Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Customer Service’s Greatest Innovation

Social media might be the greatest innovation the world of customer service has ever experienced.

As a digital marketer, you have experienced the impact of social service professionally and personally.

Customer service can be viewed as the greatest measure of a company’s success, both in the offline and online worlds. It positively affects the top and bottom lines in many ways.

The important thing to remember is that regardless of how amazing your product and/or services are, there will be problems. Some customers will not be pleased, and frankly, it’s their right.

Social media is where this complaint will most likely live and be seen and read by others.

You have to constantly monitor social networks to see who’s happy and unhappy with your brand. Most importantly, you need to act fast and directly.

For some reason, negative opinions travel fast in social media. A bad experience with your brand can cause a tidal wave of opinion in social media. As well, brands of all sizes have dealt with this in the digital arena.

It is also your responsibility to foster and help spread the good opinions and experiences that get shared on social media.

Never have brands been given such an opportunity and, at the same time, had to shoulder such responsibility. Take it seriously and make it count.

The Now Of Social Communication [Infographic]

You’ve already heard a lot this week about the evolution of our company. Our CEO, Michael Nowlan, wrote about what this change means and our COO, Jim Delaney, wrote about how these changes reflect a changing landscape for our customers and how we’re here to help you. Well, today we thought instead of telling you more, we’d actually show you.

Below we put together an infographic that shows how certain industries and business functions have changed over the years. Things like PR, marketing, customer service and reputation management have changed significantly just in the past 10 years alone. In order to help you do these things better, we as a company had to evolve as well to grow with you.

Take a look at the infographic to see how the industry used to operate (Then) and how our Marketwired suite of products, powered by Sysomos, can help you do your job better today and make smarter decisions for the future (Now).

We’ve evolved from a wire company to a wired company and we want to help you do the same.

Social Media and the Age of Instant Customer Service Gratification

twitter unitedWe live in a world of instant gratification. It means we want things now, and we have a growing lack of patience when our demands aren’t instantly fulfilled.

This new reality is being fuelled by social media, which has provided a global platform for consumers to put pressure on brands to provide them with not stellar customer service but almost instantaneous response.

While this is a great landscape for consumers looking for a way to publicize their problems, complaints or issues, it has also put tremendous pressure on brands to react in real-time, often without the luxury of being able to ascertain what is happening.

The question is whether instant gratification when it comes to customer services is a good thing for consumers or brands. Does it make sense for a brand to respond to a tweet within minutes or even hours after it’s posted? Should consumers realistically expect brands to respond right away, or should brand respond at all?

These are challenging questions because social media has obviously changed the consumer-brand dynamic. Before social media, a complaint by a consumer would get swallowed by a 1-800 number or email; today, a complaint is a public and transparent creative that has the potential to quickly spread.

In many respects, the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other. With social media, consumers now have the upper hand, while brands are scrambling to figure out the new customer service paradigm and the rules of engagement.

Is this a good or healthy situation?

My take is it’s not a long-term proposition because the expectations among consumers are sky-high, and there is too much pressure on brands to dance as fast as they can.

Is Customer Service Better in Social Media?

Is it just me or are brands more pro-active doing customer service in social media than they do in their actual brick and mortar stores or through their websites?

Dell (@DellCares) and Rogers (@RogersHelps) are great examples of a social media trailblazer and a late comer getting it right. Their social media teams are really showing other customer service reps how it is done.

Recently, some Twitter users were experiencing poor customer service at a bank. Soon after, tweets about the experience were posted, and very quickly calls from branch managers (who was notified by the social media team) were made. Social media works.

Social media lends itself to better customer service than your average website: I don’t see how filling out a “Contact Us” form can ever beat the one-to-one connection on Facebook or Twitter.

Why do brands listen on social media listening while many in-store representatives are tuning customers out? This is not an indictment of employees; it is a tough job dealing with people who sometimes don’t want to compromise.

If we can learn anything from social media, it is that listening really pays off. The other lesson is people will publish their bad experiences for their social networks to see, but not always publish the good moments.

What are some of the great customer service experiences you have had on social media? Has it outweighed your experience in store or on parent websites?

More: Check out this Mashable post looking at nine ways that top brands are customer service for better customer service. Dave Fleet has a good post on eight ways that brands can scale their social support efforts.

Why So Much Complaining on Social Media?

It used to be that if you were upset or disappointed about a product or service, you’d have to send a letter to someone or call a 1-800 number. Niether approach offered much satisfaction, including the fact it made the consumer make a concerted effort.

Today, complaining is a snap. Not happy about an experience with a brand, just fire up a blog, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, and tell the world about your displeasure.

The low barrier to entry and the opportunity to reach a global audience has turned social media into a complaint central. Whether it’s a major issue or simply an aggravation, consumers have embraced social media to complain.

According a recent MarketTools survey, 34% of companies said consumers use social media to make a comment or complain about their products or services. What is more interesting is complaints made on Twitter or Facebook get a fairly high response.

It means that brands are listening to consumer complaints and reacting, which is exactly what consumers want them to do. For brands, social media can be a busy, challenging and sometimes treacherous medium for consumer complaints.

