Online interaction has expanded customer service beyond a counter or a call center. Contemporary customer service is proactive and ongoing. Whether you choose to take part or not, there’s an open conversation going on around your brand. People can talk, tag and tweet about their experiences with you. Don't fall into the trap of believing it's unimportant. Consumer engagement through customer service is imperative to brand awareness, reputation management and productivity.
Get on the offense
Customer conversations are happening everywhere. Forums, fan pages, social media, you name it. It’s no secret when Social Media Sally falls in or out of love with your brand. It’s important to funnel consumer conversations to a place where your customer service team can control and collect them. If you’re waiting for customer feedback to come to you, you may be too late.
Be proactive. Use your customer service team to collect reviews, monitor social media and respond to online comments. By engaging with your customers online you can find out who likes your brand, what they like about it and where to find them. This type of engagement builds trust and keeps you in-the-know. It also brings concerns to your attention before it’s too late to rectify them.
These days consumers are looking for quick, direct interaction. According to The Social Habit, 32% of social media users who contact a brand expect a response within 30 minutes, and 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. This proves the importance of a strong customer service presence online. Something as simple as a timely, direct and personal response can communicate empathy and set your reputation back on track. After all, no one is able to drag your company’s name through the mud if you’re there and ready to defend it.
Control the field
Intentional, direct customer engagement is only the first half of the game. Now it’s time to sift through the feedback for actionable information. The advice, support and criticism of your customers is valuable, free insight. Silence it the real killer. Jennifer Barlow explains it well in her book, A Complaint is a Gift. She says that a dissatisfied customer has two options: to speak up or walk away. While it's tempting to believe that silence equals satisfaction, that may not be the case. If you're not hearing from your customers it could be because they're gone. Don't let your customers walk away for something as little as negligence.
Controlling the conversation doesn’t mean eliminating the negative voices. Instead of teaching your customer service team to minimize complaints, show them how to maximize them. Unfavorable feedback provides valuable information for your brand moving forward. A complaint is a consumer’s cry for help and an opportunity for customer service to fly in as the hero. In training, focus on things like response time and word choice. Teach your team that a complaint is something of value. Barlow says, "How you talk about complaints shapes how you think about them".
Consumer engagement has more than one benefit. Not only does it keep customers from giving up and getting angry, it is also increases brand awareness. Think about it. The more you hear from your customers, the more they hear of you. When displayed online, a customer service interaction is a documented, public display of your brand's reliability and concern.
The pep rally
As an added bonus, conversational customer service is preventative. It protects your customer service team by stopping problems before they start. If you can answer a question or catch a complaint early you’ll save your team from irate experiences. Not only is this great for morale and retention, it also leads to increased productivity. A Warwick University study showed that happy workers are 12% more productive!
The highlight reel
Whether happy or unhappy customers are talking about their experience with you. While some may lean in close and whisper it to a friend, others will take to the megaphone of online communication. As a brand it’s beneficial to:
Get involved. Make the most of what people are saying. Turn intentional conversation into actionable data. Improve customer sentiment online by engaging customers and responding in a timely, direct and personal way.
Welcome feedback. Remember that negative feedback is better than no feedback. If you’re not hearing from your customers chances are they've walked away. Instead of aiming for no complaints, find a better way to handle them. For example, collect reviews and respond online. Use customer engagement to increase positive brand awareness. Make your brand known for excellent customer service!
Enjoy the benefits of good communication. Protect your customer service team. Arm your team with the best techniques to accomplish their goals. Proactive customer service keeps tempers low and productivity high. Without a good team there is no game.
Baer, J. (n.d.). 42 Percent of Consumers Complaining in Social Media Expect 60 Minute Response Time. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-research/42-percent-of-consumers-complaining-in-social-media-expect-60-minute-response-time/
Barlow, J., Møller, C., & Hsieh, T. (2008). A complaint is a gift: recovering customer loyalty when things go wrong. San Francisco, Calif: Berrett-Koehler. doi:Hoopla
Revesencio, J. (2015, July 31). Why Happy Employees Are 12% More Productive. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3048751/happy-employees-are-12-more-productive-at-work