Tag: Twitter

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

With On-Line Chat, a Few Extra Words Go a Long Way

online chat
Image by marioanima via Flickr

Our group goes beyond call monitoring to provide Service Quality Assessment for a client’s e-mail and/or on-line chat communication. The process is virtually the same. We define the key behaviors or service elements that will consistently meet and exceed the customer’s expectations and drive increased satisfaction. They are important, but often overlooked, communication channels. Your email and chat correspondence can make (or break) customer satisfaction just like a phone call. Take my experience today, for example:

Before we were married, I sponsored a child in a third world country through a charitable organization. It’s a great experience and my support quickly became a joint venture as my wife got involved. Her name, however, had never been added to the account. So, while making an on-line donation I noticed that there was an on-line chat option and figured it was a good time to add her name to the account.

Here is a transcript (names changed):

Mitzi: Thank you for contacting ORGANIZATION. How may I assist you today?
Tom: Hi Mitzi. I’m wondering how I can get my wife’s name added to my account. I started sponsorship before I was married, but now we are both involved in sponsoring our child and I’d like her name included.
Mitzi: I am happy to assist you with that!
(I feel like there was about a 4-5 minute wait here) 
Mitzi: What is your wife’s name?
Tom: Wendy.
(I feel like there was another 3-4 minute wait)
Mitzi: I am working on this, just a moment.
(I timed this wait at about 6 minutes)
Mitzi: I submitted the paper work on this. I appreciate your patience.
Tom: Great. Thanks!
(Waited briefly for a response)
Tom: Do I need to do anything else? How long does it take?
Mitzi: You shoul see the change gradually… in the next 4 to 6 weeks everything should have her name on it.
Tom: Wonderful. Thanks for your help!
Mizti: Thank you for chatting with me. I welcome your feedback. Please click here to complete a 15 second survey.

The on-line rep was pleasant, professional and did a nice job.  My issue, as far as I know, has been resolved. It was a good experience, but it wasn’t a great experience. There are a couple of key things that would have left me far more satisfied:

  • Be sensitive to my time. Our customer satisfaction research shows that time related elements (e.g. quickness reaching a rep, answers without being placed on hold, or timeliness of follow up) are a growing driver of customer satisfaction across many customer segments. There were long gaps of time between responses that left me wondering what was happening on the other end. A quick statement to let me know what was going on, or to give me a time frame would have eased my anxiety and impatience.
  • Don’t just tell me what you did; tell me what I can expect. The on-line rep told me that she submitted the paperwork, but I had to guess what that meant. My initial thought was that I might have to wait on-line while it was processed. Rather than anticipating my questions, I was left having to pull it out of her.
  • Courtesy and friendliness are sometimes more important in text than on the phone. CSRs in a call center have the inflection of their voice to communicate a courteous tone, but written communication can take on an abrupt feeling when it’s void of courtesy. Adding a “please” when making a request or using the customers name (especially when they use yours) can turn a black and white exchange into a pleasant conversation.
  • Make sure you’ve answered all my questions. At the end of the chat I was left wondering if it was over. By asking if I had any other questions, it would have clued me in that the issue was resolved while offering to go the extra mile and help with other needs.

Here’s the transcript again, but I’ve rewritten it the way I would have appreciated experiencing it:

Mitzi: Thank you for contacting ORGANIZATION. How may I assist you today?
Tom: Hi Mitzi. I’m wondering how I can get my wife’s name added to my account. I started sponsorship before I was married, but now we are both involved in sponsoring our child and I’d like her name included.
Mitzi: I am happy to assist you with that! And, congratulations on getting married!Please bear with me. It will take a few minutes to access your account and the appropriate forms.
Mitzi: Thanks for waiting, Tom. May I please have your wife’s name?
Tom: Wendy.
Mitzi: Thank you. It will take me 5 minutes or so to fill out the appropriate forms.
Mitzi: Sorry for the delay. I am still working on this, just a moment.
Mitzi: I appreciate your patience. I submitted the paper work on this. You should see the change gradually… in the next 4 to 6 weeks everything should have her name on it.
Tom: Great. Thanks!
Mitzi: Any other questions I can answer for you, Tom?
Tom: No. Wonderful. Thanks for your help!
Mizti: Thank you for chatting with me, and for you and Wendy sponsoring a child. I welcome your feedback. Please click here to complete a 15 second survey.

A few extra words and sentences, properly placed, can turn a cut-and-paste chat experience into one that is personable, friendly, professional and polite.

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The Call Center as Social Media Outpost

Customers talk about you on Twitter. At ICMI's ACCE 09 conference last month, the buzz was around expanding the call center to become a social media outpost. It is rapidly becoming clear that interacting with customers is no longer just through phone calls. Interacting with customers must happen through the emerging communication channels like Facebook and Twitter.

I recently had an article come across my desk from Keith Fiveson of ITESA. He agrees:

Agents can outreach and act as a “social media outpost” casting their net to capture conversations, hear, and deal with hearts, minds, problems and people that impact your business products or services. Problems are inherent, in any business and it is essential that you are diligent in addressing and resolving them. Using a contact center as a “Social Media Outpost” is a good strategy to address concerns, bad press or consumer affairs issues that can plague the best brand management strategy.

Here's the entire article: Download The New Frontier Your Call Center as a Social Media Outpost

Are you preparing your call center for the new frontier of customer communication?

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.