On other hand, they have to pay attention to what’s being said about their products or services. But there is so much activity, it can be impossible to engage with everyone.

Another issue that makes things more complicated is the high expectations by consumers who do complain. Since social media is a public medium, many companies have bent over backward to make consumers happy.

While this has pleased consumers, it has also encouraged more people to complain because they realize consumers are likely more willing to do more if a complaint arrives social media.

In many respects, however, it has created a vicious circle that many brands can’t escape.

So what do brands do about social complaining? How do they effectively respond to complaints without consuming too many resources or encouraging more people to complain because brands do too much to resolve a public issue?

One of the key is having well defined policies in place that identify, categorize and prioritize complaints. This will make it easier for companies to identify the most critical complaints so they can respond quickly and appropriately.

At the same time, there needs to be ways for companies to manage minor complaints in a way that not only lets a consumer know their complaint has been identified and acknowledged but leads to a forum to resolve their problems. It could be a forum, an FAQ, customer service representative or an e-mail address.

The bottom line when it comes to social complaining is it’s a fact of life that companies have to address. Often, the best approach that companies can take is make it clear they are listening, which is what many consumers really want.

For more insight into social media and customer service, the Marketwire/Sysomos Business Library has some free whitepapers.

Is Twitter an Effective Customer Service Tool?

Twitter has a great reputation for being a good way to improve customer service but it is receiving too much credit?

It’s a question that deserves some attention in the wake of a survey by Evolve24/Maritz Research of 1,298 U.S. consumers who had complained about a specific product, service, brand, or company.

While just over half (51%) of the respondents said they expected to get a response about their complaint, only 29% said they were contacted by the company. Of the people who did get a response, 83% said they “liked or loved” hearing back from the company.

The 29% corporate response rate is surprising because you’d expect it to be significantly higher given Twitter’s reputation as an effective customer service vehicle.

It begs the question about why the low engagement rate.

Is it because companies are listening and monitoring social media activity?

Do most companies dismiss complaints as the vocal minority or not want to engage publicly about a problem or issue?

Do many companies not care about complaints on Twitter, accepting them as part of the social media landscape?

Or are there simply too many complaints for companies to respond to many of them?

It is difficult to determine why companies wouldn’t respond to a complaint on Twitter given it is public forum.

One of the challenges facing companies is figuring out which complaints deserve a response. In the scheme of things, complaints fall into several categories:

1. Rants, which are passionate but made by people who appear to be constant complainers. In some situations, responding may only encourage someone to complain some more rather than address their problem.

2. Minor problems that may not want or need a response. This requires a company to make a judgement call on whether to address the problem or not.

3. Major problems that definitely deserve a response but require a company to determine how, who and when to do it. Some of these complaints can be handled on Twitter, while some should be handled via e-mail or by phone.

One of the interesting things about people who complain about company, product or brand on Twitter and other social media services is how quickly a problem can disappear by simply responding to someone. In many cases, someone who tweets about a problem simply wants to be heard.

The challenge for many companies when it comes to complaints on Twitter is being prepared to handle different situation quickly and effectively. This means being able to identify complaints as they are made, determining which ones deserve your attention, and then providing the appropriate response.

- Jay Baer has a post on the survey at Convince and Convert. Jay believes the two biggest factor that stop companies from responding to complaints are fear and a lack of resources.

Is Customer Service Social Media’s “Killer App”?

As more companies start to embrace social media and look for tangible ways to get results (aka ROI), there is bound to be a more focus on how it supports and enhances customer service.

For all the talk about engagement, conversations and community, customer service is a juicy piece of “low hanging fruit”.

By monitoring social media activity and listening to what existing and potential customers are saying or thinking, there is lot of potential to boost customer service by providing answer to questions, providing information and highlighting relevant products and services.

The results of these efforts can often be visible, effective and significant. By simply responding and reacting to what is being said, companies have the ability to change how an existing or potential customer thinks about a product or service, as well as influence or change their behaviour.

Companies such as Comcast, Zappos, Dell and JetBlue that have taken a customer-centric/customer service approach to social media have enjoyed a lot of success and, at the same, attracted plenty of attention for their efforts. It’s a win-win scenario.

It is important to keep in the mind that using social media customer service involves a lot of time and effort. It has to be done on a day in, day basis, you need to engage quickly, honestly and transparently, and you have to deal with the positive and negative.

If customer service is an important corporate goal, it makes complete sense to leverage social media. While it may not be as sexy as creating content that generates a lot of buzz, doing a good job of providing social media customer service can provide tangible and solid dividends.

Social Media and Customer Service Over-Kill

One of social media’s “killer apps” is customer service because it provides a way to engage with people in real-time about their problems, concerns and questions.

Companies such as Comcast and Dell have embraced social media to drive customer serviced to new levels and, in the process, validated social media a valuable tool with healthy ROI.

Before social media emerged as an option, many of these people wouldn’t have bothered to complain because it was too much of a hassle to call a 1-800 number, or send a letter or e-mail to the customer service department. As well, many of these problems weren’t really big enough to warrant a call, e-mail and letter anyway.

