Want to Excel at Customer Service? Be Better than Most

Social media is all the rage.  Between the changes to Facebook and GooglePlus, the upstart Pinterest, and the stodgy LinkedIn, social media is everywhere.  Businesses that want to excel in marketing and customer service are flocking to social, in order to better engage their clients and patrons.

But, if you step back, and take a long hard look at customer service, you will find that the majority of companies aren’t embracing all the benefits social media has to offer.

As a customer, I don’t expect to be treated like a king.  I expect them not to bend to my questions and demands, to only do what’s in their best interests.  So, when that doesn’t happen, when the business does more than what’s expected, I’m amazed, and will quickly become a raving fan.

Case in point.  I bring my car to the dealership where it was purchased for service, and in fact, have never serviced it elsewhere.  It’s as if I believe their oil is better than the local service station.  The first golden customer service nugget occurred when my service advisor called to let me know that my front rotors needed to be “cut” and that it would be a bit expensive.  Did I need it?  Do I even know what the rotors do, and how they would be better if cut?  No on both accounts, but I told him to perform the service anyway.  After all, he said I should.   About 2 hours later, I received a call to tell me the car was ready, and I inquired about the costs.  He told me what was done, and how much the total was.  Then, without any delay, he said, “I see you get the car serviced here regularly, so I will put the rotors under warranty.”  Completely unexpected so…wow!

Then, when I went to pick up the car I realized I forgot my 10% coupon.   All I did was ask the cashier nicely if there was anything that can be done (I expected nothing, as it was my fault).  She left to speak to the manager, and when she returned told me they would adjust the bill, and gave me the 10%.  I couldn’t believe it.  That’s customer service.  And, I’ve told several people about it, in just a few days.

I read of a similar situation in a blog post by Peter Shankman entitled, “When You Should Bend the Rules (or, How to Blow a 7-Year Business Relationship in a Day), which spoke of this very situation.  Where businesses don’t take their customers into account but live and die by the “rules”.  Where his previous apartment building refused to rent to a person with his recommendation, who had been sub-letting his apartment for months, and who could not get her previous landlord to sign-off that she lived there (she was involved in litigation with him).  The rental office’s attitude was simple – our rules require this paper, and without it, you can’t rent.

If only they had taken the time to consider the situation.  If only they had taken the time to rise to the occasion.  If only.  But they didn’t, and they have created enemies for life.  You can’t get that back.

If only businesses would rise to our expectations, they would create fans.  Fans for life.  Fans that would scream their praises from the highest mountains.

And, that type of marketing is priceless.

Are you mediocre?  What do you expect of the businesses you engage with?  Has a business risen above the normal for you?

Author:

Craig E. Yaris is the owner of EsquireTech Solutions, which helps small business get found on the social web, whether through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, he can both teach you the effective use of any social network or act as your social media manager, enabling you to reach your clients where they are and when they want to hear from you.  He can teach your organization the social media best practices that can help you use the tools of today to cost-effectively increase your bottom line.  EsquireTech Solutions brings the social web to your business.  Visit EsquireTech Solutions or call 516-495-9107.

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Can You Hear Me Now? – Good and Bad Examples of Facebook Fan Page Listening Skills [Opinion]

In the past here on DBMEI, I have written on the subject of utilizing listening skills via social networks in order to provide real-time solutions to real time problems on the business end of your customer’s service needs. I’ve openly admitted that these days, I often test those skills before making a serious purchase or committing my loyalty to a brand. It only takes one experience, good or bad, to sway me, or any other consumer to an entirely new opinion of your company. It is up to you to provide the right experience for consumers vital to your businesses growth.

Bad Example of Facebook Fan Page Listening Skills

This past week I had two experiences with online businesses who had Facebook fan pages I had previously ‘liked’.

No More Coffee

Although I will not name the business, I will say that my first product related experience this week centered around a coffee company that supplies auto-delivery options to consumers. I have been a member of this coffee club for quite some time. Before the holidays rolled in I went to my account and canceled it so that I wouldn’t have any unexpected financial deductions from my account during tight holiday shopping times. It appears they suddenly charged me and said that my order would soon be shipped. Within a minute of receiving the email notification, I had emailed them back with a request for a refund and the cancellation of my auto-delivery account.

