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!

How Will Instagram’s Contact Button Impact Brands?

Contact Buttons on Instagram via Benefit Cosmetics. www.sociallysupportive.com

Contact Buttons on Instagram via Benefit Cosmetics. www.sociallysupportive.com

Who’s been watching the new Instagram “Contact” Button? I have! Brands certainly don’t appear to have run straight toward these little gems just yet, and that’s why it’s a perfect time to talk about what they are, what they do, and whether you need one.

Let’s back up to discuss Instagram. Instagram is primarily a visual social media platform. when you open Instagram you will find a few words on memes or as text over pictures; however it is largely just images and videos. Images are a great way to stimulate the senses and evoke an emotional reaction to your brand. Photos of nature can take people away from their urban grind and instantly bring them to a place of calm and beauty, while a photo taken of the winning team at the moment of victory can arouse tremendous joy (or great pain, if that wasn’t your team who won!) And a picture of a huge plate of nachos from your favorite restaurant can get your stomach growling in no time flat. We’re talking about desire here. What we’re doing is invoking desires.

Invoking desire and associating it to your brand is a powerful thing. Marketers know this, and that’s why brands are all over Instagram, getting into the visual “conversation.” It’s a powerful thing to create positive emotions and associate them directly to your brand. And, as great salespeople know, once you have customers all wrapped up in those positive emotions around your brand, you’d like them to take action… right now, please! Hence why the Contact button on Instagram can be so powerful. What if you see a picture of the brand new Nikes and you’re a huge fan and you have your wallet out right now! Wouldn’t it be neat if you could just push a button right from Instagram? Yes, yes it would. Or, what if you need tickets to the concert immediately, but you aren’t quite sure about the seat map? What if you could just push a button directly from that Instagram app and get the answers you need so that you could spend your money a little faster? Yes, now you’re getting the picture.

How does the contact button work? Brands activate the button and can choose to allow customers to call, email or text the brand. If you choose to have customers call you, then your impact would be some percentage increase in overall call center volumes to either your sales or customer care departments. I’d recommend a fresh toll-free number to ensure you’re tracking this all the way from the Instagram app to completed calls. For big brands, emails can be sent to your current group handing email interactions, however I would inquire with your chat and social care platform vendors whether these can be routed into your social care or chat tool. Also, when considering whether email is the right option, remember that you have excited customers who want to take an action right now, and email is a disconnected and sometimes slower vehicle.  Think about that customer who is all charged up, then sends an email, and slowly… slowly… loses that fire you created in him and returns to the regular grind. When you return the mail, he may not remember how excited he was an hour ago. If you’re already offering support via text, you might want to route through your current tool. Right now text service is being offered via both popular social care and chat tools, so you likely have your pick here.

Another nice thing about the Instagram Contact button is that it is a way to engage privately with customers on a social platform. Many large companies are still concerned about having specific customer care conversations out in public. These Contact buttons let you broadcast your message widely in a very emotional way, and then privately answer customer inquiries on an individual basis. That’s reminiscent of consumers watching a TV commercial and then picking up the phone to ask you questions about your product, which has historically been a very comfortable interaction for big brands.

So, what do you think? Should your brand use an Instagram Contact button?

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.

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?

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!

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!

The difference between easy and hard customer service

The difference between easy and hard customer service. image by Joe Loong https://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/2611640698/.  www.sociallysupportive.com

The difference between easy and hard customer service. image by Joe Loong https://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/2611640698/.
www.sociallysupportive.com

Recently I came across two vastly different examples of customer service I thought I’d share so that we might compare and contrast the customer experience.

Example 1: The Condo Rental

On the spur of the moment, I decided my family needed a weekend getaway to the beach. I started searching online for any available accommodations that would meet our needs (yes, I was categorizing ocean-front as a “need” in this case. No judgement, it was a need to me!) I was lucky enough to find the perfect property, that was managed by a vacation company I will not name. I went to book the condo online; however the process wasn’t working properly. I called the telephone number and spoke with a lady who was very nice, but not very forthcoming with information. She informed me the website had outdated information, and that the particular condo I found was booked for the weekend. And then there was silence. So I asked “do you manage other units in the building that might be available?” She said “yes.” More silence. “Do you think we could check to see if any of them might be available?” I pushed.  “Um, ok sure,” she responded. I’ll spare you the rest, but the conversation continued on in that way until I practically begged her to take my reservation. I would like to share that the unit we reserved turned out to be just what I “needed,” ocean front and all.

Example 2: Right House, Wrong Package

I ordered a Keurig drawer and two ballerina jewelry boxes online at JC Penney, along with some bench cushions. A week or so later, three boxes arrived on my porch. Two of the boxes contained the bench cushions, as I expected. When I opened the third box, I was surprised to see a Keurig drawer that appeared to have been re-taped and two battered shoe boxes with rubber bands around each box. When I called customer service to report the mix-up, a nice lady named Autumn apologized for the inconvenience and immediately keyed a new order for replacement items to be shipped. I asked if I could return the items that did not belong to me to my nearest JC Penney by the end of the week, and she said that would be fine.

Customers do not expect flawless execution by corporations with every transaction. It would be nice, but most of us consumers are reasonable enough to know that just isn’t possible. What we find, though, is that when proper attention is paid and the company moves quickly to rectify the situation with little or no effort from the customer, customer satisfaction can be saved. I would argue that when there is a mix-up, and it is fixed right away with a little apology and a human touch, that can create more customer loyalty than might have existed without the flub in the first place. Now, JC Penney and I haven’t always had the best relationship, but past few times I’ve needed them, their customer service reps have been able to quickly solve my problems. With me, that goes a long way.

So, as usual, let’s consider our own organizations. Is there room for improvement in your company when customers report issues? Do you offer assistance on Twitter, but then require the customer to always call customer support to get assistance? Are you asking for customer information when you really don’t need it? See if a policy change could create some customer loyalty for you.