Lithium recently started a new column where each of us will take on different subjects of expertise. In this article, I will focus on how customer expectations have changed both online and offline as businesses compete on CX to differentiate themselves.
Q: You write about customer care for ClickZ, and you’ve said that one of the big advantages of smaller businesses is that each person has a job to do, and each person is also responsible for doing everything else that isn’t getting done right now, which often leads to personalized customer service. How can big businesses aim to achieve this same goal within a much larger organization?
A: It’s the cliché, but true concept of silos and specialization. In a small business, every employee comes face-to-face with a customer at one point or another, so there’s this personal accountability that takes over—this is both a blessing and a curse. Compared with large organizations—where efficiency is achieved because everyone tends to be doing what they’re supposed to be doing—in small organizations, “wearing all hats” can be stressful. But it does ensure that customer issues are everyone’s issues.
Big business can achieve “small business” attention to customer service by building and using detailed customer profiles, and empowering the organization to take case ownership. This requires integration with CRM, maintenance of a robust customer history (for example, knowing that I talked to you last week about the same problem), and assigned cases rather than posts.
Q: What is the different between assigned cases and assigned posts in customer service?
A: It’s a detail worth consideration, and is fundamental to workflow and customer experience. In a post ownership model, an agent would say, ‘can I get this post turned around?’ because they don’t have visibility to the larger conversation or how other customers solved this problem. With case ownership, the focus is more holistic and can produce a superior experience.
Q: What kind of data should brands look to collect from their customers in order to avoid negative experiences for customers being passed from agent to agent?
A: It’s critical to ask a specific question once, and then make sure that each agent after that has access to that question. For example, a telephone company may pass you through several different agents who all ask for your phone number and what the problem is.
But on social channels, you can convey the information once, and in almost all cases, it will be accessible by the next agent that has more expertise to answer it—essentially knowing the details about your customers needed for personalized service.
Q: What kinds of qualities should brands look for when finding “real, everyday customers” who can speak on their behalf and not just the “high followers,” as you warned brands?
A: The key is relevant expertise, not popularity. Would you take medical advice from a Hollywood celebrity? I wouldn’t. Yet, that is exactly the way marketers approach the challenge of connecting people with their brands: “If (insert latest idol here) thinks it’s good, you should too.” Instead, look for advocates and experts in your support communities. A superfan is someone who has expertise and influence in the eyes of your customers, and because they love your brand, they are passionate about promoting you. This kind of trusted peer-expertise is why they are so valuable.
Q: What’s your tip for how marketers can convince their CFO or upper level management to invest in community forums and digital customer experience channels? Some ways to show hard numbers rather than just “engagement”?
A: Core to winning the wallets of senior decision makers are business objectives and ROI. By understanding your organizations’ business objectives and speaking in terms of ROI at a cross-team level you capture the attention and support of the decision makers you need.
Changing margin, grow and share, customer perception of brand. Lowering support cost by this amount by having spent this. One of the mistakes is that people see competing brands using something and getting press about it, and they want to start doing the same. But you have to make sure it fits your business objectives.
Q: How do brands know if their social media strategy is working beyond the number of likes, retweets? Are there specific factors that indicate ROI?
A: Likes and retweets are not really useful by themselves outside of traditional measures like reach. Instead, the challenge is to connect KPIs such as the number of “likes” or “retweets” to business objectives: do retweets, which increase message exposure, result in increased offer conversion? If so, connect the conversation results to ROI and use the RT KPI as an indicator.
Once you’ve done that, you can look at your local objectives: How many agents were required to do this same thing in the past? Have I achieved this kind of engagement? The nice thing about social is that everything we do can be captured, and we can measure at both the local level—likes, retweets—as well as the business level.
At the end of six months, look at how many interactions you’ve taken, and what the expenses are. In order to be successful, you set a goal of, for example, Twitter response within 30 minutes of the post. Then next year, you set it to 20 if your business objectives suggest that. Repeat.
Part 2: Community
Q: Analyst firm IDC says that by the end of 2018, 65% of support interactions will be digital and social/community support will not be called out as a separate function. How do you think brands should move forward to integrate call centers and social media, while investing more in social media year by year?
A: Get ready. Start building a platform, and connect marketing and operations. Be ready to scale. We’ve only been saying this for fifteen years. We’ve already gone through this transition from letter writing to telephones, but now it’s much more accelerated in our shift to social channels.
Your customers don’t have 30 minutes to block out for a call anymore. It’s easier to Tweet at a brand and you might wait a couple hours to get a response, but you’re able to carry on with your life during that time, so the impact on you is much less.
Q: How has your job impacted the way that you interact with brands as a customer on social media? Do you see a lot of the pitfalls that you warn people against?
A: I use social channels almost exclusively when interacting with brands. It’s so much simpler, and fits the natural flow of my life. I actively choose brands based on whether or not they offer social/web/online transactional and support processes.
Customers may understand that negative experiences do happen, but they still expect a response, and if they don’t get one, even long-time customers will seek other brands who will respond. It’s important to remember that customers form expectations based on the best experience they’ve had at any brand, in any industry. You have to compete with the best out there in customer experience, no matter who it is.
Q: Brands that are doing great jobs of social care?
A: USAA has taken their response time from hours to 1 hour, to 30 minutes, and now to less. United Airlines is cutting response time down to the minutes.
Q: What’s the latest trend in social care—bots, Facebook Messenger? And what trend do you predict happening in the next couple years?
A: The latest trend is acceleration and adoption, meaning if it’s the use of Facebook Messenger today (last year, actually), then it’s Snapchat now (already underway, actually). To me, it’s not really about a specific platform, but more about increasing the acceleration to whatever the customer needs and having a technology that supports it.
*This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
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