Archive for customer service

What consumers want from corporate social media: Accountability

Posted in social media with tags , on February 14, 2011 by wisdomlondon

There are myriad reasons to engage with consumers on social media channels. Awareness, intimacy and advocacy are just some of the potential upsides.

But when the going gets tough, there’s one thing above all others that consumers really want. Are you optimised for accountability?

The fine line

Demonstrating accountability, especially when things aren’t going quite right (customer service issues, or a technology failure, for example), can mean the difference between drawing customers closer than ever before, or losing their trust completely. And, as we know, the social world is a pretty unforgiving place when consumers feel let down.

Think about the travel chaos caused by adverse weather at the end of 2010. We all accepted that it wasn’t the train operator, airport or airline’s fault, but we did expect accountability in keeping us informed. What we most needed was a commitment to providing the information we were looking for, quickly and as accessibly as possible. We wanted to know that our needs were being taken seriously.

Some succeeded and many didn’t.

So what’s the lesson here?

Don’t wait for disaster to strike before kicking into gear. Plan all of your communications with accountability in mind – and for crisis and customer service communications, this should be at the forefront. An unerring commitment to providing information, and the articulation of your efforts to rectify a situation should underpin all of that. In addition:

  • Monitor like crazy: Be aware of issues the minute they break (major or minor), and commit upfront to solve it, whether or not you have the solution right away.
  • Use judgment: Is it appropriate to continue campaign comms about offers and promotions while there’s a bigger situation to deal with? Sometimes not. Be prepared to temporarily divert from the plan.
  • Make it personal: It’s frustrating communicating with a nameless avatar when you need answers. If the situation is serious enough, it might be time for management to come to the social media frontline and demonstrate their overall accountability through a dedicated Twitter stream, Facebook announcement or shared video.
  • Be transparent and set expectations: Keep lines of communication open around the clock if necessary, let customers know what’s happening (even if it’s not conclusive), and deliver on promises.

Consumers get that to err is human. And when brands can demonstrate passionate accountability for solving problems and providing answers, they’ll most likely find that forgiveness really is divine.

Link: An analysis of Eurostar’s crisis handling on social media channels

Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency. You can follow Kate on Twitter here and contact her here.

Not in the manual: The Scrambled Service Mindset

Posted in brand, wisdom with tags , on July 5, 2010 by wisdomlondon

We all know that customer service has never been a more important lever for competitive advantage, differentiation and building brand loyalty.  So why is it still not happening right?

Too often the mindset is scrambled, with service being viewed as something additional that can be tagged onto the product.  It’s not – it’s in the product.  It is the product. So it follows that service is not just in the delivery, it’s in the conception, design, and selling of an offer or product. And it’s not about you – it’s all about your audience.  Some thoughts on where service lives:

  • Capability: Your service should not be based on what you can and can’t do. It’s based on what your customer needs.  And if you can’t provide it, find a collaborator who can. Don’t constrain the value you pass on to your customer.
  • Your customer’s customer, and friend, and dog-sitter: There’s a danger in prioritising your existing customers so strongly that those you consider inconsequential get ignored.  Comments on your blog, non-specific email enquiries, requests to connect can feel like a diversion when focussing on a customer, but they are never inconsequential until proven so.  And if you don’t reply or acknowledge them, you’ll never know.
  • Human-ness: Good service is about treating us as humans, making us feel secure (“you’ll do what you say you will”), cherished (“I matter”) and delighted (“I’m glad I chose you”). That doesn’t come from a manual, in the form of trite down-pat lines (“Enjoy your *whatever*”). I’m amazed that many businesses are still asking their customer-facing teams to use them.  It’s about the extra mile that you can’t define in a manual, because it’s totally dependent on the situation. It’s what will make your client’s life easier at that moment in time, whether it’s a coffee, a report delivered a day early, being flexible about a meeting location, holding the door open (literally and metaphorically).

