Archive for the 'customer service' Category

Content May Be King, BUT…Customers Rule!

Guest Post from Chris Doster from Digital Response Marketing Group

As a “newbie” to the digital marketing space, I may only have a “surface level” comprehension of this ever evolving profession, but I know my customers…

Since the days of dial-up AOL and old school cell phones with plans that required a bank loan, I’ve been marketing products and services to the medical device industry about as far back as when Gates and Jobs (R.I.P) were just getting started..

I might be a dinosaur when compared to “digital strategists” of the modern day new media, but some things will never change.  One constant, in my humble opinion, is the fact that with all the high-tech “reaching out” methodologies and social channels that exist to make companies more engaging, and accessible, is that the CUSTOMER, still rules…

Now as a guest columnist, I don’t mean to ruffle any virtual feathers here, but since the dawn of the “world wide web”, those of you with the secret skills of “I.T” haven’t always been the most popular staff members in the office.  Much like the respected yet confusing golf pro, it often seems that the “geeks” that create  software, apps and sites and make them tick, make many customers go “blink, blink” with blank stares like a “South Park” Character.

You might proclaim to the customer that you have the “golden ticket” to traffic, conversions, and  “conversations”, but you still get “the look”

So do I have all the answers for the fledgling social media marketer, of course not.  But this much I do know; I am your target audience.  I know enough to be dangerous in regards to “search and social”, but you all play a game I am not familiar with…

From my experience, the majority of business owners are way too busy making payroll and making a marketable product.  To assume they understand your business would be assuming you know theirs….do you?

My simple suggestion would be to consider what I was taught back in the dark ages of that lost art of face-to-face sales calls.  Combine the “high tech” with a bit of “high touch” and remember that people buy from people.

All the “CMS” tools  and knowledge you may drop on a client, all the technical jargon and “buzz words” may make you appear as the “King” (or Queen) of the Digital marketing world.  But if you forget that “nothing happens until there’s a sale”, and that making a connection with your prospect is your most important tool, you just might forget that “Customers” still rule…

 

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On Brand Experience

When I was in grade school, one Christmas in particular stood out for me but not for the reasons you might think. My parents were not getting along at the time and for whatever reason, I received a ridiculous amount of presents from my father. Some of which I was not even interested in nor had I asked for.  I found this odd and yet this one thought was not lost on me even at that young age-I thought that my dad was trying to buy my affection.

I remember thinking that why couldn’t he just spend more time with me? Why couldn’t he have just hung out with me and talked with me? That’s all I wanted to do. I didn’t need presents. Well maybe one or two but…

Now let’s think about the brand experience. Before the age of social media, we really didn’t talk about the brand experience. It didn’t really have a name. It was just marketers trying to sell something. However, once consumers found their voice-It became readily apparent that they wanted a say so in what they wanted from the products they bought.

Pay attention to that last sentence.

It’s funny but sometimes I think we have been beat down so much as consumers that we misconstrue good customer service as a warm “live” voice on the other end of a phone. Great customer service? Someone who cares. Ironically, Brand loyalty starts out with the intent of the consumer hoping to get something from the brand, but then is actually cemented by something as simple as a conversation or recognition that you actually exist.

That’s all we really want. We just want to talk.

The Customer Experience Revisited

Recently I had 3 conversations with a cab driver, a plumber and a CEO. Each conversation revolved around the customer experience. I want to share with you the gist of each conversation.

The Cab Driver: I actually had 3 cabbie’s but it was the 3rd one who had really understood the customer experience. Look I get it, if you take enough cabs, you’re going to get the gamut of drivers, but I think it’s interesting to see how some know how to engage the customer and how others could care less. I’m just a fare. It’s those that “get it” who will make more. I actually had the cab driver who explained to me how he reads the customer to see how he should “deal” with the customer. His goal? Not only to engage, but to provide a positive experience that could result in repeat business as well as referrals and a higher tip. Insights from a cab driver.

The Plumber: Let me preface this vignette by saying that “The Plumber” is a very good friend of mine. But the conversation I had with him was as much enlightening as it was a relative fact with all SMB’s. They not only have to do what they are good at but they also have to manage their people and manage their business. However what really opened my eyes was when he told me what was the key to growing his business. Was it more people? More trucks? More resources? Better technology? Nope. He told me it revolves around word-Compassion. Compassion for the customer and walking in their shoes. Good stuff coming from-A Plumber who get’s it.

