Tag Archives: Customer Service

An estimated 90,000 experts, media and social media presenters descended on San Francisco last month for the biggest cloud computing event of the year. Dreamforce 2012 featured more than 750 education sessions, but it was a live social customer service demonstration that I remember most.

In the middle of the expo floor, the “Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center” fielded calls, tweets, posts and updates from Dreamforce attendees in real time. The center was ringed by flashy streams of social conversations that resembled stock exchange tickers. These enabled onlookers to watch and learn from their practiced responses.

I was able to glean a few key takeaways from watching the center in action. For those of you that weren't able to attend, here's a few of those best practices for better socialized customer service.

Always Post a Public Response

Salesforce.com Senior Vice President of Solutions Marketing Fergus Griffin told me every company should at least be thinking about customer service through social.

“I guarantee your customers are already using the channel, and they’re probably already talking about your brand,” he said.

If these mentions are negative, social media gives your consumers a means to spread the news far and fast. To mitigate this risk, companies should always acknowledge the comment in social before taking the interaction to another channel. Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center agents demonstrated this in best practices at Dreamforce. If an attendee asks a highly technical question on Twitter, the agent might reply, “I’m emailing you now!” or “Here’s a link to a Chatter discussion on this topic.”

This approach publicly demonstrates that the company is listening and responds to everyone.

Plan Your Process

Many companies struggle with creating an efficient process for handling social media requests. If the community manager sees the comment on Twitter and responds, how does the company track that interaction? What if the question on Facebook or Twitter needs to be discussed privately? Do you tweet your service phone number? Provide an email address? What are the risks of either?

Make sure that your team defines clear answers to all of these questions. You want the resolution to be seamless and for nothing to fall through the cracks. At Dreamforce, for example, simple questions were answered right in the feed, while more complex queries were taken into email, or live chat. It's up to your team to define what's best for your product or service. Just make sure it's consistent. These experiences increase your chances of turning a latent social media follower into a brand advocate.

Hashtag Common Questions

Griffin told me that last year during Dreamforce most interactions across all service channels involved questions about where things were located, recommendations for events, and tips for getting around the conference. Hashtags allow customer service managers to instantly create a knowledge base for topics such as these.

During this year’s event, Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center agents used hashtags like #Dreamforc2012, #DF2012 and #DF12 to index conversations about the event. That way they could quickly reference those tweets for relevant questions.

Then, when a Dreamforce visitor tweeted, “What sessions are best for social customer service?” the agent could respond “@UserName check out everyone’s food recommendations by searching #Dreamforce2012! and #socialcustserv” When they search those hashtags, the visitor could scan through everyone’s suggestions. This saves the agent time, while still providing a helpful personal response.

Prioritize Thoughtfully

One of the biggest challenges with providing customer service through social is dealing with the sheer volume of requests. Griffin said companies should have a well-defined strategy for prioritizing responses.

This should include ranking factors from social–a Klout score, for example–and customer history. A company might choose to respond first to longtime customers or those with a history of high-value purchases.

“Companies should strike a balance between who [the customer] is in the community, but also who they are to you,” Griffin says.

At the Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center, social mention identification and prioritization was automated through Salesforce.com’s Radian6 Social Hub. This system trolled the Web for #Dreamforce, @Dreamforce and Dreamforce mentions on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. These were instantly turned into a service ticket, prioritized and routed to the appropriate social response agent.

Engage Customers You Might Never Have Known

Customer service through social media is not just about providing another interaction channel in addition to phone, email or live chat. Social allows you to find customers who might never have sent their question otherwise. And if they never send the question, they may never get their problem solved and fears of buying eased.

How does your company handle customer service through social? Let us know by commenting here.

 Guest Author:  Ashley Furness is a CRM Software Analyst for research firm Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising.

 

In today's world, fierce competition exists between all companies that rely upon consumer purchases. Businesses in each separate realm battle each other for customers. Different auto insurance providers, grocery stores, and other types of businesses must compete in order to keep the revenue flowing in regularly. Without a doubt, the key to success for all companies is building customer loyalty. Customers who keep coming back to purchase more goods or services often prove invaluable for businesses. Such a fact cannot be forgotten or ignored.