I’m going off to add value to a client now by photographing an important event for her – it’s not in our offer, it’s out of my way, but it makes her life easier, shows my support and – I hope – will bring her a little closer to the success she’s aiming for. That is service.  And it’s not in the manual.

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a creative communications agency with no customer service manual.

‘I want doesn’t get’ – or does it? What I want from online retailers

Posted in brand, creativity, marketing strategy with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2010 by wisdomlondon

We’re all pretty demanding consumers these days aren’t we? Hardly surprising: we have masses of choice, more product knowledge than ever before and a whole panel of reviewers at our fingertips through social media. And now I want more. I am well aware that brands need to compete harder than ever, and the traditional price / choice / channels options are no longer the only ones.  I want service. I want my life to be easier.  I want products and services that are totally personal to my needs.

So without any further ado, and to get this Verucca Salt-style moment over and done with, here is what I want [stamps feet]:

Ocado: Love your service, love your iPhone app, love your products.  Know what would make my life easier? A mealplanner function in my account so that I can plan a week’s meals at the same time as my shopping.  Favourites, suggestions and a drag and drop functionality would do the job nicely. Ta. Loving you deeply. But since you store all my account info and past purchases, and since it is supposed to be ‘my’ wardrobe, can’t you use this info to create a virtual wardrobe which contains my past purchases? And tell me what you think would go well from new collections? Because I rarely shop online in front of an open actual wardrobe.  Thanking you. You’re ace and you know you are.  But I am not.  I am lazy and forgetful.  Now, you know how you remind me that it’s people’s birthdays?  What about if I agree to enter some profile info on my nearest and dearest, you store it, and then next time you send a reminder you and also suggest some automatically generated personalised designs, based on what I’ve told you about these people?  I guarantee I would click and buy there and then.  Do we have a deal?

What are your fantasy service functions from favourite brands? Share them…we may have the makings of a campaign for personalised service functionality!

Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London.  As you may gather, she shops online a fair bit and is an utter service freak.

When #massivefail = opportunity

Posted in brand, marketing strategy, social media with tags , , , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by wisdomlondon

When disaster strikes, brands have an unprecedented opportunity to offer the customer service of a lifetime

The past week has shown quite unequivocally that the unexpected really can happen, in some cases turning our lives upside down, or at least giving them a good shake-up for a while. Who would’ve thought, this time last week, that European airspace would be all but shut down for a week and maybe longer?

It’s moments like this is when marketers and communicators are really tested – when the unexpected happens, how do we turn failure into opportunity?

The business of service

I’ve been amazed that some obvious players don’t seem to have embraced the opportunity fully. For example, after last December’s huge PR disaster in the wake of the channel tunnel disruption, Eurostar have a golden opportunity to show travellers that they can pull out all the stops when disaster happens and – vitally – start to reel positive perceptions back in again. True, they’ve done their job by transporting thousands of travellers to and from the continent with extra trains. But they’re not just in the business of travel, they are also in the business of service. So if they can’t transport people (and currently the message is, if you don’t have a ticket don’t even bother turning up) can they still serve them? With information, advice, the sense of going the extra mile when people most need them?

Phone operators – great for business that millions of your customers are stranded and hugely reliant on their phones to keep in touch with business and home. So when they most need you, what else can you offer your customers? Free SMS? Free data? Goodwill goes a long way.

Payback time for loyal customers?

It’s the brands that we rely on day-to-day, with which we feel most closely aligned, who are surely best placed to reinforce that intimacy right now – by saying to customers, you’re stuck wherever you are, but we can help you make contact, find information or a desk so you can keep working, we can entertain  you, even feed you or keep you stocked up with the essentials while you’re away from home.

Brands: these things may not be part of your core business, but surely service is?

As social media has shown clearly in the past week, online communities are a lifeline for sharing information, particularly when it can’t be found from official sources. It’s also where people are most likely to vent or praise – so service providers, take note. Or better still, take action.

Kate Spiers is CEO of Wisdom London