customer service

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Replace Comment Cards in 2013

AAVA FeedbackDoes your business still print out Comment Cards and leave them near the where the transaction takes place to conveniently hand out? Do your customers take the time to fill them out? Not anymore! It’s over; the days of Customer Comment Cards are dead. Most likely the customer will go home and rant on email, Twitter, Facebook, or – even worse – make a YouTube video about how bad they perceived your service.

The other day, I was surfing a major airline’s Facebook page and reading the ruthless comments (for some reason, airlines are an easy target for complaints), and it confirmed to me that there is NO NEED for Comment Cards anymore. You want customers’ comments? Just check the social media sites: the angry customers are right there on your page venting, replying to each other, “liking” and sharing.

Wow, I wondered, what is this doing for corporate culture and where does that leave employee morale (some employees are people who actually do care), let alone the damage done when someone Googles your company name and then sees all this? The typical reaction of customers is to either get involved and vent too, or run away from the business.

These very public complaints about your company can have a real impact on your employees. Your previously private customer service department’s complaints letters are now public for the world to see and often in real time. You may need to do some damage control before complaints escalate with devastating effect. Comment Cards used to be a great way for a company to monitor how they were doing, review them, and reply if customer contact information was provided and, ideally, remedy the problem. In addition, staff loved comment cards because offering the opportunity to comment was a way to get the customer off their back. Now, however, staff may worry that their interaction with a difficult customer will end up on the Internet.

How to Use Social Media to Deal with Customer Service Issues
Here are some ideas on how to use social media for your Customer Service:

  1. Create a Google Alert for your company name or product so you receive an email each time someone mentions either of them. Monitor any negative ones, and respond immediately online, adding a comment or damage control statement to your website, or a press release if necessary.
  2. Dedicate a team (even one person) to scour your social media sites and reply, respond or offer remedies immediately online. (This could be your customer service department, the people who have already been handling phone calls, comment cards and letters.) Bring regular service breakdowns you are seeing into the company and set up systems to minimize the issues.
  3. Develop Communication Guidelines so that staff know how to reply without sarcasm, anger or other damaging behaviours.
  4. Create a QR (quick response) code that takes customers to your website quickly for feedback. Think “Customer Care Card” and set up the fields just like on a comment card to collect feedback and voice their opinions. For example, see the photo I took from Trip Advisor after my last stay at a hotel in Whistler, BC. I quickly scanned the QR code into my phone, and when I got home, I added my comments about my stay: how lovely the staff and the hotel were; however, housekeeping left only three towels when four of us were booked; left only decaf coffee; and did not replenish the toilet paper (which caused an extra trip for very busy staff). I’m sure this feedback – which was so easy to give online – could be used at the next Housekeeping meeting and corrected for the next week.
  5. Have customers follow your Twitter account so they get immediate updates if operations go awry. For example, a hotel could use a Twitter account specifically for current guests to keep them notified in real time of water or power outages (most phones run on batteries) or pool closures and when service is anticipated to return, or – better yet – announce a “Wing Night” or Happy Hour Specials. Hotels could have guests “Follow” a Twitter account when then they check in to that location, then “Unfollow” the account at the end of their stay.

Ask yourself, “How could I be using social media for my Customer Service, either to enhance the service or remedy things?” Social media in this realm is now reality; real people commenting in real time, and truer than ever “If you snooze, you lose”.

– – –

I’m researching how various types of companies are using social media for Customer Service (not just sales). Later, I will make available a White Paper on the topic. You are welcome to participate in this research via online survey. This research will provide valuable keynotes and material for breakout sessions at future conferences for those who want to develop a better strategy for their social media initiatives. Thank you in advance for doing the survey.

To complete the survey (just a few questions; takes less than 5 minutes), please visit:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5QDQQ83

Thank you again.

To book Elaine for an interactive keynote or breakout at your next conference or meeting, email:
info@elaineallison.com

If you want a copy of the White Paper with market research, results and ideas on how you can use Social Media for your customer service initiatives, sign up for Elaine’s newsletter at www.elaineallison.com


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Never Reprimand Your Customer

Teach Them By Using The “Knock It Off – Nicely” Technique™

One of the hardest things a company has to do is train their staff to deal with customers who don’t know how to use their product or service in the intended way. If the staff don’t know how to correct the customer eloquently, they actually appear to “reprimand” the customer. It typically happens when the customer is new to the service or product. The product or service may not be new, but it is new or unfamiliar to the customer somehow. I’ve seen many service providers (staff) who hate “stupid” customers and have a tendency to handle them by showing frustration. I always teach that there is no stupid customer, just a skill or information gap. A customer service expert finds out what the gap is, then reaches out to help or teach them. I often see staff members scold (tell them sternly how it should be done or just why it doesn’t work that way), or chastise or even use sarcasm to get their point across. All this does is ensure the customer leaves angry and often never comes back, which is very costly. Even if the customer figures out they were wrong, the emotional damage to the customer experience is in most cases unforgivable. (Who wants to use a company where their staff embarrassed you, even if you were wrong?)