The CEO-I had about as bad an experience as could be had at a local restaurant. I was so mad that I blogged about it. Of course I used the company name with a map and hyper links because I was so angry but never really expected to hear from anyone within the organization. I even sent an email to the GM of the local franchise but still, I never expected to hear from anyone I just figured it was another FAIL.

About a month or so after the blog post I received an email from the CEO of the entire company expressing regret and essentially saying that I was right, they were wrong and what can he do to make the situation right. He even offered to take me to lunch to prove that his restaurants do get it right when it comes to customer service. He didn’t have to do any of that did he? He’s the CEO-He could have had his area managers handle it, someone in customer service, or basically half a dozen others, but he chose to handle it himself. A CEO.

So what’s the story? It’s not social media. It’s about the customer. It’s always been about the customer. But ironically, it doesn’t matter what your business is, what your job is, if you understand that in whatever you do, the customer experience is priority one. You’re ability to win, to succeed, and to do great work will always be achievable.

Out of the three, who get’s it the most? How would you rank their approaches? I love the cab drivers approach. The Plumber understands what and who is driving the business and the CEO? I’m just one customer but he still took the time to reach out. This doesn’t mean that each will succeed in the end, but it does mean that in some instances, they can impart that wisdom on to others within their respective businesses.

The Social Customer

Posted: November 2nd, 2010    By: Jason Breed

You think marketer’s lives are rough, try being the customer.  So much is being thrown at the customer these days, its hard to keep up.

B2B Customers: You used to have a few vendors that competed for your dollars, the agencies were simply creatives and technology vendors simply did technology.  Without all the improvements in technology, manufacturing had many barriers to entry which reduced your choices.  You never heard about how vendors were treating your employees (good or bad) and you never cared how they were performing with other peers in related industries.  Marketing was marketing and technology was, well, technology and never did the two meet.  Decisions were made independently without concern to the ecosystems that are in place today.

B2C Customers: You were able to make purchase decisions simply based on how the product tasted, handled, or felt.  You did not worry about their greenhouse effects, the videos their employees were making behind the scenes or how much the same product cost at other stores within a 7 block radius.  Your friends may have mentioned cool products but you did not have to worry about your friends seeing every purchase you make (remember that Dixie Chicks album you really want) nor did you have to remember if you had ”like’d” the Brand in one of your networks.  You did not care what they were making next because if you did not want it, you would simply just not purchase it.  Forget writing letters to your friends to warn them that the “new & improved” product really wasn’t.

Fast forward to today.  Customers are more equipped through technology and network science to make purchase decisions than every before.  Interestingly enough though, the buying cycle is getting longer, not shorter.  Customer’s purchase paths have changed. No longer do they call you to see if something is in stock or what your hours of operation are. No longer do you get a chance to speak to prospects, they simply search online, visit the first few sites that come up, comparison shop through online and physical stores, review product ratings and comments.  If prospects can’t relate to the things they find in that process, those potential customer simply go away without you ever knowing they were actual prospects.

While purchase patterns have changed, so have expectations.  The expectation is that I, as a customer, can ask a question online to a company and get a response back either from other customer zealots or from the company itself.  The other expectations are that you are being a good corporate citizen (because I’ll find out if you are not) and that my vote counts.  I want to influence the direction of the next product, not as a shareholder, but as a product user and Lord help if my product breaks down before I think is reasonbly expected.

We know that customers are changing for both B2B and B2C and yes, even for B2B2C.  The challenge is that customers have not yet fully transitioned from customer-of-old to customer-of-new so they are still in motion.  They don’t know what they want in a Brand yet however the expectation is still there.  So how do you handle this?

What Happens When the Mega Personal Brand Leaves the Company?

This past week something occurred that seems to have slipped by people rather quietly. Frank Eliason is leaving or has left Comcast. For those of you that have been dialed into social media for awhile, this is significant for a number of reasons and you’ll know why.

The biggest reason is that we, the social media community lose our poster child/case study of how one person with one tool/platform can transform how a company operates in the social media spectrum of customer service. Can some of you even count the number of times you might have used ComcastCares as one of your social media “examples” 2 years ago.