But complaining via social media is quick, easy and a pretty good way to capture the spotlight, particularly if you’re a high-profile person such as Jeff Jarvis, who thrust himself and customer service into the spotlight with his “Dell Hell” diatribe a few years ago.

One of the issues, however, with how customer service has evolved within social media are the unrealistic expectations of consumers who have a problem with a product or service. What often happens when someone has a bad or less than stellar experience is they quickly turn to Twitter, Facebook or their blog to complain about it.

If their public complaint gets any kind of traction or publicity, most companies quickly cave in by immediately making things right with a refund, exchange or other compensation. This happens even if the problem is fairly minor because there seems to be more upside when a company is seen as being responsive in a public forum.

In the real world, a company may have come back with a polite response that they appreciated the feedback and will make sure the right people or department is notified. Or a company would offer some compensation but not provide something that is over the top.

The problem with caving in on social media is it does more harm than good by encouraging more people to complain as well because they see how easy it can be to get results. This has created a landscape in customer service has gone from productive and constructive to whining and complaining.

You could argue that social media is compelling companies to react appropriately because having things in the public realm make it more difficult to simply brush aside complains with a polite but curt letter or e-mail.

On the other hand, customer service on social media is becoming a monster that is becoming more difficult to tame. The more companies that concede defeat at the first sign of a complain, the worse it going to get. If this happens, the downside is customer service via social media will no longer be a “killer app”.

What do you think about social media customer service? Are companies going too far in responding to complaints? Are consumers taking advantage of having a public forum to gripe?

Social Media Venting vs. Complaining

Social media has emerged as an easy way for people to talk about bad experiences with companies, products and brands, mostly because it’s so much quicker to post a tweet, update or blog post than writing a letter or calling a 1-800 number.

For many consumers, it has been an effective new tool to broadcast their displeasure in real-time. For companies, however, it has been a mixed blessing. While they can see criticism and feedback from customers, it has become an increasingly noisy and busy landscape.

In many ways, companies only have themselves to blame for the growing number of consumers using social media to complain.

A common reaction when someone tweets or blogs about an issue has been to rectify the situation immediately with a a free product/service or a replacement. When other consumers see this kind of positive response, it encourages more of them to use social media to ask for similar treatment.

For many companies, this has become a vicious circle in which consumers are using social media to tip the balance in their favor.

So, what does a company do?

The first step is recognizing the difference between venting and complaining.

Many consumers don’t a big problem with a product or service but social media gives them a way to get things off their chest and, perhaps, get some attention. These are people who would likely not write a letter or call a 1-800 number but use social media because it’s convenient.

The best way for companies to deal with these consumers is simply listening to and recognizing their concerns. This shows a company values its customers, and it is willing to receive any feedback. In these situations, most consumers do a complete 180 degree rotation from unhappy to happy in no time at all.

Then, there is the much smaller group of people with legitimate problems – people who have purchased bad products or services, or had an unpleasant experience. When they use social media to publicly complain, companies need to jump on things quickly, or risk watching it blow up into something a lot more serious.

In these cases, companies should immediately reach out. This shows the complaint has registered, and the company is more than willing to deal with it. In an ideal world, the initial response recognizes the issue publicly to show the company is on top of things.

Then, a company, if possible, should take things off-line to get a complete handle on the problem and how it can be fixed. The ugly alternative is having a public discussion in front of the entire social media community.

Hopefully, these non-social media discussions can resolve the problem to the point where the next tweet, status update or blog post talks about how the company made things right.

The big challenge for companies is being able to determine who’s venting and who has a legitimate beef. This can be as much art as science but getting a handle on difference is important if social is going to emerge as an effective medium for customer service.

2010: The Year of the Community Manager

Within the social media ecosystem, the unheralded stars are the community managers who toil away behind the scenes.

These are the people who spend countless hours on the Web (seemingly 24/7), engaging with customers, writing blog posts and leaving comments, tweeting, updating Facebook, uploading videos, and answering questions from the media/bloggers, customers, partners and investors.

While the “A-List” social media bloggers capture the spotlight, community managers are walking the walk as opposed to just talking the talk. They’re the ones in the trenches doing the blocking and tackling while others are getting the glory for scoring touchdowns.

That said, I think 2010 is going to be the year of the community manager.

As more companies start to embrace social media as a key part of their communications, marketing and sales strategies, they are going to realize that community managers play a crucial role. It’s a job that combines Web expertise with the ability to filter and generate lots of content, customer service, marketing, business development and media/public relations.

It’s a job that will require people with enthusiasm, expertise and experience. As a result, community managers are going to migrate from being  junior employee who are knowledgeable about social media to someone who has a broad set of skills and experience. For companies, this means it will be more of a challenge to find good people, and the need to pay them accordingly.

Within the corporate hierarchy, community managers will start to occupy more seats at the strategic table because they’ll have as good a handle on what’s happening within the business landscape as anyone within the organization.

This will give them a combination of strategic insight and a tactical role, highlighting their growing importance.