Monday, March 23, 2015

Social Media- A Shift in Customer Service

By: Anna Sabryan

During the last few years, many changes happened in technology that has impacted people and business alike.  Social media has allowed for increased human interaction along with the rapid dissemination of information and conversations.  Included in this, is the way customers choose to communicate with companies.

While the majority of contact center communications were being conducted via phone, today people have other preferences.  Social media has changed the face of the customer service.  A new generation chooses social channels as the best communication route.  Smartphones play a major role in this.  It is suggested that mobile devices are responsible for 60 percent of all online traffic.

Research indicates that 62% of customers use social media for customer service, and 47% of social media users said they “actively seek” customer service through social media.  In addition, 55% expect a response that same day!

Customer experience is becoming more important than the product itself.  It goes without saying that businesses want to create a customer base which brings in other customers.  This can only happen if customers are happy not only with your products or services, but the entire experience with the company  as a whole.

I’m not afraid to say that the existence of call centers in its current state is challenged with a litany of indicting questions.  Chief among them, is how to respond to the rapid changes and technology for the good of the customer.  For the most part, users turn to social channels for support, where they are likely to receive faster response times.  As such, social seems to be trending upward as a customer service channel.  According to
Social Bakers, "the number of questions asked on brand pages on Facebook has increased by 85 percent over the last year”.

Social media has become the top internet activity for the masses.  In fact, it’s easier to engage via social channels.  A benefit of social customer care is that you don’t need any extra time to free yourself from your current activity to call a contact center.  Many people sit in front of the computer all day long and social provides a quicker option for help.  You  are allowed to continue with your day and receive the response to your inquiry with minimal effort.  In many cases, it is the best way  to communicate with a company.  However, not all brands have turned to social care yet, or they are not quite good at it.

There is also a big down side for the brands using social media if they don't provide timely responses.  People seem to become more negative towards the brand.  Research suggests 74% of customers believe they will get better service if they criticize a brand via social media.

Being present on social channels is a necessity for brands.  However, there is more to it. Businesses should be active and engaging. Of greatest importance, is keeping your reputation in good standing.  This is possible when delivering great customer service along with honesty and transparency.

With that said, let's face the demands and challenges and WOW our customers!  As Biju Paulose said, “Take good care of your customers and they will take care of your business.” 

Anna Sabryan is a CS Social Media Expert and Blogger. She is passionate about customer service, digital marketing, social media and cloud. 

Anna was named one of ICMI's Top 50 Contact Center Thought Leaders on Twitter. Follow Anna on Twitter (@AnnaSabryan) or on her blog.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Guest Post: Do you know where your Customers are coming from? Understanding your Customer's Journey

By: Jessica Noble

Rarely are we a customer's first interaction with our company.  Whether we're in field sales or customer support, customers have oftentimes already had opportunities to form impressions, sometime very strong ones about our companies, our products, and our brands.  The interaction could have been as brief as a billboard, as informal as a friend's social media post, a transaction on a corporate website, or a human experience with another team member in the company.  Each of these observations, interactions, and transactions can be very impactful Moments that Matter.

Moments that Matter are the experiences that form strong impressions.  Some observations, interactions and transactions leave us feeling net neutral.  A minimal impression was made.  If we completed a transaction, our need was met in an unremarkable way.   Other observations, interactions and transactions leave an impression.  It could be a brief impression that makes us smile or roll our eyes or, a lasting impression that makes us want to send out a message across all forms of social media sharing delight or outrage!

I've had a few of these Moments that Matter lately but one in particular was the result of a hotel stay.

A hotel I stayed at in February accidentally over-billed me, but it was their poor follow-through that left the impression.
  • During the following month when I didn't get the credit, I called seven times. 
  • Three times I didn't get a call back.  
  • Three times they told me the credit would be applied with a few days.  Each time they committed to calling within 24 hours to confirm the credit when they saw it processed.
  • Once they told me the credit had been applied on their side and the issue was with my credit card.
Ultimately it ended up being an issue with their card processor.  On my eighth call, I spoke with someone outside the accounting department, a lady with highly developed customer service skills.  She listened to where I was coming from, made a commitment to follow-up with her manager, and to call me back with resolution within the hour.  She did call me back and they cut a check that was mailed overnight on that day.  That became the Moment that Mattered - the lasting impression.  She listened, understood the journey I had been on, and took steps that made sense in that context.

Understanding where our customer is coming from provides great insight into how they may be feeling and what they may need from us during this next interaction. 
  • Are they coming to us after trying to do something (complete a transaction/purchase/return) on the corporate website unsuccessfully.  
  • Did a competitor's product arrive and not meet their expectations (poor quality), and now they’re looking for a better product? 
  • Did their company engage with another business partner for services that didn't help them realize the business value they expected? 
We need to use what we know about a customer's experience with our company and all of the possible interaction points to better listen and understand where they are coming from and where they have already been to provide exceptional Moments that Matter.

Jessica is the Customer Experience Practice Leader at Tribridge. With a background in Sales, Product Management, CRM and CX consulting.  Jessica is passionate about working alongside customers to transform their organizations and realize their unique CX goals.

Follow her on LinkedIn: JessicaJNoble or Twitter: @JessicaJNoble.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Guest Post: Peer-to-Peer Support is Changing Social Customer Service

By: Erica Strother

Search for “customer service” or “customer service fail” on Twitter.  How many tweets appear in the feed? More than likely, the answer is thousands.