If you don’t know who @Comcastcares is or was, it was merely one of the first  large companies/individuals to take Twitter and use it as a direct bridge or line of communication into Comcast customer service for real time/any time help of customer service issues.

When social media case studies were few and far between, Frank’s work at Comcast was our shining example of Twitter and customer service. We name dropped Comcast along with Zappos and Starbucks and Jetblue.  So much so that Frank’s personal brand grew, and grew and grew. Not because he was promoting himself, merely this was just the effect of his social media success.  @Comcastcares was as much Frank as it was Comcast. They were synonymous with each other-interchangeable if you will.

Which lead to an interesting conundrum as well as the second reason why Frank’s leaving is significant. It’s something in which a lot of us in the social media community had often talked about, tweeted about, written about and speculated about, and that’s this:

What happens when the personal brand behind a company becomes larger than the company because of social media? What does the company do? One of the other questions we threw around early and often as well was, What if that personal brand leaves the company, what happens then?

Well guess what? It’s finally happened. Frank, little did you know but you may be  creating another case study for all of us. Good luck, and thanks for setting the table, taking chances, and leading the way for a lot of companies and people that will have no idea that you might be reason they are using Twitter for customer service. :)

The Intersection of Customer Service and Social Media

The conversational divide…

I have a couple of quick questions: Does social media allow customers to get their issues resolved quicker than if they were to use traditional means? Does whining via social media move you to the head of the line? In a recent article in Adage the answer may be yes but below the surface there is an easier explanation.

If I’m a disgruntled customer, or just someone that is trying to get something resolved with a company I’m doing business with, chances are I’m going to go the traditional route; Phone, email, live chat, trouble ticket, phone again..It’s what I know-it’s how I am conditioned. Right?

What if I’m getting nowhere? And I know this social media thing might give me any time access to a company to get my problem resolved? Or at least to be heard? I should do it, right? Absolutely!

On the flip side, If the company is listening and monitoring, that company now has a chance because of social media, to get it right or to fix things before they spiral out of control. Right? And let’s face it, all the customer wants is to get their problem solved-that’s all.

But if said company screws  it up, or if I’m getting nowhere-what were my options in the past? Does this look familiar? Phone, email, live chat, trouble ticket, phone again..It’s what I know-it’s how I am conditioned.

According to Pete Blackshaw of Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Services, he thinks that social media is disrupting the harmony between departments when it comes to dealing with irate customers.

I say screw that. That’s their problem, not mine. I’m the customer and now finally, the tables have been turned. Social media is my ally. Treat me right and I’ll tell everyone how great your company is-if you don’t, then watch out.

The customer experience slips through the cracks for Regal Entertainment Group

Yet another cautionary tale.

Crisis management, contingency planning, reputation management, leadership, why are these so hard? why are they so hard to grasp, to fathom and to implement? Maybe there is a perception that because they don’t figure into the day to day operations of organizations large and small that they’re not that important. Or are they?

It’s funny though, just when they’re needed most, you can’t find them; and it’s right then that everyone seems to ask-”What do you mean we don’t have policies, plans and procedures in place for “…

We talk all the time about the need to have social media crisis management tools, procedures and policies in place for good reason. Why? They work. They help. The mine field is littered with companies that have not done a good job in this area. The most recent is obviously BP Oil.

Why are crisis management policies and plans needed? Because customers, consumers are empowered now.  When customers and people are upset and have been wronged, they can take to social networks and the power of viral socialness and vent and complain and create momentum to make a difference and affect change.

Companies need to be prepared for this-even if it never happens. Because you never know when things will fail and when someone might complain. You never know when groups, large groups, will take to social networks, large social networks and complain about your company. Why wait?

It’s why you monitor. It’s why you listen. It’s why you have these policies/plans in place.

Here’s a mini situation. Two days ago another opportunity to get it right fell by the wayside. This one though isn’t neccessarily social media related, yet the difference now is whereas before there might not have been a way or platform to complain there now is. So it does have social media undertones.

I decided to take my son to see Toy Story 3. There was a huge storm sitting on top of Naples, Florida, so a movie seemed like a great idea. The Regal Entertainment Group operates the largest and most geographically diverse theatre circuit in the United States, consisting of 6,745 screens in 546 theatres in 38 states. So they are a large outfit.

