Tag Archive for: customer service

Is There Such A Thing As Extreme Customer Service?

23 Apr
April 23, 2015

I was at a shopping centre over the weekend and dropped by a store in the food court to grab coffee and something to eat.

Stuck to the counter next to the register, facing the server, was a laminated sheet of paper titled “Our Extreme Customer Service Policy“. Under it were 4 simple points:

  • Fast
  • Accurate
  • Quality Product
  • Friendly Smile

When you put it all together, it’s basically saying serve the customer exactly what they want in the fastest and friendliest way possible. Which to me seems a bare minimum.

So while I understand the intent was to reinforce good customer service practice, would these things be considered “extreme” customer service, or are they just the core tenets of service? Granted, the example of a coffee shop is different to digital business, I think it paints an interesting picture of how businesses perceive the expectations of the customer.

Customer Expectations Have Changed

There is no doubt that the expectations of customers are now extreme compared to where they were 10, or even 5 years ago. The technology we now have for them to communicate with us has seen barriers removed and timeframes dramatically shortened.

A recent study from Lithium Technologies indicated that 43% of people expect a response to an online query in the space of an hour, and 14% of them want it in 5 minutes or less! This is where tech has raised the expectations.

So while they are extreme compared to where they have been in the past, it’s also the new normal, because we now won’t settle for the old level of service.

Using the word “extreme” to define a customer service policy is incorrect. What you’re seeking is consistently high, because the heightened expectation is now the baseline.

The policies and processes you have around how you support customers should make amazing service a rule rather than an exception.

3 Social Service Tips For Those That Don’t Offer It

28 Jul
July 28, 2014

Despite that fact that social media is becoming the new megaphone for customer complaints and issues, not every business has made the jump to serving customers via social channels.

Many prefer to engage with them through content that promotes the brand and engages people on their pages, rather than supporting it. According to one study, only 39% offer service on Twitter despite 76% of companies actually using it.

The reality though is different – yes, people are talking about you, and that also means people are complaining about you, and people expect some sort of response.

In a separate piece of research, 53% of people who tweeted a company expected a response within the hour. Increasing customer expectations have now grown that to 72% according to research from Lithium Technologies. Both of these were covered in an excellent article on Hubspot dealing with social response times.

Even if you are not using it, it pays to have a fundamental understanding of how social customer service works, and how to deal with it.

An encounter I had with a wine retailer last week on Twitter was a perfect example of a business that doesn’t typically do it.

A bit of background…

Sporadically, and more recently last week, I receive emails from a list that I unsubscribed from about 18 months ago. Usually I just click on unsubscribe, delete and move on, which after the third time I accepted that this was a function that was clearly broken. Once again, breaking up is hard to do.

The last email though got my attention. It was to update my preferences. In it, it had a list of various types of emails they offer, and clearly showed that I was opted out of all emails. Yet they wanted me to check that this is what I wanted to do.

Now, as far as I am concerned, once I am unsubscribed, that’s it. My name is off your list and I don’t want to hear from you again. It shouldn’t be sitting on a database somewhere so I can occasionally hear from you. Yet in this case, it seems exactly that – my name is still on a list.

In my typical first port of call for customer service, I fired off a tweet to them to suggest that they fix the unsubscribe feature before emailing me about managing my preferences for communication.

To their credit they responded, but what followed was a series of tweets that ranged from passing me off to a page on their site to have my query addressed (I don’t want to have to go through an engagement with your account service team to tell your process is broken), to talking to me like opting in and out of email lists is a concept that I should understand, and then suggesting I calm down despite merely highlighting where the problems were.

After this, I looked back over their Twitter stream. They don’t have a separate customer service channel, so this would be the only one that someone can reach them through. It became very apparent that they don’t usually use Twitter to provide customer service other than to reply to praise and basic questions about product, and so my expectations of the exchange lowered.

What it showed though were three things clearly missing from their engagement on Twitter, that I think are valuable lessons for anyone who doesn’t typically offer service through social.

Listen to the Problem

Probably the most fundamental piece of the process is listening, and this doesn’t change for any business, big or small. Not every question is the same, and it shouldn’t be assumed that there is a one size fits all answer.

It took five tweets for them to understand that the issue was with their process of removing people from the list is broken.

It also comes back to the channel – understand that if this is my preferred way of contacting you for resolution, that I don’t want to be pushed somewhere else. Deal with me here.

Don’t Treat the Customer Like an Idiot

During the exchange, I was stepped through the process of how to click an opt out link, and then I “won’t get them anymore…”. The trail off of the sentence suggests that clicking on the opt out should be the logical thing to do, and why hadn’t I thought of it.

Give you customers credit for understanding how processes work. Often times, they are highly digital savvy (if I can work out Twitter, I get email) and familiar with a product that they know more than the person on the other side of the keyboard.

Never assume the problem belongs to the customer alone. Every business has pain points.

Don’t Go on the Offensive

Probably the most important thing is not to lose your cool with the customer. Despite a rational description of the problem and where it was going wrong, I was told there was “no need to get aggressive”.

Nothing will make a rational customer more annoyed than being talked down to.

Remember, today’s consumer has more power than ever before – the power of reach, the power of a voice, and the power of choice with their wallet.

What Next?

So in the end I was removed from the list. I got my outcome, but in a process that took longer than it should have.

