Paolo Fabrizio
February 22, 2015

Exceptional Social Customer Service is a Differentiator

Most companies have a multi-channel online presence, with their websites, blogs and social networks. But that’s not enough! In 2015 the online arena has become so crowded, that brands must have an effective online strategy to be successful. They have to be:

  • Properly positioned –> SEO-optimized in order to reach your target audience.
  • Noticed –> conveying a unique and distinguishable message.
  • Appreciated –> by delivering a proactive, effective customer service via social networks.

 3 Steps before using social channels

It’s become imperative for brands to make any effort to remain competitive. 

Moreover, as more and more customers interact with brands via social networks, companies are forced to learn online languages and behaviors in order to meet their new expectations. So they need time to get fully skilled to be ready for the kick-off.

From a customer perspective, if you open a tap you expect to get immediately fresh water.

When it comes to social customer service it’s the same, since customers want you to respond quickly and get their issues solved…quickly! That’s why, prior to opening social channels such as Twitter or Facebook, your brand must be ready to deal online with customers. That means setting up:

  1. Your communication strategy (what to say/not to say –  netiquette – how to create engagement).
  2. Policies and procedures (complaint handling – escalation to managers – community management).
  3. Staff & training program (set up specific trainings programs for customer service agents –  evaluate whether other staff/departments to be involved in case of complex enquiries).

If you ignore these factors, you are bound to face miserable customer service missteps…

Brands with poor customer service get stuck

Stuck in the mudImage credit – Compfight.com

Imagine two friends meeting each other after a long time; one of them is anxious to show his new 4-wheel jewel. Now, think of friend “A” as a brand and friend “B” as a customer.

  • Friend A: “Do you like my new Ferrari?”
  • Friend B: “Wow, it’s really fantastic! Can we go out for a ride?”
  • Friend A: “I’m afraid we can’t…I didn’t realize we needed fuel”.
  • Friend B: “Are you kidding me?!?”

 

I’ve used a paradox to show you how a conversation can easily turn into customer disappointment. Unfortunately, such situations happen also for real.

To give you an example, last week a friend of mine sent an inquiry to a bank’s twitter handle to ask about their costs and conditions. After 3 long days the bank replied saying “sorry, we don’t give such information online. You have to dial the following number…etc.”

In this case, neither timing nor quality of service are acceptable. They contribute to lead a potential customer to a simple conclusion: late response + no valuable information = this company is not reliable. Next!

The power of social recommendations

What I’ve just been describing is a (bad) customer experience. Customer experiences can be defined as the sum of all interactions with a brand, however they occur.

What marks the difference from traditional customer service, it’s that nowadays customers tend to express their sentiments via social networks, regardless of whether the experience took place online or offline!

That’s why customer perceptions are crucial; In fact they let customers evaluate and decide whether to become, stay or leave. Therefore it’s up to brands to leverage them by delivering outstanding customer experience. Not surprisingly stats say that:

Social RecommendationsSource – Harvard Business Review (2012)

TIP: To get an example of how brands can do that, enjoy the article mapping the data driven customer experience by Flavio Martins on winthecustomer.com.

A new customer culture: help > assist > sell

Consequently a customer service culture based on YOU (the customer) instead of US (the brand) is effective and winning. This new perspective is revolutionary as well as necessary, since now customers influence other customers in terms of purchase decisions.

Successful brands understood it quickly, adapting their business model towards a new customer-centric one based on:

  • Help –> listen to customers need and be willing to help them in any phase (pre and post sales).
  • Assist –> always deliver what you have promised, helping him/her to get his problem fixed.
  • Sell (even after selling) –> let your your customers know that you care about them and that you’re the best choice to buy more products/service.

So, let me suggest you…

Your Turn

Customers share their experiences online amplifying the effects of social recommendations.

What does your brand do that makes others say positive things about you?

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Paolo Fabrizio

Paolo Fabrizio is Social CRM, Blogger, Speaker. He is a pioneer of online customer service, taking part of insurance start-ups since the 90's. An eclectic gentleman obsessed by Social Customer Service. Multilingual professional, passionate about rugby and serial smiler