The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

Posts Tagged ‘Customer service

Making the right noises

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One of the biggest fears surrounding social media is the fear of “getting it wrong”. After years of building a brand through traditional channels, some inappropriate Facebook comments or tweets can be front page news. Whereas in traditional above or below the line communications weeks of work and wordsmithing from professionals can create a polished message, social media really thrives on keeping it real. This means greater frequency and less polish.

None of this is completely alien. After all many customer’s experience is driven primarily by their own exposure to the brand. All the polished advertising in the world won’t offset a poor customer service experience or disappointing product reliability. The difference with social media is that the conversation and the experience is in the public gaze and for many businesses this is the reason why the first steps into social media are led by the marketing department.

Celebrities and politicians are accustomed to this and their experience has a lot of interesting parallels. They know that whatever they say is broadcast around the world and analysed in detail. As a result they have a team of scriptwriters and briefings to prepare them on the key points to make and the pitfalls to avoid. What seems like a wonderful gift to make a pithy comment is in most cases just the result of hours of hard work and practice. It is also clear that the most successful politicians and celebrities are the ones who are able to go the extra mile. We can all think of the gaffe-prone personalities who use it to their advantage. That public vulnerability is part of their attractiveness – by displaying weakness it adds to their trustworthiness – whereas the more polished performers are seen as “spinners”. The perfect social media voice embodies the brand values in a human way and by doing so makes the social media effectiveness move into the customer service and direct sales arenas.

Undoubtedly there has to be a clear strategy over what the “voice” is which is being portrayed but then the message has to be delivered by real people and not actors in my opinion. When social media is turned over to agencies it becomes anodyne. Consistent, well crafted and lively but ultimately uninteresting. The way to make it work well is to employ people who understand the medium but also who believe in the message and to empower them to make the right decisions. Much of social media communication is common sense and the ¬†errors have been made either by people who don’t fully understand the medium or by people who are acting the voice. This is the attraction of some of the celebrity Twitterers for fans – to see the thoughts and ideas of people written in their own words. There is no rulebook yet in this area but some general thoughts are:

1. Always work to a plan – what are you wanting to communicate if you get the opportunity? What are the words you don’t want to use? Who are your friends and followers – make sure you constantly analyse the effectiveness of the crowd and what their characteristics are. You should know where they live, what proportion are active customers, what proportion are purely promotion-hunters, staff, journalists and suppliers. Who are your top 100?

2. Read everything twice. Typos shouldn’t appear in brand-representing social media

3. Encourage personality. To deliver the volume of communication is going to involve a team and ideally you want your audience to get to know them as ambassadors for your brand. Consider your social media feeds almost like a talk radio station and build metrics to back it up. Who are your audience at different times of day? For example as a retailer you can build up a pattern of when offers are going to be made and generate excitement around it while encouraging audience participation.

4. Don’t shy away from dealing with customer service problems. Don’t suppress, deny or make excuses. Apologise and put it right in the public glare. Everyone make gaffes but you must never lose trust.

5. Think about your crowd and how they can help you. If your social media just relies on special offers and competitions it is very superficial. What about asking your audience to help design your next advertising campaign by giving you slogans, success stories and even designs. What about building a crowdsourced service capability by harnessing their expertise on your behalf.

6. Always recruit the sort of people you want to communicate with. Remember, it’s not a numbers game. Think about the opportunities for acquiring and set this as a target. Which journalists would you like to be followers? What cars do your ideal customers drive and where do they live? Target your social media communicators to draw them in and make them engaged followers.

And finally, if you don’t feel confident in taking the first steps… ask yourself why. In my opinion social media highlights weaknesses which need to be addressed regardless of whether you choose to have a Facebook presence. Equally, if they aren’t addressed, they will always going to limit the “truth” in your communications; social or otherwise.


