Are You Wasting Customer Time on Social Media?

image by Tax Credits, A clock with money on it - "Time is Money" http://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7214596024/

image by Tax Credits, A clock with money on it – “Time is Money” http://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7214596024/

Working in social media, I find it necessary to do quite a bit of research. This includes reading tons of articles and blog posts about customer experience, social media, and customer care. That may sound boring to some people, but I find the subject really interesting. Recently, however, I noticed that I’m having a hard time making my way through some of this material. Last night, as I found myself zoning out on an article published by a very well-respected news organization on a topic I’m very interested in. I scrolled down to find out how much longer the article was. And then it hit me. That’s why I was zoning out. This article was taking forever to get to the point! I found this fascinating, because it was written by people who work in social media, for people who work in social media. And, if you spend any time around us, you know that we have relatively short attention spans in this field. But I bet if you think about most people you interact with, that trait is fairly ubiquitous these days. We want quality information, very quickly, without all those other words that are really unnecessary. How often have you started reading something that might be valuable, but then put it down because it just looked like it would take too long?

This isn’t just about reading. You can just as easily waste customer time talking to them on the phone or in person. Here’s the thing. We probably don’t need to say all those words. It would save us time, and would save the customer time. And saving time is very important to our customers. This is especially important on social media, where customers expect timely responses that are useful and easy to understand. Here are some tips to ensure you’re not wasting time and effectively communicating with your customers.

5 Ways to Save Customer Time

  • Determine your audience – Before writing or speaking a single word, I find it helpful to determine who my audience is. The point of communication is to convey information to the person or people you’re engaging with. How can you best do that? By knowing your audience and how they prefer to receive information. If you are unsure, it’s best to stay on the safe side and be a bit more formal.
  • Be clear – All those words you wrote or spoke, do they really say what you meant to say? Review your words to make sure. If you were the audience, would you have understood what you meant by what you said?
  • Eliminate all jargon – I find that when jargon (also known as business slang) is used, you wind up repeating yourself in English anyway. So, save yourself some time and skip the jargon. It helps to think to yourself, “How do I explain this to someone who is unfamiliar with my line of business?”
  • Use fewer words – Many prepositional phrases can just go. For example, “We can have discussions on our next steps for how to proceed” could just be “We can discuss next steps.” Could you have worded things better? Remember for next time.
  • Review – Before you send that email, take one last look.   If you were on the phone, think about the conversation you had. It’s worth the extra effort to make sure everything is as you want it to be.

These steps can help reduce customer interaction time, and, quite honestly, can leave the customer with a more positive view of the interaction because less effort was spent attempting to decipher the conversation. They’re in, they’re out, they feel better, you feel better.

Infograph: Invesp.com on Great Customer Experience

Some good data from invesp.com on why a great customer experience matters.
The Importance of Providing a Great Customer Experience – Statistics and Trends

Infographic by- Invesp

Infograph: HubShout’s “Social Media & Customer Service”

I wanted to share this infograph that HubShout recently published titled “Social Media & Customer Service.” There are some stats in here I don’t see as often, such as the number of people who think brands should keep the same social hours on weekends, and how many customers call companies when they do not reach resolution via social channels. And, this infograph shows that the percentage of brands responding to social media inquiries more than doubled from 2012 to 2013! Enjoy.

The Impact of Social Media on Customer Service

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Infograph: Customer Service Is Everything

This infograph by ClickSoftware provides some surprising statistics about customer service and satisfaction from around the world.

Kiwi Delivers Great Customer Service To Atlanta Storm Victims

Kiwi ImageKiwi Services, providers of water damage restoration services, impressed me recently with their insightful customer service. The Atlanta area had record low temperatures this January, like much of the country. Water pipes had been breaking all over town for days. I thought I was going to escape the fate so many of my neighbors met. I was wrong. Last Wednesday I came home to a stream of water flowing down my street, coming from my driveway. When I opened the garage door, I realized that stream was coming from inside the house. The source proved to be a burst pipe in the laundry room. All over those nice bamboo floors. Sigh.

Since I was late to the broken pipe party, the service providers were already inundated with repair requests.  Many of the smaller water damage restoration companies in the area had full mailboxes, or busy signals. Kiwi Services answered the phone. They reacted to the demand for service by quickly staffing up for this weather event. The customer service agent advised me that Kiwi was taking contact information and calling back to schedule consultations as quickly as they could. She promised they would keep me advised, but also noted it could be a few days before a team could visit because of the high volume of requests. And keep me advised they did. Someone from the Kiwi office called twice a day to let me know they hadn’t forgotten about me, and kept me in the loop on their plans. They shared with me that they were flying in technicians from California and Arizona to help with the high demand. This made me feel like they were doing all they could, which put my mind at ease and helped me to relax. I was even quite calm. One of the reps that called said “Thank you so much for being so nice. There is actually a note on your file that you are really nice.” It’s easier to be nice when you feel assured you will be taken care of.