Yet it would appear that they have no  customer service contingency plan in place for when their systems “go down” to complete transactions. Their contingency if you will, is to take cash, which systemically eliminates the huge section of their customers that came armed with a debit or credit card only

So here’s how it went down.

3 windows all open and yet all were saying they could take cash only because their systems were down. Wait, no this one says it can…  We went from one window to the next to the next. And yet one window was able to take debit or credit cards?  Wouldn’t all windows be on the same system? The information seemed to be inconsistent. No messaging to let people know of the current situation. No one out front, no signage, no manager, nothing.

We were able to get in, but I was already thinking about the disconnect in “managing” a customer service situation that seemed to be getting uglier by the minute.

Next up, popcorn and snacks. My assumption? I used the debit card out front, so the system must be back up and on line. Long line later, I order, present my card and am told that the system is down and they can only take cash. Are you serious? I tell them I just used it out front. They say they are told that the system is down. I tell them to try it. They say, like robots, that they are only to take cash. You mean you’re told only to take cash? Yes. You can’t even try and swipe the card? No. I just waited in line for 15 minutes. Sorry.

I look behind me and the line is swelling. I look to my left and it’s like this exact conversation is happening across the board. Where’s the manager, where’s the signage, where’s the “make it right act”? Rainchecks? free popcorn? Something?

I resolve to blog about it because I don’t have time to talk to the manager who I do spot trying to handle several large groups of irate people. I wonder what would have happened if I had tweeted about it? What would have happened if they had been proactive? I probably would have blogged about that as well.

But now a not so favorable customer experience will now end up online thanks to the intersection of search and social media…Oh well.

When employees don’t care about customer service…

So I had a nearly catastrophic event happen today. If it were not for me trusting my gut it would have ended badly.

Let me tell the story.

I had to meet a client at a local restaurant in Naples, Florida. I had a lot of things with me that I had to hand off to them and thus was a tad bit harried. Plus the fact that I was running late for another appointment meant that the normal focus was not there. Keep in mind the word focus.

I met the client for a half hour then dashed off to the other meeting and finally made it back to the office at 4pm. As I was unloading, I noticed that I was missing my thumbdrive.  On this thumbdrive is everything. Now granted I do have copies of everything on the thumbdrive, it’s just spread over 2 machines and 2 external drives-so that little 3 inch long, black USB drive is my one stop shop for docs and what not. It’s vital.

It was missing and panic set in.

I backtracked and concluded that it had to be at the restaurant, so I decided to call them. Here’s how it went down.

Me: Hi I was wondering if you could do me a favor…I…

Them: Hold please

Me..Ok

5 minutes later

Them: Hello? (In a thick foreign voice)

Me: Hi was wondering if you or someone there could do me a favor. I think I left or lost my flash drive in the chair near the fireplace. Could you look for me?

Them: A what?

Me: A Flashdrive, it plugs into a computer, it’s black, about 3 inches long and made of plastic. I think it’s in the chair i was sitting in near the fireplace.

Them: What?

Me: A Flashdrive, it plugs into a computer, it’s black, about 3 inches long and made of plastic. I think it’s in the chair I was sitting in near the fireplace. It’s either in the chair or table.

Them: Ok.

5 minutes later

Them: (A new voice) Sir we couldn’t find it.

Me: Do you know what you were looking for? I mean that seemed awfully quick.

Them: Sure, but we couldn’t find it.

Me: Uhhh, OK. Can I give you my name and number?

Them: Sure hang on. (another 5 minutes)

At which point I had to repeat my phone number at least 4-5 times and wondered whether she really wrote it down. I say thanks and she says, “Yep”.

I got off the phone and thought to myself, that a) they didn’t look,  b) nor did they care to look, and c) nor did they really know what they were looking for and d) could care less.  I decided right then and there to make the drive back over and look for myself and this is what I saw when I went back to my chair.

Is this thumb drive hard to see? on Twitpic

Look closely. Understand that my camera phone is not a high rez camera but come on-Is this really that hard to see here? What do you think it looked like in person? Talk about being mad, lucky, relieved and disappointed all in one fell swoop! Customer service indeed. I know they are a restaurant but come on help me out here. It would be no different if it was an iphone- the fact of the matter is that they did not look. They didn’t care and thus when employees don’t care about the customer, or customer service, you’re screwed.

