The Social Media Buzz; Time for Decaf?

I was part of a great ACCP event last week sponsored by Avtex and hosted by Pella Corporation at their headquarters. There was a wonderful presentation made on the subject of monitoring and responding to customers through social media by Spindustry and their clients from Omaha Steaks. Then, this morning, the Wall Street Journal dedicated an entire section to the subject of Social Media and IT.

In case you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past year or two, the buzz in the call center world is currently “social media.” The very mention of the term seems to get call center personnel wound up like they’ve just swigged a triple-shot-chocolate-sugar-bomb-espressiato with a Red Bull chaser. Everyone wants to talk about it. The big call center conferences have been scrambling for the past two years to fill their keynotes and workshops full of social media gurus, how-tos, and software vendors. All the buzz has prompted great conversation with clients and colleagues.

For years, I’ve been advocating that every client listen to what customers are saying on the internet and through social media outlets. There is a huge leap, however, between keeping your ear open and diving into a full scale social media task force within your customer service team complete with the latest, greatest social media monitoring software. One of the questions that came up in the ACCP meeting last week was whether our group was doing Customer Satisfaction research for customers who use social media to contact a client company. The reality is that, for most of our clients, the number of customers using social media as a means of communication is still very small. So small, in fact, that they must be regarded as outliers and not representative of the general population of customers.

That does not mean that social media will not grow in importance and influence. It definitely is growing in importance and influence (But, how far will it grow? How influential will it become?). It does not mean that social media is not a critical piece of the marketing and customer service picture for some companies. I simply want to make the point that the time, energy and resources that an individual company invests in social media efforts should be considerate of how many customers they have actively engaged in the medium. Our group is helping some clients determine that very fact. By investing a little money in a survey to find out how important social media is to their customer population as a whole will help them wisely steward their resources when it comes to making an investment in their overall social media strategy. I begin to fear that clients will throw a lot of money and resources to engage a small number of customers in the social media arena when a much larger segment of customers are still encountering significant service issues through traditional channels (as boring and old school as those traditional channels may be).

In the meantime, I’m sure the social media buzz will continue unabated. In the call center industry there always seems to be a buzz where there is software, hardware and/or workshops to sell. Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not against social media in any way. I’m a blogger, tweeter, texter and Facebook junkie. I think social media is great and have led the charge in getting clients to “listen” to what customers are saying via social media. Social Media is here to stay and will continue to evolve. I am, however, dedicated to helping my clients make wise, measured decisions when it comes to their customers and their resources. So, when it comes the social media buzz, make mine decaf, please. Remember, there was a lot of buzz about betavision, too.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and thetrial

Angry Customers Part 4 – Do the Opposite

It was brought to my attention that this post had gone missing from the archive. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Try kindness. Angry customers will often come at you with a negative tone and accusatory language. They are convinced, before they even picked up the phone, that you aren’t going to be helpful. They are expecting to have to claw, bite and fight for any kind of resolution. Usually, by the time the customer has reached this point, it’s because our service delivery system has already failed them, perhaps multiple times.

While it’s hard not to react to the customer with the same attitude, the fact is that a similar response is only going to escalate the customer further. If the customer starts the call by being snippy and accusatory and we respond in an equally accusatory or snippy manner, the customer thinks, “Aha! I was RIGHT! They ARE going to be difficult to work with. I have EVERY RIGHT to get ticked off and yell at them!

We can’t control how a customer is going to react or respond to us. We CAN control how we react and respond the customer. By refusing to respond to the customer in a similar angry, snippy, accusatory manner, we will often give the customer no place to emotionally go with their anger. They want to get angry, scream and yell, but if we refuse to respond in a like manner, the caller will often begin to calm down.

But, we’re not done.

There’s an old proverb that goes like this: “Bless those who curse you, and in so doing it will be like heaping burning coals on their head.” In other words, if you act the opposite of the customer by being extra nice, friendly, helpful and attentive – you will frustrate their desire to be angry. The customer begins to think, “I’m going off on this person, but they’re being nothing but kind and helpful to me!”

I’ve heard many calls through the years in which a CSR calms and angry customer and turns them around. It is almost always because the CSR refused to react in anger, and instead they proactively “killed ’em with kindness” by being appropriately friendly, empathetic and helpful.

Related Posts:

Angry Customers Part 1 – No Magic Pill
Angry Customers Part 2 – Keeping it in Perspective
Angry Customers Part 3 – Breathe
Angry Customers Part 5 – Empathy Resolution Statement

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and louisa_catlover

Coffee Time Links 09-22-10

SQC’s Coffee Time Links mantra:

15 minutes.
1 cup of coffee.
5 great links.

Top Tips To Improve Your Customer Surveys

Top Tips for Internet Chat in the Call Centre

Growing Business the Old-Fashioned Way

Getting Past Task-Oriented Behavior

Is Customer Effort the Next Customer Experience Metric

QAQnA is now Service Quality Central (SQC)

Four years ago, I started writing a blog about call center quality assessment (QA), customer satisfaction, and customer service. The blog was called QAQnA (Quality Assessment Questions aNd Answers). QAQnA attracted a loyal following over the years and became known as one of the best call center related blogs and websites anywhere. But, I consistently received feedback that QAQnA was cryptic and difficult to remember.