When the Kiwi team came out, they listened carefully to my story about how the water damage occurred, where the water traveled, and how it left the house. They thoroughly explained what needed to be done, the options available to me, the procedures they would follow, and what I could expect. They were on time and professional, even though they had been flown in from the west and were living out of hotels, working long hours. My husband brought the crew back pizza, and they were so happy to have it. When it was time to remove the drying equipment a few days later, they called ahead to make sure we knew they were coming, and within a few hours, all was finished.

So, what can you do, today, in your business, to make your customers want to be nice to you? Recommend you to friends? Write grateful blog posts about you? Here are a few things you might consider:

5 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service

  • Answer the phone (or post) when a customer reaches out. Even if the answer is “I have no answer, just want you to know we haven’t forgotten.”
  • Update customers regularly as promised, even when that is tough to do. Especially when it’s tough to do.
  • Provide relevant information about new developments to show customers progress is being made.
  • Listen to the customer’s story. Even if you’re pretty sure you already know what it will be, listen anyway. You might find valuable information in that story.
  • Keep promises made about arrival times, services that will be delivered, and results that can be expected.

A great big thank you to Kiwi and their staff for putting in all those extra hours away from their families and traveling far and wide to get so many of us back to normal. Nicely done.

Check them out for yourself at http://www.kiwiservices.com/water_damage.htm

Infograph: ExactTarget’s Five Types of Social Media “Complainers”

So, I don’t like the term “complainer” when we talk about customers seeking support on social media. Why? Because sometimes I am a customer seeking support on social media. We all are. And I’m not complaining, I’m looking for assistance. I’ve purchased or signed up for your product or service, and I have some expectations. If those expectations aren’t met, I’ll want to discuss that with you. So, I don’t agree with that label. I do, however, like the information in this infograph. I agree that customers have different backgrounds and experiences and there is no cookie-cutter response that will work for everyone. These types of customers want to be treated in unique ways, and if you miss those signs, you might lose that customer. So, try to disassociate me with the “complainer” label, as I do not approve. I also only recommend taking conversations offline when they become useless or annoying to the greater audience, or when sensitive account information is involved.  Otherwise, much of this is good data.

How to Deal with Complainers on Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC] - ExactTarget Infographic

Embedded from ExactTarget

Practice Makes Perfect for Customer Care on Social Media

Undercover Boss (U.S. TV series)

Undercover Boss (U.S. TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting really good at something requires practice. So does maintaining that skill level.  I remember my first customer service job, I was so nervous. I had no idea what to do or say. Taking that first phone call was terrifying. What if they ask me… you know, a question or something? What would I do? But then, you do it more, you learn things, and before you know it, you’re pretty good. And you stay good because your skills are constantly used.

Before I knew it, a couple decades passed (can you believe it!) and I’m running a social media customer support operation. Maybe you are too, since you’re reading this blog about a very small-niche specialty. Creating a framework to support operations can be all-consuming. It can seem impossible to find the time to go exercise those customer service skills again. I recommend, however, that you do just that. Taking some time on a regular basis to answer customer posts and complete the tasks your team members perform daily can provide valuable insight into process improvement opportunities. It can also ensure that your expectations of your team and your customer are reasonable. There is just no substitute for walking in the shoes of your team to shed light on their reality. The television series “Undercover Boss” shows us how illuminating it can be to provide the customer service you prescribe (well, it’s a bit formulaic and over the top, but still provides a good lesson.) We see there that occasionally the processes we develop do not perform in the field as we imagined. Below I’ve outlined a few steps that can help ensure you have an accurate view of the team and customer experience.

3 Steps for Hands-on Leadership:

  • Schedule regular meetings with your team. Request feedback and implement necessary changes.
  • Observe team performance. Discuss findings and ask for opinions.
  • Block out regular times to personally complete tasks your team would complete. Correct any pain points after discussion with the team.

So, give it a try. Tweet a response to your customer; post a reply on Facebook. For call centers, go ahead and personally call a customer. If you’re in retail, go chat with your customer. You might find everything running very smoothly, or you may find some opportunities for growth.

Update: Chase Ambushes My Twitter IPO Trade with Poor Customer Service

Cold blue light

Cold blue light (Photo credit: Daremoshiranai)

As an update, I think I lost. Or we both did. It certainly feels that way, because we’re breaking up. The goal here was really to have Chase correct a process that appeared broken. You heard the first part of the story in my last blog post, Chase Ambushes My Twitter IPO Trade with Poor Customer Service. Here’s what happened next.