Yesterday afternoon, I really wanted to name names and based on a very large group on Twitter, I was given the green light to do it, but that’s not really my style. I will say this, there is chance for this restaurant to get it’s act together. We’re not talking about food quality here, but we are talking about an experience that a customer could share with others.

This weeks #socialmedia tweetchat topic: Engagement Through Customer Service: Your Contact Center & Social Media

Callcenter We hear so much chatter that companies have to be participating in social media.  The chatter then leads into who should do it….and Voila! A single person is assigned to it.  That person is usually born of the marketing or public relations (PR) team and the goal is rather simple: 1. Listen and 2. chat it up in an effort to create customer relationships.  Customer Relationships! are you kidding me?!?!  Who in marketing or PR has ever had to directly sell or service a customer (let me help you – not many)?  So why don’t we ever hear about social media from the people who are responsible for managing direct customer experiences on a daily basis?  That’s right, the customer service teams, talk about resources!  Customer support, service, tech support usually have dozens if not thousands of company representatives waiting for you to call.  Ahh, therein lies the issue.  Customer service is typically reactive and most likely engineered to react via the telephone.

It is interesting to consider though.  Customer service is probably the one department with the most experience in developing customer relationships across your entire organization.  Every executive understands the numbers associated with keeping a customer versus the cost of acquiring one, yet Service rarely has a seat at the executive table.  Executives all proclaim that Job #1 within their companies is to over-deliver on quality and service and yet none really have any idea on what the Experience is in buying from their company.  The experience is what social media is all about.  Every experience a customer has with your organization plays a part in developing not only that customer’s relationship with your company, but the relationship of that customer’s network too.  Developing customer relationships are about managing a series of defining moments with customers (ie: pleasant to talk to, was I treated with respect, was my inquiry answered timely, did rep answer or fulfill my question). Contact centers are traditionally very strong with telephone support so incorporating online social media into contact centers is certainly a challenge. There may be nothing more important however to developing a truly social enterprise than incorporating the contact centers in a meaningful way.

The challenges abound.  Systems are all centered on a phone switch, representatives trained to be reactive and solve problems, integration into core infrastructure including ERP, CRM, even accounting and not-to-mention many contact centers are wholly or partially outsourced.  With that last part it now becomes an entire corporate ecosystem that has to change instead of a couple of people in a department.  The payoff though is equally impressive for any company who can transform their client relationships with customer service being at the core.  Consider a blog regarding a comparison of cameras debating which to get.  If your camera company was the only one to contact that person and offer a promotion or simply a closer look through a video demo, your chances of the sale are good, however your chances of developing a relationship through a positive defining moment are great especially when exposed to that person’s network.  Consider a tweet for someone in a strange town looking for some comfort food.  If you are the only restaraunt who responds and delivers on that experience, youhave created a tremendous asset in that customer’s network however large or small it may be.

As social media has enabled citizens access to limitless information regarding your product and your company, it has also created a new class of customers.  These customers have access to insights, reviews and most of all – random thoughts regarding their most recent defining moment with your company.  The rules are changing and contact centers must change with them.  Social media is propagating a new class of defining moments for companies to deal with.  Those moments are no longer siloed to a channel of communication (ie. phone, email, letters).  They permeate all channels and the customer expectations are re-set to near real-time for answers and for attention by your customers.

Companies at the front of this revolution to infuse social media into their service channels will most likely be leaders in their respective industries.  Our moderator this week is no exception.  Shashi Bellamkonda directs social media across Network Solutions, the de-facto leader in all things needed for businesses to manage a web presence.  Shashi is one of the few social media all-stars that actually is recognized in the industry for what he does as much as by what he says.  Shashi will lead us in this discussion coming with first-hand experience in how major corporations actually handle social media inside their service units.  The topic and questions follow:

Topic: Engagement Through Customer Service: Your Contact Center and Social Media

Q1: When should customer service engage with consumers using social media?

Q2: How can contact centers scale to meet the demands of social media?

Q3: How can you determine if Customer Service is being effective with social media?

As always, the chat will be Tuesday (01/05/10) at noon EST.  You are invited to join the discussion or at least follow along by tracking the hashtag #sm41 and be sure to include it in all your tweets.  Another way to follow along is to use our LIVE page as well.  We look forward to a tremendous discussion!


The Deets

Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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