Socializing the Customer Experience

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Written by Brad Lawless

Do Your Social Accounts Reflect Your Customer Service Ethos?

Do Your Social Accounts Truly Represent Your Brand Promise?

Shopper Social Marketing Shouldn’t End at the Cash Register

The Internet provides unlimited access to product and pricing information along a shopper’s path to purchase. While some choose to research a product at home on their laptop or tablet, others stand in front of one retailer’s shelf and use their smartphone to discover product details or find competitive pricing from other retailers.

Forrester analysts predicted that 50% of American shoppers would “access the Internet multiple times a day, from multiple locations, with at least three devices” by the end of 2013. These ultra-connected shoppers expect not only always-on access to information but also want new levels of responsiveness from brands and retailers in their experiences as customers.

Social media has transformed the way many brands market to their shoppers, but few companies truly understand how social content and platforms can help them in their customer experience management efforts. According to 360Connext.com, “86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, but only 1% of customers feel that organizations consistently meet, or exceed, their expectations.” Engaging with fans through social platforms can definitely help a company exceed, or at the very least, meet the expectations of those shoppers.

I recently sat down with Jeannie Walters, 360Connext CEO, to discuss the changing nature of customer experience in the ever evolving world of social media.

Brad: What are the customer experience table stakes for companies today? In other words, what must companies do to ensure good customer experiences with social media?

Jeannie: Companies need to have a plan of action for responding to customers’ social media inquires, and then they actually need to follow through and respond. Customers today expect real time responses in social and digital. When they look for help in those channels, you need to be ready to respond or manage their expectations regarding other places they need to go to find answers to their questions.

Brad: How has social media changed general expectations for customers today and is it reasonable?

Jeannie: Customers want their problems solved. Expectations change along with emotions. If I’ve already called the store or had something repaired and it breaks again, my emotions start to escalate. People are irrational. When we get upset, we expect someone to quickly address our reason for getting upset.

Brad: What’s the benefit to companies for addressing customer concerns in a timely manner?

Jeannie: Loyalty can go up if you if you address concerns in the right way, if you solve a problem with empathy and compassion. I’ve seen loyalty ratings swing as much as 12% in those cases.

I recently read of a customer experience experiment in the medical industry. For years, doctors have been advised by lawyers never to apologize for mistakes. The lawyers felt apologies would open up potential for increased malpractice suits. In this case, the researchers found that simple apologies actually decreased the incidents of malpractice suits.

Brad: What’s the biggest customer service gaffe you’ve seen online?

Jeannie: I don’t want to name specific brands, but the worst thing is when the person representing the brand becomes personally offended and starts to respond to complaints as an individual. At that point, they start lashing out at people under their care. I think we’re beyond some of that due to smarter hiring practices. Today’s social media manager is necessarily much more savvy than people doing the job a few years ago.

A more consistent issue is neglect. If a product or restaurant receives a 4-star review online, that post often contains clues on why the reviewer withheld the critical 5th star. Most companies ignore the advice their customers give on how to move from adequacy to excellence.

People love to focus on the practice of social media complaints, but many brands never respond to the natural advocates talking positively about their brand. A simple thanks for some online support will go a long way in transforming a once-in-a-while cheerleader into a passionate fan.

Brad: What’s the best customer service example you’ve seen in social?

Jeannie: Warby-Parker — They are exceptional. They go out of their way to give video shout-outs to people who are fans. I mentioned them once in a blog post and they hit me up on Twitter that same day.

Brad: What still can’t be done in social?

Jeannie: Anything complicated that requires a lot of touch points.

Last year, I experienced so much pain just ordering a Father’s Day grill. I paid extra to have someone come and set it up. They arrived late, dropped the box on my porch and left. I tried to reach someone via social, but realized the big brand was too siloed to do anything about specific about deliveries. The social manager had no pull with the delivery department, so I Just stuck to calling them on the phone.

When people use social to get product info, they don’t want to talk with the person managing the brand’s Twitter account. They want direct access to a product expert.

Brad: What one piece of advice would you give companies to improve their social customer experience management?

Jeannie: It starts with the foundation of the promise. What are you promising in your customer experience? Companies should completely understand the foundation of their customer experience promise and ensure their  social accounts reflect that ethos.

Most brands get very excited about the promise of social, but their resulting implementations come across as very dry or miss the brand promise. Solving a shopper’s problems with social means not only getting them necessary information prior to the sales, but staying around to support them with answers and additional usage information after they take the product home.

 

 

 

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