That same night I complied with the bank’s instructions and, after the kids went to bed, I got online and requested the wire transfer again. I received another lovely confirmation number. I then wrote an email to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase and it read:

Jaime, 

Today I had a poor experience with a risk policy Chase has in place. While the branch staff was understanding and the Twitter support staff responded quickly, I thought I’d let you know this experience is prompting me to take my business elsewhere after more than 10 years as a customer. I’m attaching the blog post I wrote to document the event. wp.me/p3jcDY-92 
 
Take care 
Yesterday morning I checked online and the transfer had not yet completed. I called the security department and was interrogated for a few minutes before being told that my trade, placed at 8:05pm, was in queue to be approved. Later I received a call from Kati in Jamie’s executive escalations office. She seemed fully informed and ready to help. I provided her the update that more than a dozen hours later, the second wire transfer was not yet approved. She said she would call me back after her investigation.
When Twitter was ready to trade, I, sadly, was not.
Around 3pm I received a call from a cheery gentleman at E*Trade, just wanting to let me know my wire transfer had been received and was ready for trading. Boy, E*Trade has some great customer service, don’t they? That was pretty neat. To be fair, my nice branch manager called me around 1pm and I was unable to take her call. Maybe she would have told me the transfer was complete. So, we’ll say 17 hours for the wire transfer to be approved.
Right after 5pm, I received a call back from Kati. She said she would waive all the wire transfer fees for me, but indicated that the Chase process was followed and working as designed. I almost fell out of my seat. Kati said that all trades had to be rejected by 4pm, and that her team did try to call to confirm. I asked if she had checked the time of those calls, and she said she’d have to look. I shared with her that the calls came at 3:47pm and 3:49pm while I was on a conference call. So 13 minutes before they blocked web access and rejected my trade. Kati seemed unmoved and indicated the department may get backed up at times. I also explained to her that making me place the trade again myself after they ambushed it was really a poor customer experience, and the entire process could use revisiting. I explained if procedure didn’t change, that meant this could happen to me again. And by continuing to bank with Chase, I would essentially be consenting to that. I would be saying it’s more important the security process be convenient for Chase, and that it’s ok to treat me as guilty until proven innocent by “stepping” into a branch.
Well, I can’t consent to that. So, based on my conversation with Kati (which to me is the same as speaking with Jamie Dimon because if you email him, you get Kati), I have come to the conclusion that I am an acceptable loss to Chase bank. So, with a bit of sadness, after more than 10 years, we’re breaking up.

Chase Ambushes my Twitter IPO Trade with Poor Customer Service

Chase Bank Logo

Chase Bank Logo (Photo credit: Neubie)

Chase has some processes in place that could apparently use an overhaul. While Karen and T.J. at their Dunwoody branch displayed admirable customer service skills, I’m sorry to say it won’t be enough to save this 10-year Chase customer. I’m really disappointed.

This morning, excited for the Twitter IPO coming tomorrow, I logged on to www.chase.com to start my wire transfer to my new E*Trade account. It’s a fairly small transfer; I’m no Wall Street guru; I’m a social media nerd that wants to participate in this monumental happening. Yesterday, I had successfully set up my E*Trade account and done the initial wire transfer necessary to get the account going. So today, I expected no problems. I know that E*Trade requires a few hours to process the transfer to fund my stock purchase. And, tomorrow’s the big day.

Chase’s website gives every indication that my transfer has been completed. I get a lovely confirmation number and all. So, I figure that all should be ok. How exciting. Late this afternoon, while on a conference call, I get a phone call from a toll-free number on my cell phone that I send to voice mail. After my call, I get another call, this time it’s from the nice man at E*Trade, asking if I have any questions. I said “yes, as a matter of fact, I’d like to know how long it takes a wire transfer to post to the account.” He assures me if I completed the transfer early this morning, which I did, it should already be there. I went to log on to my chase account online, and it was… well, it was locked down. I got a message instructing me to call a telephone number. I thought, “Oh no, what is going on? This has never happened in 10 years.” And then the fun really started.

I called the telephone number, and the man said that no information could be given to me over the phone, that I would need to go to a branch in person before access could be restored to my online account. That sounds ominous, right? And, I’m at work, trying to, well, you know… work. But this sounds serious. I mean the wire transfer was really not quite so much, not 5 figures even, so…what could this be? So I gathered my things and raced for the car and on the way, it dawned on me. Chase was concerned the wire transfer was fraudulent. Chase was worried about its money. Then I thought about the voicemail I received earlier and called it. It was Chase. They had activity on the account they wanted to verify. So I called the number and asked if this was linked to my account being locked. The lady said she couldn’t confirm anything and that I’d have to visit the branch and produce 2 forms of ID before any information could be shared. Well, that did it. Now I was angry.