This past year it became clear that QAQnA was due for a facelift. I’ve been planning and working with Samwell Creative on a new look and a new name. Here it is. Welcome to Service Quality Central (SQC)!

It’s a new look and a new name, but you’ll find all of the same great content.

Thanks for making the switch. You’ll also be able to follow us on Twitter @S_Q_C. Many readers followed QAQnA through my personal Twitter account @tomvanderwell. You’re still welcome to follow, but you’ll find my professional and call center related content and thoughts posted @S_Q_C while my personal content will continue @tomvanderwell

Take a look around. The full QAQnA archives are right here. In the weeks and months ahead we hope that SQC will become your hub for call center and customer service related information and insights!

QAQnA is Getting a New Identity & New Look

My regular readers and subscribers have likely noticed a marked downturn in posts in recent months, but it’s not because I’ve been idle! I’ve been working for several months on an exciting project to move QAQnA to a new domain with an exciting new look.

One of the consistent pieces of feedback I’ve received over the four years QAQnA has been in existence is that the name of the blog is cryptic and difficult to remember. So, with the upcoming launch, QAQnA will become Service Quality Central (SQC), your hub for information regarding customer service, quality assessment and contact center related issues.

Same great content – easier name to remember!

What My Readers Tell Me Makes My Blog Stand Out

Some blogs are worth reading. I had a pleasant conversation yesterday with a regular reader who, after two years, emailed me and asked to have a conversation. It made my day. In the course of our chat he mentioned to me why he appreciated my blog, and what made it stand out. I've heard similar comments before from other readers. I hear it regularly from the person in our office who is tasked with scouring RSS feeds for client related news and content. There are a lot of blogs and sites that waste your time, not to mention the energy required to click the link. There are blogs that continually make it a worthwhile stop. What differentiates a worthwhile blog from a waste of time?

Here's what I hear from faithful readers:

  • Fresh content. While I admit to having periods of time when my posting slows down, there are many blogs that start with a flourish and then die a sudden death. Other bloggers have a great idea and the best of intentions but post once every few months or a couple of times a year. By that time, your readers have moved on to greener pastures.
  • Original content. Many blogs do nothing but copy and paste content from other blogs or sites onto their post. While it's important to link out, and you want to share great content with readers, your readers want you to share what you know and what you think. I may share a tid-bit or summary of something I liked on another blog, but I always try to offer my own two-cents to expand the conversation for my readers.
  • Worthwhile content. Nothing is more rewarding than when a reader tells me that my blog has helped them with their job, their QA team, and even their life. I started this blog with a simple principle. If I am faithful to giving people a few little nuggets of knowledge, experience and wisdom that helps them in a small way, then maybe they will trust me and my group to help them with some of the bigger challenges they face in their business and contact center.

Here's to worthwhile blogging, pleasant conversations, and mutual opportunities for growth and prosperity!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and curiouslee

How Customer Service Should Respond to Social Media

Whenever I hear someone in the blogosphere or Twitter railing against one of my clients, I immediately bring it to their attention. In most cases, I've witnessed my clients responding immediately and appropriately to the situation in an attempt to rectify a problem. After sending a handful of negative posts to one of my clients, however, I received a polite email back saying, "Thanks for sending these to me, but I just don't know what to do with them!"

For all of you companies who are reading this and asking yourselves the same thing, here are a couple of things you should think about:

  • Consider the issue. Is this an isolated case of one customer who had a problem spiral out of control? Or, is it a policy or procedural problem that is much bigger than one blogger on a rant? If it's the former, you should be able to quickly address the issue, satisfy the customer, and hopefully get a few props from the customer on his/her next post. If it's the latter, then you're wasting your time chasing a bunch of individual consequences from the root problem in your control. Fix the problem, then go out and address the social media outlets.
  • Email the person. Put your Customer Service skills to work immediately. Tell the person that you're sorry to hear about their negative experience and you'd like the opportunity to look into it and make it right. You will quickly learn if the person sincerely wants the issue resolved or if they are determined to be an unsatisfied customer on a rant. Communicating directly and discreetly with the author allows you to quickly address the issue without being viewed as trying to aggrandize your response or without getting into a spittting match with the blogger/tweeter.
  • Don't demand a retraction. If you have successfully resolved the issue and the customer is satisfied, it's acceptable to politely ask that they share the experience with their readers. Don't demand, and don't black mail ("I'll do this for you if…"). Just do the right thing for the customer.

Extra-Mile Service in a Cost Cutting Business Climate

Lonely on the extra mile. Heidi Miller has been a kindred spirit in the blogosphere since I first started blogging over three years ago. She has a great post over at the Spoken Communications Blog asking how we're supposed to determine where to cut when customers want us to go the extra-mile (I've always said that there are no traffic jams along the extra mile).

One of the reasons I've come to respect Heidi so much is that she get's it. She spins her own take on the mantra I've been repeating for years. If you really want to make strategic decisions about what your customers want, you should start by asking them – and carefully listening.

FYI: When you're ready to listen to your customers, please feel free to contact me. Getting actionable data from listening to customers is our specialty!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Stitch