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When your service doesn’t come on a silver platter, directly tell someone who can do something about it.
I came across an interesting post this recently on the ever growing trend of companies
putting processes I place to better listen to their customers concerns expressed on social media sites so they can respond more rapidly. While I wholeheartedly support the notion of companies paying greater attention to their customers, I’d like to offer up a different perspective on the issue. Are companies enabling dysfunctional behaviors on the part of customers? Let’s see.
In the article, Maximizing Social Customer Service with Listening Technology, the author points out that due to the trend of customer complaints on social media sites, not only are companies investing lots of human resources, a whole new market is emerging for software products that allow you to better listen and respond to customers who communicate with a company via social media. Getting this right, or at least attempting to, is costing companies a small fortune that many ultimately be a sub-optimal investment for customers. Continue reading →
Long before there was Google+, the concept of +1 was used to address the topic of extraordinary customer service. In 1993, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service. In Raving Fans, Blanchard and Bowles cover three areas: Deciding what you as a business want; Discovering what the customer wants; and delivering plus one.
So what did they mean by delivering plus one. Here are some of the key points they articulate:
Being consistent in your performance to create credibility with your customers
Limiting the number of areas in which you want to make a difference so that you have a chance of doing them well
Promote more service and deliver more (as opposed to under-promise and over-deliver)
Meet expectations first, exceed them second
Since one of the primary reasons to have an externally facing online community is to deepen relationships with your customers, it seems that the +1 concept from Blanchard and Bowles fits well for online communities. Here are 10 suggestions for ways you could +1 your community this year. Continue reading →
While social media may be all the craze these days, it is important to link your approach to using it back to your business objectives. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be.
There was an article in USA Today on how Social Media Like Twitter Change Customer Service. It covered how more than half of the Fortune 100 companies use Twitter to provide customer service. Now, while I am a fan of social media and embrace its use in business, I believe companies must be careful in how they do it. In order to meet the expectations of the Twitter-sphere, to provide customer service on Twitter means having lots of people on the watch for a mention of something said that should be addressed immediately.
Comcast has 11 people and Microsoft, just for their Windows 7 product, has 7 people responding to customer service related posts. Companies are spending millions to do this. While it is only a fraction of the multi-billions of dollars spent on customer service, it seems to be moving the trend in a direction that is not so good for business.
Social media can, and often does when applied appropriately, drive down the cost of doing business, and in particular customer support costs. Support communities with both the company and, more importantly, other customers and product experts can provide answers through forums seems more efficient for everyone. Everyone learns and has their needs met faster when common questions are shared, suggested answers are proposed, near real time fee can be shared, and solutions are verified. Better yet, the next person with the same issue can benefit instantly from early exchanges.
The use of Twitter to provide customer support has the potential to do just the opposite of what is good for business and their customers. Instead of the cost going down, using Twitter can drive more one-on-one requests for support and therefore higher costs. It can make it difficult for other user of the company’s products to provide their experience (there is a low probability of someone having a group of people they follow on Twitter just because they use the same cable TV company.) Additionally, as the tweet stream vanishes over time, so does the knowledge with it.
In contrast, support communities allows others, including non-paid employees, to handle questions that arise, retains the knowledge, and makes the knowledge search-able by others with the same issues.
It might be interesting to learn a little more about how Dell is using Twitter. In the article, although they have multiple Twitter accounts, they weren’t the ones to respond to the tweet. Someone told them how to get in touch with a Dell expert. Was that expert a Dell customer service rep or perhaps someone active in Dell’s support community? In this instance, it appears as though Twitter was used as intended, to pose a problem and have someone, not necessary the company, help point them in the direction of a solution.
Sending people to the support community with your 140 characters might train people to go to the most helpful and cost effective place first instead of starting with Twitter.
Many people have watched this wonderful short-film on validation. (If you haven’t taken the time before, it’s worth the 16 minutes. If you have seen it before, it’s still work the reminder.)
It seems nice in theory and in the end, the guy does get the girl, but can this simple technique do anything to increase the profits of your business?
There are at least three ways in which your bottom line can benefit from this small yet extremely powerful gesture.
Employees will give more of themselves – Most employers don’t get the full benefit of the employees talent, intellect or energy. After all, it’s not their business, just their job. As long as the company is doing reasonably well, they are going to get the same pay (okay, some may be bonuses, but stick with me here for a moment) regardless of whether they go above and beyond. They don’t have to be passionate to be successful employees – only very competent.
If, however, you began to validate your employees, you are much more likely to ignite their passion for your business. When people are passionate, they think about ways to do things better, more efficiently, and more profitably. They go the extra mile without being asked. While it’s not their company, validation can cause them to begin to think, act, and care like owners of the business. Imagine the benefits of having a culture where everyone had total commitment to the success of the company. Costs would certainly go down and revenue would have to increase.
Customer loyalty will soar -The old adage “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is applicable here. Validation can be a significant product or service differentiator that will not only keep your customer coming back but have them skipping the process of shopping around. Trusts increases when a person feels they are remembered, listened too, and engaged with in an authentic manner. Not only will they be loyal, but your customers are more likely to make referrals. Less customer turnover and more word-of-mouth advertising equals higher profits.
Your commitment to business growth will increase - There is a well known poem, Our Deepest Fear, by Marianne Williamson, that suggest that our deepest fear is success. That could very well be true for business owners. If you aren’t really enjoying the whole process of owning and running your own business (and who really enjoys every aspect) the thought of lot’s more of it could subconsciously be holding you back from phenomenal success. Validation not only makes other people feel good about you, it makes you feel good about you and all of your relationships. It’s much easier to have higher levels of passion when you enjoy your work environment. More passion means you will have less hidden resistance to doing the hard work of continuously growing your business and increasing its profits.
While the Validation movie takes things to the extreme, the lines were longer in the parking garage where validation was happening than in the mall stores. Too bad he didn’t have anything to sell.