Every company has instructions, menus, rules, regulations and a particular way to use or order their product or service. Here are some examples I’ve witnessed in the last three months.

1. Example of air travel restrictions. I witnessed security guards at airports “instructing” (actually, using sarcasm) towards a person who had not flown since the rule changed years ago about allowable volume of liquids and gels (less than 100 ml, 100 grams , or 3.4 oz depending on which measurement system/country you use). And the containers also have to be readily accessible in a clear 1-litre bag. That is a lot of information to teach the millions of people who travel every day. Just check out the CATSA or TSA website; you have to read virtually a manual just to figure out what you can and can’t fly with. (In the incident I saw, the customer had an expensive bottle of duty-free alcohol purchased earlier in his travels and he was now connecting to another flight. Boy, did he get in trouble from the officer who promptly took it away, and not without a fight – no options were offered.)

2. A coffee shop employee instructing a customer what was a “tall” versus a “small” didn’t go well. The unfortunate senior gentleman was so confused about the size; in the end he just wanted a cup of coffee.

3. The best example of poor instruction (a reprimand) was a flight attendant actually yelling at a customer that his bag would not fit in the overhead bin. After much fuss – and the passenger becoming red in the face trying to push it in – she finally let him know sarcastically, if he “just put the wheels up and in backwards, it would fit”. I thought, why did she not just let him know this in the first place instead of getting in a tussle? It would have been much easier for everyone if she had simply made an announcement to explain how bags would best fit for this aircraft type. Instead, now all the passengers in the surrounding rows were mad at the flight attendant and the entire airline; they felt like no one cared. (Heck, customers are still mad about paying for a checked bag so they now bring it on board and we all take the delay, but that’s a topic for a different article.)

So how do you teach your customers what you need, without reprimanding them? Let’s help put your staff at ease with a technique, and your customer will actually feel cared for even when they are doing something wrong. I call it the “Knock It Off Nicely” Technique™. It goes like this.
1. What: explain what the issue is.
2. Why: share the reason why it is a problem for them.
3. How: teach what other options might work (try not to use can’t, no, won’t or don’t).

Using our first example about air travel restrictions, here’s how to use the technique:
1. What: “Unfortunately, since 2006, there has been a restriction on liquids and gels over 100 ml in carry- on luggage.”
2. Why: “This was due to increased security threats.”
3. How: (Teach what a customer CAN do instead of telling them what they can’t). “The options are to discard the item(s) here, try to re-check them with the airline (a knapsack can be purchased at newsstand), store it in the Baggage Storage area if you are connecting back this way, or donate it to someone in the airport (perhaps the person who dropped you off).” When I worked with security screeners in the past – they came up with about 12 different options.

There are a couple of main points when you are correcting customers:
• Rule #1 – Don’t use the word “you” (focus on the problem, not the person); and
• Rule #2 – ensure customers are informed about the issue (the what), why it is a problem, and teach by suggesting (options) how the problem could be fixed. If you do this, you are teaching. If you miss the why and the how, you are just reprimanding.

Have your teams face the challenge of “teaching” where you see customers just not understanding. Write your own scripts to fix the problem.

If you feel your staff would benefit from learning this technique and many other skills we offer, which help organizations become #1 in Customer Service, turn staff into Customer Service Experts and transform teams into customer care crusaders, contact us today regarding our customer service training programs: info@elaineallison.com

The 3 C’s of Service – Miss One and You Might Not Get the Customer Back

excellent service

Do you know your customer expects 3 basic things when they make a purchase with your company?

These are  3 essential elements to include in your customer service training

Courtesy, Competency and Concern and they are all interdependent.  One without the other – and you have a problem.