The email I had received in reply to my problem was incredibly cryptic.
Being almost totally lost on what that meant – I can get a refund but only when it ships? I can’t get one already because it already had? What did that disjointed sentence mean? Was it intended to be as vague as it was? Upset with this being the only response I was apparently to get, I went to the company’s Facebook page and posted.

I checked back on the Facebook Fan page about ten minutes later. My post had been removed and there were no inbox messages for me explaining who would be helping me with my customer service issue.

In my opinion, a complete failure in communication. Not only did their removal of my post indicate that they weren’t willing to allow others to view the possibility of their failure, but that they had no intention of addressing the issue immediately. In the day and age of instant assistance, this displays a disgusting lack of brand responsibility as well. Even more curious was that I had recalled seeing several customer service pleas and complaints on their page before, what was different about mine that it should be hidden. Shady practices are never attractive to your current or possible consumers.

Good Example of Facebook Fan Page Listening Skills

I was so pleased when one of my favorite online stores to purchase from restored my faith in good business practices.

Drive-By Beta Testing for Ozbo

Not every business takes the hide-and-hope-you-don’t-find-us perspective on social media customer service as the aforementioned coffee company that shall not be named does. As I was visiting a site I frequent because of their great prices on pet supplies, I decided to venture through a couple of other categories they sell under. I headed to the Health & Beauty tab and eventually found myself facing a curiosity.

Excuse me? While I was giggling I was already opening Facebook and heading to Ozbo’s Fanpage site in my browser. I had seen their interactions with customers and while I almost felt guilty for what I was about to do, I simply could not resist. After all, even though it may be slightly embarrassing, I was still pointing out an issue that needed to be fixed right?

Not only that, but here was the chance to test a company I had so far felt comfortable with and enjoyed spending my money at. I wanted to know if Ozbo’s impressive branding techniques went as far as having a sense of humor about their own mistakes.

They did. Not only did they have the required sense of humor and self-humility, but they finally bit on my hint to give me a discount (even though I’ll fully admit to pressuring them with the beta testing comment!).

I had hinted with Ozbo before for a promo code or two to no avail, but had not totally given up. So not only are they listening, interacting, and being quite effective in building their customer relationship with me via a Facebook Fan page, but their openness and willingness to address such a simple issue as an improper image placement, shows that the 2 dollar discount wasn’t the real reward in this communication.

If You Take One Thing from This Post…

There is an important lesson here for consumers and business owners alike.

Business Owners – Do not be afraid to own up to mistakes, laugh at yourself, and appreciate those who help to beta test your products or services, and alert you when something may be awry from the consumer perspective. When possible, try to reward or accommodate consumers who are checking your listening skills on Facebook or Twitter. Prove to them their loyalty is deserved and you not only have a fan for life, but you have a fan willing to shout to the skies (and their social networks) about how wonderful and innovative your product, services, and customer service skills really are.

Consumers – Found a mistake on a favorite site’s page? Have you been charged improperly? Find a respectful and humorous when possible, manner to address or alert the business via their social media outlets. Don’t be afraid to use the stage given to ask for action or compensation, but never expect a reward or use that social platform to stage a hissy fit when your requests aren’t immediately met causing a situation that could be embarrassing for you and the business and people you are addressing.

 

 

Author:

Joy Lynskey is the owner of JRL Solutions, a copywriting and content management company based in Bedford, Virginia. JRL Solutions hosts a Freelance Writers Education Blog that is managed by direct and guest posting. Joy is the consent manager and editor for Puglisi Consulting Group at Digital Brand Marketing Education. Joy has most recently begun freelance consulting  private clients with their social media campaigns as well as freelance writers and business owners who are seeking personal and business growth through Social Media Marketing.