While social may not be your primary service channel, or even one you plan on using, understand that people will reach out to you there. Being prepared to deal with it will make for a better customer experience. A happy customer is more likely to come back, and most importantly in the social, more likely to recommend your brand.

UPDATE: CoSchedule has just published a fantastic piece about this very topic, which I think is a must read. Check it out here – Responding to Customer Complaints with Social Media.

Want some more ideas? Here’s a great post from The Next Web on Awesome Customer Service on Social.

PHOTO – 10ch via Flickr

Customer Service is More Than Saying You’re Sorry

27 Aug
August 27, 2012

Carrying on from my post last week about Facebook fanning social media fires, this week I had a friend make a public complaint to an airline on their Facebook page.

Due to an issue with the display of their website on her computer, there was an error to her booking, which she rang up to rectify as soon as she made it. It seems their solution was to pay more than the original flight as a fee to correct the issue.

Now, there are two major customer experience issues here.

The first is the website. If you’re in the business of taking people’s money in return for services, your website needs to be absolutely clear and readable on any browser and screen resolution (well, except IE6 – no one should ever use that. Ever.). Why? Because if it’s not, it leads to what happens next – customer errors that mean they have to contact you further to fix them. If you expect your customers to abide by your “rules” and use the platform you have given them to interact with you – make sure it is usable.

Secondly, and even more surprising (or not..) was the response from Jetstar to the Facebook complaint:

 

Now Jetstar and most low budget carriers are notorious for their fees, charges and low tolerance policy – at the actual gate. 5 minutes later than you should be – forget it.

But here they have a mistake that has happened and within a minute, attempting to be rectified. What it demonstrates to me is a lack of empowerment of, or even investigation by of whoever it is managing their social media.

Fees and rules are at a businesses discretion – they have created them, they can break them. To penalise a potential customer for an experience issue with the website should be an exception to “fare rules”. Consistent application is fine if you have people realising their mistake days or weeks after they make their booking. But immediately?

Even if the person(s) monitoring and responding to Facebook issues is not empowered, the initial response shouldn’t be “we know it’s harsh, but suck it up”, which let’s face it, is what this amounts to.

It should be an apology, and an offer to investigate rectifying the problem. The fact that the response came 15 minutes after the original post means that nothing was done to even investigate the possibility of an issue (15 minutes is a reasonable SLA for simply responding)

Sorry doesn’t cut it. Customers – new, old and potential – expect much more from businesses now.

PHOTO – dolescum via Flickr

How Small Tweets Can Mean Big Love For Your Brand

18 Aug
August 18, 2012

I woke up the other morning with the strangest craving for a hot chocolate. I don’t usually drink them, but for some reason just needed one.

Sadly, the necessary ingredients weren’t in the cupboard. So I had to settle for a coffee.

As someone who pretty much runs on coffee, I tend to drink Nespresso when I’m at home (have you ever tried to grind beans and froth milk while holding a child? And no, this isn’t a paid post of any kind).

So just for fun, I tweeted Nespresso.

Now I’m a realist when it comes to brand responses on Twitter. As a social media manager, I know and encourage the importance of them, but understand that it’s rare to get a response unless its a customer service issue. There was a research piece produced by Amex earlier in the year that said that while 25% of people who tweeted a brand expected a response, only 9% actually got one. Safe to say, I was in the 75% with this tweet.

So I was surprised when my phone beeped later that day – they had tweeted me back.

Now, in reality, the tweet doesn’t mean much – they’ve passed it on, have a great day. Considering a hot chocolate pod would probably be outside the realms of the way their machines operate (they’re built to push hot water through coffee), the idea’s probably going to stop there.

What it does do for me though as a consumer is make me feel a bit warm an fuzzy about the brand. I now know they are is listening, and are taking the time to talk back to the people who buy their product. For most consumers too, it’s this little glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, the thing they’ve asked for or are seeking will happen.

It’s these really small interactions that can mean big things for you as a brand. When was the last time you made one of your customers feel special, just because you could? Have they offered you a suggestion on something they would like to see? If so, did you thank them for it, or did you just file it?

Think about how you can surprise and delight your customers today, for no other reason than making them feel like they are heard.

And in future if you’re reading this while drinking your Nespresso hot chocolate – you’re welcome.

PHOTO – yon garrin via Flickr

Under Promise, Over Deliver? How About Just Over Deliver?

12 Jun
June 12, 2012

For years, there has been a mantra of under promise and over deliver, presumably coined by the first person who failed to deliver on something big, and subsequently becoming a catch cry for anyone who has the slightest concern that what they’re putting forward may not actually be able to meet expectations. It’s become commonplace.

But whenever I hear it, I can’t help but think that there is no conviction in the quality of the product / service.

How many times do you think that under promising has cost you business?

We hear many reasons for why people didn’t end up purchasing what we’re selling – some of them are true, some are just convenient – but how many times do you think it’s because they want more from you, but what you’ve promised is less than what they need?

What if you just aimed to over deliver on what you know you can achieve, rather than just delivering on what you under promised (and therefore, by default, over delivering – but not really)?

If there is something that it stopping you from delivering on your promise, look at it as a way of making the product better. What is the gap? Where does it fall down?

Let’s aim for a culture of being committed to what we can deliver, rather than aiming low.

PHOTO – hans s via Flickr