Written by greencontact

June 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

Social Media Customer Service – Acme widget problems

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Your community is active – you have tons of followers, friends and contacts and all is going swimmingly. Then from left field comes a complaint…what do you do? The social world is savvy and realises that Social is a pretty good way to complain in the same way that standing by the counter in a shop asking for the manager tends to have an effect. On that beautiful sunny spring day this suddenly appears on Twitter

@AcmeCustServ My widget has been broken for 5 days now. Its disgusting!

Here’s a quick checklist:

1. Do nothing in haste. Remember this is a public forum and you need to get it right. Someone else may step in and resolve the issue for you without you needing to do anything!

2. Identify the customer and treat them well. This is no different than any other customer service issue – you need to know who they are, that they are a legitimate customer and what product they own. That comparison with any other customer service issue is important. It is very easy to be too clever – the KISS principle applies here too. Treat it as a complaint – apologise and ask for a bit more information. Taking ownership of the situation in the customer’s eyes is invaluable. Social Media can be a great way to demonstrate the quality of your customer service in an open forum. You can also share resolutions which will save you some customer service cost for other customers with the same issue.

Lets assume this isn’t a quick fix. The customer will either come back to a fair question with the information you need (by private means email or DM if needed) or potentially just become belligerent. If the customer is happy to talk, the right answer is to resolve their concern in public (obviously not discussing any compensation or liability) or in private if it gets complicated and needs more time and space. In either case, once resolved the objective is to get an advocate willing to attest to how they have been treated in the public social forum. But what about the belligerent customer?

3. Look at influence. How many friends have they got and how likely is it that they are paying attention. If it’s a real celebrity you may need to be pragmatic and act quickly to rectify the situation; if its anyone else you need to go back to basics. The customer service principle means you treat each case on its merits and no matter how the customer behaves, if they have a point do the right thing. If they don’t have a point the crowd will work with you – they will see the unreasonable or unfair and back you up on it. The important thing is to take the conversation private if you can (ask for an email perhaps) and maintain a professional representation of your brand. Remember, there is no point in trying to suppress the situation because at least the customer is in open field, with you having an opportunity to reply, while they are talking to you. If you try and be too clever they will just pop up with their points on a blog somewhere or referring to you in hashtags.

Things are a little different if the complaint is about you but not addressed to you:

My #Acme widget has been broken for 5 days now. Its disgusting!

This is more interesting and challenging – to intervene or not to intervene? This kind of comment happens every day and its good to look at it through the customer’s eyes. If I was that exasperated I would contact the customer service team first – there’s a chance there is a case already underway. A quick check of the customer’s tweets may give some context to the problem. Of course the widget may be six years old and there is nothing you should or could do about the situation. In this instance it may be better to monitor the situation and see what happens next. The first tweet could be the last tweet on the subject (remember you’ve already checked the timeline for previous occasions). Alternatively it could be followed up by:

So’s mine. I’m now on my third #Acme widget…they are so unreliable.

In my opinion this is a sign to intervene. The tweets could actually be revealing some product issues but also could draw in a whole negative line of communication. Initially you should contact the first customer and offer to help them – make a customer service case out of it and treat it like the first case above. In these circumstances this is where you have a chance to shine. By getting in touch you are demonstrating that you are listening and wanting to help. Some of the best examples of social customer service come from prompt proactive intervention. You really have a chance to delight a customer, build your company’s service reputation and instill real loyalty. You should also look at influence. How many people are seeing this negative conversation and therefore how many more are likely to join in. How many followers/friends do these two have? Check their PeerIndex or Klout scores. You may consider putting a holding message out proactively such as:

We’re disappointed to hear we’ve got a couple of widget problems. Time for #Acme service to take control. If you have a problem call 0800 1231234 to talk to one of our engineers.

Just as important is the way you respond afterwards to any situation. Remember to feed back the outcome to the community to avoid future problems and to reinforce the brand!

We hear some people’s widgets are jamming in the current weather we are having. Remember to treat your widget with #Acmegard before the rain comes because this isn’t covered by warranty

Written by greencontact

March 13, 2012 at 9:24 am