Sources:

#SMWF: How Hilton Does Social Media

Hilton has one message from their industry that rings true into their social media campaigns. Hospitality is social. If it isn’t, the execs at Hilton think it should be. Their studies into how social media integrates with travel accommodations has shown:

  1. Those who travel often are commonly also active on social media networks.
  2. Those who use these channels do expect their favored businesses and locations to be listening, available, and willing to respond via these networks.
  3. Those using these venues are not only interested in deals, but often also travel advice, and to deal with customer service issues.

Hiltons Wide-Reaching Social Network

Hilton has made finding information on an incredible variety of things on social networks of all types, quite easy. They regularly post interesting videos on YouTube that show a myriad of benefits for choosing Hilton accommodations when you head out for your next vacation.

Check out this video about a spectacular special drink created by one of Hilton’s own bartenders at the Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort.

Not only does this create an interest in this location and its amenities, it also builds upon true customer engagement by giving them a real taste of what to expect on their next trip, but also a familiarity that many can appreciate.

None of the above even takes into account that not only does Hilton engage their customers with this type of open information but they have also effectively engaged the employee. It looks like Hilton has taken the proactive stance that many other businesses have by utilizing their current staff to share the big picture through social media networking.

@HiltonSuggest

Social Media Guru for Hilton, Vanessa Sain-Dieguez, helps implement training for their employees on how to use social media to help take care of their customers. In a comprehensive study on using social media with their guest, they noted one very important issue, customers do not just expect their favored businesses to be ‘listening’ to them, but they also expect them to act.

A highly active Twitter account known as @HiltonSuggest stays on the lookout for those who Tweet messages like:

Although none of these Tweets specifically mentions Hilton, @HiltonSuggest still doesn’t mind offering immensely helpful suggestions based on exactly what folks are looking for in the Twitterverse. Also noticable is the fact that not all of the blurbs thrown into the Twitterverse have hashtags, which shows that Hilton is really listening, the replies show that they are also willing to act, even when it doesn’t mean a direct consumer experience for their industry.

It turns out that dbmei author had written an article that had personally touched him and his family, and yes Hilton was behind it! Check it out here.

Defining Social Media in the Hotel Industry

A panel co-hosted by HVS Executive Search and ESSEC Business School Paris was held on February 7th, 2011 to discuss what the rise in social media means for the hotel industry. Attendees were students, hoteliers and other staff, all of whom declared they are active on at least one social media network.

Sources:

Listening Tools: Who is Listening to You?

Who is Listening to You?

My wife went to a conference this past weekend, in Rye, New York (she is an educational consultant that owns Literacy Builders). Once she arrived at the hotel, she had numerous problems entering her room, which culminated in a visit from security at 11:00p.m, who proceeded to blame her for the issues.

My wife did what she usually does, and blogged about the incident, but related it to education (check out her blog, The Blame Game to read all about it). For her, that was the end of the matter. Her key worked the rest of the conference, and that was that.

Except it wasn’t.

The blog was posted on Monday, October 24, 2011, at about noon. Sometime in the early evening, she received a direct message on Twitter, from Hilton Online (@hiltononline) asking for her to follow them and DM (direct message) her information so that they may assist.

Wait, what?

She never tweeted. She never put it on Facebook. She didn’t even link to them in her blog. She merely mentioned which hotel she checked in to.

Talk about listening.

One of the things we tell clients to do before attempting to jump into the social media swimming pool is listen. Listen to how people interact. Listen to what people are saying, whether it be about your brand or topic. It will give you an idea as to what’s being said about you, your brand, your company, your topic of choice. It will help y0u frame how you will use these social media tools to join the conversations.

Hilton Hotels did just that. Not only did they listen, but they took the affirmative approach of trying to solve the issues, and solve them immediately.

But what happens when the brand or person isn’t listening? When your Facebook post or tweet goes unanswered?

Frustration and anger are usually the result. Take for example the “Motrin Mom’s” incident. It started innocently enough, with Motrin posting a commercial equating “wearing a baby” with fashion. Both the twit-o-sphere and blog-o-sphere exploded with negative comments on the ad, and against the brand, Motrin. The ad broke on a Friday, and by Saturday it was the most tweeted about subject on Twitter. By Sunday, there was a 9 minute YouTube video posted with all the negative complaints and photos of mom’s carrying babies. The creative agency admitted it didn’t have much knowledge of Twitter, and had no idea of the backlash they were encountering.

