Customer service and support is continuously evolving and great service differentiates brands and turns customers into advocates. This blog will discuss three service buckets and how an online community can benefit your company while providing your customers an outstanding service experience.
The First Bucket: Phone Queue
Something we are all familiar with, but often hate using. Because there such a high staffing cost to companies, customers are often burdened with lengthy menus or unhelpful automated responses. To add further irritation, it is often difficult to reach the rep with the right level of knowledge leading to transferred calls, the need for a customer to start over; a horrible experience.
The Second Bucket: Self Service
Convenience and speed are appreciated by customers and allowing them to help themselves is very popular. YouTube videos, or a knowledge base created from solved customer problems are very helpful to customers and will free up support rep time, but what if a customer has a question? If there is no way to ask a question or if comments are not monitored, the problem still exists and the customer remains frustrated.
The Third Bucket: Online Community
An online community offers customers many things they are seeking: speed of answers, access to a knowledge base, and most importantly, the ability to ask questions about their unique issue. Like a knowledge base, a community cuts costs by documenting solutions and providing self service; both reduce demand on support reps. Furthermore, most community solutions are provided by customers: a cost savings for the company, and trusted by peers.
An online community will deliver trusted and targeted support to your customers in a timely manner while reducing costs for your company. If you have not done so, it is time for your community! I look forward to your questions and comments.
Your company has an online community and utilizes social media – GREAT! Listening to and engaging with your customers is always a great idea, but this blog is not about social benefits; I am going to discuss planning for the inevitable problem.
No matter your product or service, there is no way to avoid problems and the public complaints that follow: mistakes will be made and customers will get upset. They will turn to Twitter, Facebook, or your Community to let you (and the public) know about their pain. How are you going to triage and manage these complaints and keep drips from becoming a flood? Have a plan.
Each firm has different staffing levels and available resources; this chart is a guide to help you formulate your triage plan. No plan is perfect, nor will it prevent issues; however great companies do not hide from trouble, they take ownership and tackle it.
Don’t let your fear of public complaints keep you from utilizing social media or creating a community. Have a plan and the thick skin to deal with it – your customers will reward you for it.
I welcome your questions and comments.
I have to take my hat off to Andrew Dennis () for this excellent piece on the importance of customer retention. Andrew shows why it is important to retain customers, I am going to discuss who can help you make it happen.
Think about your online community and all the customers who visit and participate daily. These folks are not only paying your bills, they are potential brand ambassadors and peer to peer customer service reps. Your Community Manager engages this valuable group daily, is their advocate, will triage their issues, and gains their trust.
When it comes to ROI, a strong community will:
- Provide peer to peer support: customers will answer each other’s questions and share tips.
- Develop a knowledge base from conversations and answers provided within the community into a two-sided knowledge base for customer self-learning.
- Internal: what the product was designed to do
- From Customers: what the product CAN do
- Provide trusted product reviews for potential customers.
- A reduction of formal cases filed with your Support or Engineering teams.
- A treasure trove of customer-centric content for your social media efforts.
Thank you Andrew for clearly communicating the importance of retention, now we must work with our Community Manager(s) to make it happen. I look forward to your comments and questions.
Good day everyone, I wrote this some time ago, but some lessons need to be remembered. This piece was inspired by an article from “The Boston Globe:”
The Grateful Dead provided us with more than memorable summer nights; they showed the way to business success. I will focus on two ideas and how they relate to Community Management and Customer Service.
1. Be Transparent
“The Grateful Dead’s authenticity endeared them to fans and allowed the band to experiment. They found that mistakes are quickly forgiven if a company is transparent about what it’s doing.”
Trust is everything in business and your business will disappear if your customers do not trust you. Come forward and admit to your mistake, apologize and fix the problem or policy. Problems happen, the very companies do not sit back and hope the problem goes away, they take action to fix the issue AND admit they made a mistake.
Transparency is not just about customer service, it relates to your financial accounting too. Enron (and others), lost customer trust and fortunes because of greed and terrible ethics. Don’t keep two sets of books.