Let’s explore these 3  C’s when we are the customer – Courtesy, competency and concern.  First, Courtesy, we all know when it doesn’t happen and you feel it.  How many of you have had someone who was abrupt, rude or disinterested?  The product or service worked as planned and the employee could fix the problem efficiently (Competent), they may have shown some (Concern) that you at least got the product or service.   2 out of 3 isn’t bad, so you’ll probably accept it, not necessarily leave, but you will remember that they were short or indifferent and you probably won’t rave about it to anyone.

We all know what incompetent looks like – they just don’t have the understanding to offer solutions to the issue or they can’t work the software properly, or the product and they fail to ask for help internally and learn – they just say sorry!   Or worse, you get pushed around to another department.  They lack any Competency.  Believe it or not, the employee is often as frustrated too. Those companies with well trained staff and outstanding order entry or escalation processes get rave reviews and raving fans.  At the end of the day as consumers, we just want resolve.

The final thing we want as customers is at least someone to give a darn – be Concerned.  For example, Show some empathy to my plight.  Keep me informed, tell me that the airplane is not moving because of a mechanical problem, or you are working on fixing the software and when it might be fixed.   At least show some understanding that I’m not going to get what I need at the exact moment that I need it.  (Even if it is that someone will be with me in a moment).

How many of you recall someone who was really efficient, never spoke to you except to take your payment, or worse didn’t even look at you.  Some airlines still do this as they pass your boarding card under the reader.  They are competent and as fast as heck, but really don’t care if you use their services or not – they forget that we (the customer), are the one’s paying for their dinner tonight.

If your employees are great at one, but not all 3 – your complaints can rise, and your profits go down.  Do they know the importance of all of these.  Courtesy, Competent and Concern.

Do Your Employees Know Why You Exist – Are They Delivering on that Promise?

great customer serviceEvery business exists to deliver key customer expectations.  You can call it brand, but it is what founders have typically identified as a need when they first started the business, service or product in the first place. Often it gets diluted, and employees become scattered in what they attempt to deliver.  They just show up – but don’t really SHOW up.

I always ask in a needs analysis, can your employees or your Executive name off 3 adjectives why you exist.  For example; McDonalds Restaurants was invented to deliver: Efficient, Consistent, Affordable food services in a CLEAN environment.  They have now renovated numerous locations to get back to that “clean” feeling they were known for.  Yes, they’ve added salads to their menu, (and thank you from a Mom who works hard to maintain a healthy weight), but I often still don’t go to McDonalds for a salad, and I do enjoy dropping in on the Golden Arches because I’m fairly certain once again, they will have a clean bathroom, no matter where I’m traveling.

Westjet Airlines is another example.  They know why they exist and continues to grab market share – in fact they “Care”antee it.   Their employees know why they exist; To deliver: On-time, Affordable and  Friendly (actually often funny too) service.

Once employees and the management are clear on what they deliver and how they are different, they strive to enact it in their daily service delivery or how they manage employees and the business.  They actually influence each other, and will support or nudge one another to ensure it happens.  It’s magic when I see it happen and they often win awards and profits soar again.  Ask yourself do you know why you exist?  Name it now if you can.

Engage Your Staff in Customer Care – Do You Know How?

Customer CareThe quality of customer care shown to your customers by your staff will impact your reputation in either a negative or positive way. Customer care is the hallmark of your business.

How do you train your staff to deliver exceptional customer service?

Tell your staff how to treat your customers and they will try, but not always deliver on the promises.

Engage them in ways to delivering or exceeding expectations and  resolving customer issues as they occur, and you will witness them actually doing it time and time again.  You see the number one motivational factor in the workplace is not necessarily money.  Mind you, if you take it away, they may not show up. However the number one motivational factor is actually CONTRIBUTION.

The ability to contribute – to make a difference is energizing.  In fact, it is the meaning of life – why are we here?  To make a difference (big or small).  It just feels good when someone can “Fix it”- such as your reason for wanting a product or service in the first place, or if you have a complaint.  This is regardless, whether you are giving it, or receiving it.  It just feels good.  That is why employees like working for winning companies that look after their customers and deliver on their promises – a certain pride is exuded when they hear their friends and family say – Oh, they’re the best.  In fact without great service you may not last long.  Competition is fierce.

How to do engage them.  Either hire an expert facilitator, or do it yourself if you can manage the multiple ideas that will come up and get your staff involved in the process.  This can be done by facilitating ideas in meetings to finding new ways to deliver services or products, or reviewing typical and ongoing customer service breakdowns and their possible solutions.

Note: Don’t point anyone out – keep the scenario as generic as possible and focus on the solutions.