient for speaking on the telephone; however they are perfect times to type your message from your smart phone to your service or goods provider.
  • Brand Differentiator. Speaking of that train ride, or waiting in the terminal. If I’m your customer, and I attempt to solve my issue while I’m waiting on my flight, then realize you’re not there, how am I probably feeling? Frustrated. Why can’t I chat or tweet or get you on messenger to solve my problem? Then, perhaps I’m curious. Is there another brand I could be working with that might offer this feature? Because I’m here to tell you that in my mind, as a consumer, that’s how I see social customer care… as an added feature. It also shows me that you care about me as a customer. About my time. And it says that you’re listening. Talk about differentiating yourself from the pack.
  • Bonus… It can be cheaper. Woah, wait… what’d she say? Yep. Said it. Say it again. It can be cheaper. Social media customer support has only really been a thing for less than a decade. The tools we have been using in the past to offer support have been borrowed from the marketing team, and really not set up to give us call center-type metrics. But in recent years, tools like Conversocial, Sprinkl’r, Engagor and Spark Central have come a long way in providing really detailed metrics. Some large companies are reporting average costs of $3 – $4 per social media interaction. And that’s for fairly complicated transactions. So, not sure how much your phone calls are costing you, but if it’s more than that, this might be cheaper. Plus, when you take the public nature of these transactions into account, you might save yourself interactions (What? What’s she talking about?) It works like this. Say you’ve released a new widget, and it has this new cool feature that everyone was so excited about so they ran out and bought the widget. Awesome. But, turns out the “on” switch for this feature isn’t quite as intuitive as the product team thought. Here come the tweets with questions. If you answer Sally’s question, and Bob’s, and Nancy’s, publicly on Twitter, other people can see both the question and the answer. Some people will just go to Twitter and search in the search bar to find the answer. And those people will see your answer to Sally, and Bob, and Nancy, and then they don’t have to tweet to you. So, you just saved yourself some interactions.

These are only three reasons and a possible bonus for providing social support. There are many, many others. Hopefully this gets you started as you think about getting into social customer care. Can you think of additional benefits specific to your company?

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.

 

 

Do I Have to Answer Every Question on Social Media?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Know Your Customer to Improve Social Customer Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customer Experience Rules in 2015 Social Customer Support

Flash of Happiness. image by Kyrill Poole. www.sociallysupportive.com

Flash of Happiness. image by Kyrill Poole. www.sociallysupportive.com

As I briefly mentioned in 2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support, current thinking from research firms indicates that customer experience will be more more important than ever. Let’s take this apart and have a look at why and how.

We know, as consumers, that dealing with companies can be much more complicated than it needs to be, and take much more of something everyone has less of these days: time. We have to wait on hold, we are transferred a million times, and we just want one teensy thing. In recent years, thanks partly to the increase in social forums that allow customers to talk back, companies have caught on that we want things done faster and easier. This has resulted in companies receiving fewer reviews that indicate customers find them truly awful to deal with. Which is great. One side effect for companies is that the competition is also getting better.

Think about the advertisements you see on TV or the internet. Brands mainly pick one thing that differentiates their product from the other guy: they claim to be either 1) cheaper 2) better quality or 3) have better service. Apple (or Samsung, I wont’ judge your camp) have great quality and a focus on user experience. Costco aims to provide the best prices. Southwest is known for its service. So, if you’re not the best gadget in town, or the best available quality, chances are you need to be focusing on your customer service/experience. And these 2015 predictions are telling us that efforts to be just a little better than the next guy won’t keep customers coming back.

So, what to do? Where to go? It’s All In The Details with Social Customer Support provides a few tips for getting started, such as asking customers what they want, improving the quality of your outputs, and using proper etiquette (this last one will likely get you much farther than you imagine.) What if you’ve already done those things, and you want to do more? See if some of these suggestions help.