Great service and sound ethics are foundations on which you should build your company.
2. Give, and you shall Receive
“The Grateful Dead removed barriers to their music by allowing fans to tape concerts for free. That brought in new fans and grew sales for concerts, records, and merchandise. They showed that when content is free, more people hear about a company and eventually do business with it.”
Customers are demanding access to knowledge in order to self-solve their problems. Providing an open knowledge base lowers your customer service costs, increases customer satisfaction, and shows your company is a thought leader. The Consortium for Service Innovation has published a paper about how Mathworks has turned knowledge-share upside down by publishing their entire knowledge base within their Community.
I can hear the question now: “But support contracts are a large part of our revenue, we can’t just give away our knowledge.”
Give away the knowledge, not the support. Customers who pay for a service contract are NOT paying for information, they are paying for immediate support and people to solve their problems for them.
Stop funneling your customers into horrible phone queues: listen to them on social media and build them a community where they can interact with you (and other customers) to learn, share knowledge, and solve their problems.
My recap of the 3/1/2017 #SproutChat hosted by & @SproutSocial Join the conversation every Wednesday at 3pm EST.
Q1: What’s the difference between social listening and monitoring?
- Social Listening leads to engagement – monitoring is simply seeing what is out there
- Social monitoring can lead to trouble: why are ppl taking about my brand this way? Engage and find out
- Social Listening will help you improve your product, service, and customer trust
- No matter listening or monitoring – you should wonder why ppl are going to 3rd party places rather than talking to you
Q2: Why is it important to go beyond just monitoring brand mentions and responding reactively?
- Responding builds customer trust
- Responding uncovers product improvement and sales opportunities
- Engagement creates happy customers and happy customers talk positively about you
- Most brands make it hard to speak with someone – Engage and be a champion
Q3: How can a brand surprise and delight customers when providing social customer care?
- The fact the brand actually engaged
- Problems happen – brands that engage and solve them create and keep loyal customers
- Reply within 1 hour – Show empathy – Admit fault in public – Confirm resolution and satisfaction
- Do not use canned responses – make them personal and show you have actual people who care within your organization
Q4: What are some good ways to keep track of ongoing conversations with members of your community?
- I use & to keep track of conversations
- Anyone use for social listening? Great tool
Q5: What are some creative ways to use Twitter boolean (advanced) search to find opportunities to engage?
- Have not used it 😦 Love to hear more
- Answer from @sprout_sarah – Here’s a comprehensive cheatsheet on Advanced Search for Twitter, SUPER helpful: Twitter Search
Q6: What are the best ways to keep track of trends while listening on social?
- I use a board – makes it easy to classify and find ideas
- Follow people and add them to lists – then you can add the list to a dashboard to easily monitor it
Please stop by the next #SproutChat and join the conversation. I look forward to your comments and collaborating with you.
I am often asked: “Under what department does a community belong?” As you see from my simple slide, the Community Manager supports and contributes throughout the company.
Social Media, Customer Service, Technical Support, Marketing, Product Development – these are essentials your community can deliver. Setting up a community and choosing the right platform is a different discussion, but before doing either, start with a qualified Community Manager.
Where does your community live?
I often get asked: “What makes you tick and how do you motivate others?” These are my four principals; I would love to discuss them further with you.
Collaborate, Question, Understand
- Ask: Is this the best way and why?
- Remove silos & work towards a common goal
- Understand goals, expectations & what equals success
Manage people not spreadsheets
- Encourage and empower
- Ensure my message is understood
- Numbers are easy to manage, people are not
- Metrics are guardrails that ensure you are on track
Be a customer advocate
- Have a win-win outlook
- Do not hide behind bad policy
- Help them navigate your processes
- Be their partner and make life easier
Engagement over membership
- Rather than 100,000 members, achieve a 90% answer rate
- 75% of content / answers are customer driven
- Without engagement, you have a list, not a community
How do you manage, motivate, and keep your team on track? I welcome your comments and questions.