Here I am, excited for my IPO purchase, scheduling my wire transfer online. There is no posted dollar limit to wire transfers. No warning that typing in the wrong number will cause my account to be locked down or blown up. No indication the transfer has not been made. Just a lovely confirmation number. Then more than eight hours later my online account  is locked, I’m being summoned to the bank to produce ID like a criminal. Because Chase was worried about losing its money, calling it protecting me.

So, I leave early and go across town to the closest branch. I have to call my husband and ask him to leave work to get the kids, because there’s no way I’ll be home anywhere near time in this new traffic scenario. When I get to the branch I’m furious, and do my best not to take it out on T.J., the banker that had the misfortune of being available when I walked in the door after 4pm. What did I say? I’ll tell you what I said: “Here are my two forms of ID. It’s really me. Now close all of my accounts, because this is ridiculous. You don’t complete my trade, you don’t bother to tell me for 8 hours, you won’t tell me why and treat me like a criminal and make me come here in person. Well, careful what you wish for, because I’m here in person, and I want my money back. All of it.” Now, is that what you want your customers to say, Chase? Is that worth it? doesn’t it cost much more money to get another me?

But then I realized, if I close my accounts, I still can’t complete my wire transfer. Chase is a HUGE bank. They trade stocks. They can do this trade for me directly, on the house. Save me some trouble. Wait, what’s that? No they can’t? Oh, I have an account, just not the “Right Kind” of account to make that happen. Can they push through the original wire transfer? No, no they can’t do that either. They can just unlock everything they locked and ask me to do it again, myself. Do I have my E*Trade wire information with me? Oh yeah, I carry that around on a piece of paper in my purse. So, after all of this, what I got was a bunch of “we don’t know what happened,” and “we’re really sorry for the inconvenience, but we’re protecting [ourselves while inconveniencing you].” Wow. Great customer service.

Let’s bullet out the customer touch points that went poorly:

  • No indication on the website of any limits on wire transfers (dollar amount, time between transfers, potential blow-up of online access if you guess wrong)
  • Clear confirmation number given that the transaction was complete
  • 8 hour delay in notification of suspected fraud
  • No indication that the wire transfer was cancelled
  • No request for security question and answer when I called for details to be able to provide me some information about what was happening to me
  • No information provided
  • Requirement that I “step in” a branch to produce 2 forms of ID before any information was provided
  • No ability to explain the reason for my inconvenience at the branch
  • No ability to transfer funds for me on site
  • No ability to push the wire transfer through on site
  • No ability to really help me at all

Let’s see how this impacted me:

  • Uncertainty as to whether I can get in on the Twitter IPO before the bell rings tomorrow
  • Fear that someone fraudulently accessed my account
  • Had to leave work early
  • Anger about the inconvenience
  • Was an hour later getting home with traffic
  • Missed bath time with my kids
  • Had to re-do the original wire transfer from the morning
  • Spent time writing a lengthy blog post
  • Will have to talk to the branch manager tomorrow
  • Have to find a new bank that treats me better
  • Have to transfer all my money to some new institution and learn new codes. They probably will be just as bad.
  • Have to tell all my friends that I’ve referred to Chase about my experience
  • Have to be mad at Chase for some period of time

So, as you can see, nobody really wins here. I’ve spent all of my personal time today on this ridiculous evolution. I will say that Chase either hires well or trains well, because Karen, the branch manager, and T.J., my banker, had patience like you wouldn’t believe. I kept apologizing and telling them I know it wasn’t their fault and I was sorry to be so frustrated, and that it wasn’t them. Even the @chasesupport team reached out to me within an hour of me tweeting them, which is great. They said they were sorry and asked if they could help somehow. So clearly there are some good things happening at Chase. But, whatever this was that happened to me today, was not what I’m looking for in a bank.

Chase, let me ask you. This policy, this whatever it is. At this price point, was it worth it? Did your process work? Do many people hack accounts to do wire transfers to E*Trade? Is that what did it? I know you say you’re doing it to help me, but you’re really not. If I dispute this, you’ll fix it for me. You’re doing this for you. And we’re probably going to have to break up because if it.

Customer Expectation Infograph

Leora Grace posted this great infograph on customer expectations I thought I would share with you. I really like the case study that illustrates how a customer can still feel he was made whole though the problem cannot be fully solved.

Infograph by CallCentre.co.uk 

Top 50 social customer service research