Published: June 18, 2014 | Comments
Transforming enterprise processes to manage today’s informed customers
The biggest challenge in customer service today isn’t how to deal with interactions across an ever-increasing number of channels. Instead, the real issue is how these increased channels have changed the nature of interactions. Through social media, review sites, online communities and price comparisons, customers are more informed than ever before. In fact, they are often more informed than the staff that are serving them – yet quite rightly still expect consistent and high levels of service and responsiveness.
For organizations – from retail to finance, manufacturing, telecoms, hospitality and utilities – it is a massive challenge. Essentially, businesses need to give staff the tools and knowledge to respond effectively and maintain or enhance the customer experience, without compromising productivity or burdening the organization with massive cost. They also need to find new ways to engage with customers and get to grips with what they are thinking, feeling and doing.
Voice of the customer (VoC) in the digital age
Organizations that understand the importance of VoC are endeavoring to engage customers more effectively and to monitor what customers are saying for business intelligence, improved customer experience, and strategic planning. Those who haven’t been monitoring and responding effectively to VoC should continue not to do so at their peril. To compete effectively, it’s essential to know—as quickly as possible—what people are saying about your products and services, and in turn, to determine how to optimize the customer experience.
The predicted ‘demise of voice’ didn’t pan out, and customers are still contacting organizations using voice channels. For voice calls - and direct communications with the brand for that matter - specialist technologies have made VoC analytics fairly straightforward. By far the most common ways of doing this are by analyzing speech and text communications and conducting customer surveys (end of call, outbound calling, email, mobile-based). These methods certainly have their place as they can help businesses proactively improve the overall customer experience by identifying major pain points in the customer journey and, conversely, what pleases customers most.
Social engagement – a new form of VoC
But, with customers turning more and more to social to educate, be informed and inform, companies need to find a way to engage there too. But how, exactly, do you do that? Every business is different and so there’s no step-by-step manual to follow, but there are a few things you can do that will help your business engage with consumers in the social world.
1. Know what your customers want from you, so listen carefully to what they’re saying.
Read the comments on your social media pages and make good use of keywords/hashtags to see what is being said about you, your competitors.
2. Start conversations by asking good questions.
Make sure they are relevant to your business, open ended, constructive and, if possible, fun. (And, of course, remember to listen to the answers!).
3. Be responsive.
Your customers will ask you questions through social channels, and you should always respond, even if you don’t know the answers – the following tips should help:
- Acknowledge the customer (Tweet, Facebook post, etc.)
- Get in touch with commentators as quickly as possible and publicly acknowledge that you’re following up with them
- Close the loop! Once the issue has been resolved, consider returning to the channel (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to publicly thank them
- Don’t fall into the trap of being pulled into a pointless altercation in a public space
- People like talking to real people, so talk like a real person. Use every interaction as an opportunity to personalize the communication - use their name, your initials, and a pleasant tone!
- Share the love and forward compliments to marketing/account management in case they want to reach out to the customer and/or re-tweet
- For support requests, if it's a question you can answer, just respond in the social channel as quickly as you can
- If someone reports an issue that requires troubleshooting, pull the conversation into a ticket and send them a link to it – much better than engaging in a back and forth on social media
- Always keep customers up to date during the process and make sure they’re completely satisfied once the issue has been resolved
4. Be open to criticism, but manage it well.
Ideally, all feedback would always be wonderful, but that’s very rarely the case. Customers will criticize and complain – some quite vociferously. However, even a complaint is an opportunity to fix a problem publicly or demonstrate empathy and responsiveness.
5. Pat customers on the back.
Whether it’s a tweet, a blog post, or even something a competitor did, sharing others’ content creates a community and communities are far more likely to look upon your organization favorably and share your content with potential customers.
Although engaging customers through social media can be intimidating to businesses, it is an important VoC mechanism in the digital age. Proactive social engagement will help you understand what your customers think, feel and are likely to do. In turn, this will help you create sales, loyal customers, and brand ambassadors – people who come back to you time and time again, and even promote your business proactively.