Improving Customer Experience

  • Provide a Full Service Experience – In your customer’s journey, do they have to move from station to station at your store or be transferred several times on the phone or online chat? If so, do everything in your power to make that stop. If the transfers can’t be stopped, try a personal handoff. This will reduce customer effort and create a “wow” moment. I recently called USAA with an unusual financial question, and though the first rep couldn’t help me with my concern, she handled the details of explaining my needs to the next person on the phone. The next thing I heard was the new rep calling me by name and restating what he understood my question to be. That feels nice.
  •  Surprise Me – Is there some way that you can anticipate a customer’s need? It could be something simple. In E-Trade Nails It with their Customer Support I shared that they proactively changed my mailing address after being alerted to my move by the United States Postal Service. Nice, right? How much does it cost to link up with USPS and make that happen? I haven’t looked into it, but it made me stop and think about how smart E-Trade is.
  • Make Exceptions For Me – Ouch. I know, deviation from process can cost time and money. But I do believe customers that are shown compassion and understanding tend to develop positive feelings towards that brand. I remember several years ago a promotion took me from one city to another. I panicked as I realized at the airport that in the midst of the move, I forgot to pay the credit card bill. And, this was a big deal, because it had that nice zero percent interest associated with it. I remember telling my sad story to the customer service rep on the phone. She could have been snarky, or acted superior, or given me a lecture. Instead she chose to show compassion, and her company had the (uncommon at that time) policy of forgiving one late payment and thereby not immediately causing your interest rate to skyrocket. I clearly remember that, to this day.

Can you find a way to work one or more of these ideas into your organization?

2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support

2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support. Image by Pixabay. www.sociallysupportive.com

2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support. Image by Pixabay. www.sociallysupportive.com

Ah, what a year! As I prepared to write this year’s predictions, I looked back to my 2014 Predictions for Social Customer Support. I can say that from my own experience and in speaking with colleagues it seems that my predictions were accurate. Measurement is getting more precise and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are becoming easier to find. Many more customers are looking to social media before attempting to use more traditional contact methods. Companies are striving to respond faster, and when they can’t, customers are voicing their dissatisfaction. This has driven more volume, and additional staffing is required to keep up with this volume. Integration of data is easier to achieve, though still potentially costly.

As 2014 went along, I noticed something that you may have noticed as well: a distinct lack of new material being published about customer support on social media. From 2010 through 2013 there were articles and infographs and videos everywhere touting the importance of providing customer service in the social media space. Everyone was looking for the ROI, selling the ROI, selling tools, and convincing firms to join the movement quickly. Then, content seemed to decelerate in 2013, and slowed to a trickle in 2014. This led me to wonder, has the shine worn off of social media customer support? We had plenty of information explaining the benefit, urging action, and even providing some information on initial setup of a social customer care team. But the next wave of data, including early metrics and findings, was absent. Then I realized that the companies that started social customer support teams were busy learning and scaling and trying to understand the new data they were receiving.

So then, what now? What can we expect to come in 2015? Well, we know from other predictive data that companies will continue to add more funds to digital advertising budgets. We also know that customer experience is still top of mind for businesses, and they are using that data to inform internal product and process information, customer desire, and any opportunity to gain advantage in the marketplace. And there has been no visible slowdown in the number of requests for assistance coming through social media channels, or shortage of new platforms online where two-way communication is possible. Knowing that, here’s what I see coming our way in 2015.

5 Social Customer Support Predictions for 2015

  • Specific Metrics – Companies will learn from the data collected over the past few years and be able clearly glean traditional call center metrics like cost per transaction, response time, and handle time.
  • Large Scale Buy In (or Out) – Concrete facts in the form of traditional call center metrics may reveal a hard ROI based on costs to deliver social service, calls avoided at call centers, and the like.
  • Social Selling – This has been a touchy subject in the social customer support space, with most deciding that selling has no place in social media. But we may be ready to start offering suggestions for products and services where customers would truly benefit.
  • Staffing Trials – There has been discussion in the industry around whether it’s time to call social “figured out” and put it into general call center population, where reps can be added or removed from social media as volume occurs. This would make the companies that create listening and engagement tools who charge per seat very happy. It could also answer questions about staffing challenges and overhead costs. The risks can be high though, as less specialized front line reps are given access to represent the company on a very public stage. Companies may also find that when call volume spikes, social media volume spikes at the same time. This would limit the benefit gained from all that additional tool licensing and training expense.
  • Change – Yes, that’s right friends. The data we have been feeding to the C Level and other departments is powerful and has been getting noticed, if you’re doing it right. Companies will be making faster, customer-directed change to improve products and services. This should help improve customer experience and reduce customer efforts. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about in my book.

There you have it. I hope to see more of those infographs and articles that share specific insights on how social media customer support has really made a difference because consumers finally have a way to voice their opinions. But social customer support may not get the glory for these changes. For one thing, it’s not the only vehicle providing this feedback in many organizations. Customers are filling out online surveys and paper comment cards and those are working as well. For another, social media is really just a big magnifying glass that shows all the flaws a company has in product, service, policy and process, and provides opportunity for improvement. But if you have a front row seat like I do, you can have a great view of the change that social can bring about. That’s exciting stuff.

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!