Now recall the last time you turned to social media to ask a support question, vent frustrations, or seek out product advice from your personal network.  If you’ve done one of these things recently you’re not alone. It’s increasingly common for customers turn to social media as their first point of contact for support.  This presents an enormous opportunity for service organizations, but is also quite risky for the companies that aren’t adequately prepared to handle this form of support.

For example, what happens when other customers notice tweets of frustration and chime in to add their negative experiences?  Or, for better or worse, offer solutions to the problems being voiced?It’s now not unusual for other customers to respond to social media support requests before the contact center even has a chance. Peer-to-peer support is a growing trend, and one the contact center must embrace. But there are several things to consider:

  • What happens when a peer jumps in with the wrong answer?
  • Should the contact center track the product of support related conversations customers have their peers ?  If so, how?
  • How can companies best reward their loyal customers for taking part in support conversations?

Although the idea of peer-to-peer support is not new, social is the new online help page. When asked whether they’d prefer to seek support through an online forum, or via social media, nearly half of adults 18-49 said social media.  And that number is only sure to grow in the coming years.

That’s exactly why Joshua march, CEO of Conversocial, says his company recently released a new app called CROWDS.

CROWDS gives companies the ability to moderate the peer-to-peer customer service interactions already happening on Twitter, increasing customer satisfaction, extending word of mouth, improving customer loyalty and reducing costs for effective customer service.

I had a chance to talk with March last week and he seems optimistic that this app will forever change the way businesses manage social media support.

“Customers today are more knowledgeable than ever, and have more platforms than ever to voice their opinions,” said March.  “Empowering customers to join the support conversation is a win for everyone.  While customers trust brands less than ever, they trust their peers more. Contact centers must use this to their advantage.”

CROWDS allows companies to just that, by rewarding the brand advocates who are already serving as a first point of contact.  It also gives the contact center complete visibility, and the ability to respond in real-time.

Empowerment + structure + faster, improved service seems like a winning combination!  What do you think?

How is your contact center currently managing peer-to-peer support?  Are your support forums still active, or do you see more customers turning to Twitter and Facebook for help?  Share your experiences in the comments!

Erica is the Community Specialist at ICMI. With a background in marketing, public relations, and social media, she brings more than six years of community management experience to ICMI, and is particularly passionate about  the convergence of marketing and customer service. 

Erica graduated Cum Laude from Campbell University in North Carolina.  In her free time she enjoys traveling, watching sports, attending concerts, and drinking coffee.  She’s also a self-professed Twitter addict. Follow her on Twitter: @ens0204.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Guest Post: 3 Tips for Smarter Hiring and Recruiting in 2015

By: Erica Strother

2015 is already shaping up to be a busy year for HR professionals.  Recent reports indicate that 36% of employers plan to increase their full-time staff this year.  That number is up 12% from last year!

Does your contact center have plans to staff up this year?  Running a contact center comes with a number of challenges, and hiring and recruiting is at the top of the list.  If you’d like to make the process less daunting, here are 3 tips for smarter hiring and recruiting in 2015.

    1. Social Media is Your Friend.

In a recent #ICMIchat, Nate Brown (@CustomerIsFirst) put it this way: fish where the fish are.

Studies show that 14.4 million Americans have used social media to search for a job, with 29% citing social media as their primary tool for searching.  If you don’t have a social media recruiting strategy in place you are missing out on some of the best and brightest talent.

Utilize Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more to post job openings, share successes, and let your company culture shine. Your potential employees are interviewing you, too. They are checking you out on social media, so make sure you’re not just there, but actively putting your best foot forward.

    2. Don’t be Afraid to Try Video

Being on video can feel awkward, or even scary.  Not everyone is comfortable in front of the camera, but sometime it’s good to step out of your comfort zone! If you don’t think video belongs in the hiring process, think again.

Video interviews are a great option for companies looking to hire remote employees, but videos are also a powerful tool in the recruiting process. What better way to demonstrate your company culture than through the use of stories?

YouTube reports 4 billion video views each day, so chances are great that your prospective hires are spending time there. You can ensure that they find you by including links to your YouTube videos on your career webpage and in job postings.  It doesn’t hurt to share your videos on other social networks, either.

Be creative—show potential employees what it’s like in your office, tell them what your company values, and why it’s a great place to work.  Looking for a little inspiration?  Here’s a fun example from the folks at Shopify.

Does your company have a recruiting video?  I’d love to see it, so please share in the comments.

    3. Make Employee Engagement a Priority

Social media and video are both great recruiting tools, but the most valuable tool you have is your current employees.  Be honest.  How many of your employees would recommend your workplace to a friend?

Creating brand ambassadors starts with engagement. Show your employees how important they are to the team.  Solicit their feedback and ideas, then listen and act on them.  Be transparent, and respectful.  Trust your employees to do great work, and nine times out ten they will.

Empower your team with the tools and resources they need to be company advocates, and encourage them to share job opportunities with their personal and professional networks.  Make it easy!  Provide sample tweets, emails, and videos they can use when sharing job openings.

Bonus: studies show that employee referrals have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies.

Does your contact center have a plan in place to recruit the best talent in 2015?  For more tips and ideas, check out these articles and infographics on successful hiring in the contact center.

Erica is the Community Specialist at ICMI. With a background in marketing, public relations, and social media, she brings more than six years of community management experience to ICMI, and is particularly passionate about  the convergence of marketing and customer service. 

Erica graduated Cum Laude from Campbell University in North Carolina.  In her free time she enjoys traveling, watching sports, attending concerts, and drinking coffee.  She’s also a self-professed Twitter addict. Follow her on Twitter: @ens0204.