In the end, what was their response? An e-mail to several bloggers. No tweets, no Facebook. However, it was now National news. It appeared in the New York Times, Mashable, and even AdAge.

Talk about not listening.

To bring it closer to home, on a recent trip to Disney World, I was stuck on a Monorail, at 10:30pm for over 30 minutes, with 2 tired kids trying to see the fireworks. No mention of why we were stuck over the p.a. system. So I tweeted to Disney about it. This was in April. I’m still waiting for a response.

For the small business who may feel overwhelmed with all the tools out there, take solace. There are some great “listening” tools at your disposal. From Google Analytics to Facebook Insights to Social Mention, all of these tools help you learn what is being said about you and your brand.

Use them to your advantage. Listen to what’s being said. And, after listening, then respond. It’s the best way to engagement.

Listening Tools

Sources:

A look at how important Twitter is to customer service: Palms Casino, Las Vegas

I will be leaving for Las Vegas on Friday morning July 8, 2011. As part of any trip you start to pack, and then check your details. This trip to Vegas for me is one that has me excited,  joining college friends to celebrate a close friend soon to be wed.

As we got closer to the trip, I did a tweet or two about heading to Las Vegas for the first time. Clearly people are listening because I received responses from a few places and promoters about events, VIP options etc. The most notable was my Hotel, @PalmsLasVegas, not only did they respond but they engaged a little themselves.

I had happened to do an article unknowingly about Klout and its Klout Perks, they shared some info and thoughts as time went on.

Just before the trip to Las Vegas, I tossed out another tweet about looking forward to the trip, an epic win again for @PalmsLasVegas who responded again in short order… “travel safely! Look forward to having you here on property!”

Now critiques of Social Media and Twitter in particular would argue that this casual interaction doesn’t provide any real value, but it does and just when ultimately everything went wrong it undisputedly proved that it (social media) did (provide real value)!

Today (Thursday July 7, 2011) less then 24hrs before heading to Las Vegas one of the people in our group told us about a $15 Fee (per day) we would get on this trip, the first reaction in a chain of emails was heavily negative. The group quickly noticed that the Palms website was down, then others including myself could not reach anyone at the front desk. As I had had previous success with tweeting I turned to @PalmsLasVegas for answers.

As you can see in the screen snap shots @PalmsLasVegas quickly works through a few different things, they clarified the fee, apologized,  then turned to the issue with the website.

Remember this all started with the casual interaction that made me comfortable with the Palms Casino because of the twitter account @PalmsLasVegas. The concern that had been raised could not be resolved by traditional means via the phone and dare I also call the website a traditional means as well. The engagement using social media, twitter in particular allowed me to get the info I needed, or wanted. This, with the apology quickly resolved the concerns and negative association I was having with the Palms.

If you remember this entire resolve came from the website being down and the phones busy. When I took the next step and told @PalmsLasVegas that the website was down, they did not even know that there was an issue… here lies the undisputable ROI.

The social media team at the Palms shared that they are having issues finding any problem because the website is working on location, then they ask about what browser I am using. I quickly run the gauntlet using Chrome, IE and Firefox to confirm it’s not a browser issue, then after contacting several others at different locations and confirmed to @PalmsLasVegas the issue is not isolated or browser related. Within a few minutes the Palms website is live again and confirmed that they did have an issue and they “appreciated” the info.

What @PalmsLasVegas did with Social Media

  • Created a welcome place for a casual conversation
  • Provided a source of communication when others failed
  • Provided information and eased the concern of clients or customers (15 of them)
  • Discovered a larger issue of brand visibility (palms.com)
  • Won a influential twitter fan for life in @BasilPuglisi

In this case the choice for the Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas to engage in social media using twitter to provide some casual conversation and great customer service created an epic win. I for one, can’t even remember why it was I was originally concerned, can you?

Sources:

 *** NOTE *** On Sunday July 11, 2011 the Palms aquired @Palms and switched from @PalmsLasVegas to @Palms.
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