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.

Visual.ly’s “14 Customer Experience Facts Marketers Can’t Ignore” [Infographic]

I like this infographic Visual.ly created. Though it’s mentioning marketers, the clear subject matter is how valuable your customers are, and the impact to a company’s bottom line if a customer doesn’t feel appreciated.

14 customer experience facts

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.

 

 

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!

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.