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Customer Service

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People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

Maya certainly has a firm grasp of the subject on customer care, doesn’t she? Feelings and emotions are the heart of customer service, aren’t they? And social customer care is really the key to your marketing campaigns … particularly word of mouth marketing. So you are getting the picture, right?

Customer care is no longer an emerging trend to merely keep an eye on – it’s a burgeoning movement that companies would be very wise to embrace. Instead of returning to a store or calling a helpline, people are increasingly turning to social media to resolve their gripes. It is called social customer care.

With everyone so focused on the very big and positive impact that customer care can have on the customer experience, many companies fail to realize that social customer care can have just as big and positive an impact on the employee experience. And that alone multiplies the importance of customer care to customer experience design.

The fact that approaches to social customer care can vary adds to this challenge. Some companies are using social channels to resolve customer concerns and questions publicly, while others prefer to take social feedback offline and route customer to phones or online chats. Some are investing in social-listening tools and vendors, while others are creating in-house social-care teams.

In the end, the biggest challenge is finding the right balance.

Here are steps I recommend you take to make goals of customer care the very best and balanced they can be:


[edit] Customer care is not just solving problems

Customer care should not necessarily be any different from “serving customers”. Solving problems is always important, but helping our customers improve their utility, experience or lives is just as compelling—if not more.

Be more specific; suggest ideas; offer information of value; or recommend solutions from which both you and your customers will benefit. Use any form of suggestions to upsell your customer on value you can provide … not revenue. The two are not mutually exclusive. A simple: “did you know” portfolio of useful tips, tools, tricks and tutorials is a powerful and painless accompaniment to your usual response.

[edit] Customer care never ends

As evidenced by Subway in addressing an online issue about the length of their subs, their response time cost the brand much negative publicity. The fact that this conversation erupted over a weekend certainly isolated the fact that the brand was not “plugged in” to its community or audience. Truthfully (and in fairness), the same outcome might have happened during the week, but the real lesson here is that a listening strategy tied to customer feedback needs to be always on.

The important point here is to make sure customers can geta hold of you when they need to, and that you can contact them when you need to—and you do indeed need to when they’rehaving a problem, venting frustration, or simply calling out for help.

[edit] Delegate and empower

The paradox of customer service is that the lower down the totem pole you go, the more impactful and important customer service becomes. Every single employee in an organization represents the company. They are a window into or out of the business; and as far as your customer is concerned, they are the only window. Best to keep it clean, functional, and make sure that what lies beyond the window is suitable viewing—don’t you think?

Perhaps this is why Zappos describes themselves as a service company that happens to sell shoes, or that Southwest Airlines describes themselves as a service company that happens to fly planes.

[edit] All customers are not equal

Every single customer—irrespective of their stature, seniority, and their status in life and with the company—deserves to be treatedwell, respected, and given appropriate attention and effort. In other words, the minimum level of your bar needs to be higher than the minimum level of your competitors’ respective bars, and therefore higher than your industry averages.

Know who your best customers are and put your best attention on them.

[edit] Customer care means near real time

The ability to solve problems in real time is the consummate difference maker. The more time that elapses between problem and solution, the greater the risk of that problem mushrooming out of control.

The good news is that this is exactly where everything is going… largely thanks to technology. For example, if you have OnStar in your car, you practically have a call-centerat your beck and call—a proactive and actionable one with little to no action required on your part.

[edit] Customers will pay for awesome service

Building on several of our earlier recommendations is one fairly counterintuitive one: service can actually become a source of revenue for companies—not just directly (i.e., new business from old customers); but also indirectly (i.e. new business from new customers.) Apple’s Genius Bars give us a glimpse of how premium customers will pay a premium for premium service.

Also Netflix and Amazon show how premium service is not always incremental, but instead manifests itself in terms of recurring revenue, repeat business, loyalty and higher barriers to entry.

[edit] Anticipate and be proactive

Old customer service translated to speak when it was spoken to. New customer care anticipates requirements, listens attentively for customers in need, and proactively searches for problems to fix.

An active and engaged listening strategy will help to identify opportunities, spot problems before they balloon, and in doing so, surprise and hopefully delight consumers by making an unexpected move in the form of responding to them.

[edit] Care is your most important commitment

Care is a commitment, not a one-off happenstance. And there’s no more important commitment than that which we make to our lifeblood—our customers. A commitment, like a relationship, is for keeps. We need to visibly demonstrate our commitment to our customers in practice and in action. They need to explicitly feel its effect and benefits.

We simply have to get smarter each time we deal with the same person—specifically in terms of how we treat them. It helps us become smarter as a company so we can learn, evolve and improve on the whole.

[edit] Focus on continuous improvement

Our final recommendation is an obvious one. Feedback loops need to be active, direct and effective at improving, evolving and moving the business forward. This highlights an organization with an entirely new set of criteria, beliefs, and characteristics that reflect a company truly in touch with its customer base.

If customer care is deemed a chance for the company to connect and evolve with its lifeblood it will become a cultural obsession.

[edit] Related Best Practices

[edit] Resources

[edit] Author

The author of this page is Mike Schoultz

Mike Schoultz

Mike Schoultz is an entrepreneur, speaker and story teller, listener, learner, leader, coach, with passion for social commerce and digital marketing. He operates Digital Spark Marketing from his home in Merritt Island, Florida and his summer home in Cayuga, New York. He has 40 years experience in business development and marketing strategy. He is a frequent author on Quora.

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