One-Time Customers Versus Repeat Customers

For businesses, one-time customers generate relatively little revenue because they purchase goods or services once and almost never return. There is relatively little benefit for attracting a one-time sales transaction in comparison to repeat customers. Individuals who constantly shop with one retailer or business over the competitors are considered loyal customers. In reality, building such a relationship with customers that causes them to return for repeat purchases is not always a simple affair. No company should underestimate the effort required to succeed on this front.

Succeeding With Customer Loyalty

Undoubtedly, the single most important factor for increasing customer loyalty involves customer service. Consumers return to the businesses that treat themselves better than the other options. Employees who are properly trained in providing excellent service will benefit a company most. Every worker the consumer interacts with during a visit should provide hospitable and friendly service but nothing less than that. Sadly, some companies forgo this simple concept of capable customer service and see repeat customers dwindle quickly.

There are obviously other steps companies can take to succeed with customer service. For instance, offering products and services for reasonable rates often entices consumers to keep returning for more. Nobody wants to pay a fortune for the items they need, and most are unwilling to do so to begin with. Businesses that overcharge for items will quickly see customer loyalty evaporate and disappear. On the other hand, stores that set competitive and reasonable prices often see the best benefits from such a decision.

Other Options to Increase Customer Loyalty

Luckily, any company can take other steps to improve the loyalty of their customers and make them return repeatedly. Rewards programs, regular coupons, and seasonal promotions are a small sampling of features that entice consumers to stick with a particular company over the competition. A lot of businesses offer such features yet do so inefficiently. For obvious reasons, these programs and discounts must value the customer's needs over revenue goals. Customers do not return to businesses that want every last penny from them.

Loyalty Equals Long-Term Revenue and Success

In the end, loyal customers wind up acting as a long-term revenue source for companies. These consumers form the basis for success more often than not. No company succeeds by relying upon one-time or infrequent customers that do not identify with that particular company. Most owners and operators quickly realize the importance of making customers want to return frequently. Typically, only the best companies see thousands of repeat customers on daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Retailers that fail on this front quickly start losing money.

Thousands of companies rely upon customer loyalty for steady revenue and increased profits. In fact, the majority of businesses out there need consumers. A store that fails to sell enough goods or services will quickly fall victim to bankruptcy. Factors like customer service, value for goods, and rewards programs all factor into how likely a given customer is to return and stay loyal to a given company. For the most part, all corporations realize this fact and constantly strive to provide the best experience for consumers.

This guest article was written by the staff of SBA.com -- a site offering business resources for small business owners.

It goes without saying but your customers are your livelihood and should be your top priority. No customers mean no revenue, and as such it's essential that companies always aim to improve their customer service offering. Not only can it improve customer loyalty, increase referrals, improve revenue, it can help retain customers and lead to repeat business. Good customer service can often make the difference between a business which survives and one that fails.

With that in mind, here's some top tips on how you can improve your customer service. Get it right and you'll be flooded with repeat customers which will help grow your business. Get it wrong and you may as well shut up shop.

1 - Train your staff in the essentials of customer service

Your staff are your front line. They are often the ones who will meet and greet your customers if you have a store, speak to them on the phone and handle complaints or deal with potential new clients. As such you need to ensure that they all understand the elements of great customer service and how to service customers. If they are all singing from the same song-sheet you'll have a united work force - especially when it comes to online.

Social media is great for the essentials. If someone is angry, they will shout about it online. Set up a Twitter account to directly respond to them as it shows you're listening. Set up a Facebook profile to let people complain publicly. Don't be scared of negative comments online - if you show you're happy to let them have their say - but are responding to them in a way which shows you as a caring business, you'll be seen in a positive light.

2 - Improve you staff's communication skills

Good customer services relies very heavily on excellent communication skills. From dealing with difficult customers, to selling your products and setting out terms and conditions clearly and resolving complaints and issues, your staff need to communicate effectively on many different levels. If you tune their oral and written communication skills into a well-oiled machine, you can be confident that they are representing your company to the best of their ability.

It's also crucial that you make sure that your employees have good social skills too - this is very important in empathizing with people and can be a lifesaver in situations where composure and professionalism is called for. In many cases having this ability in understanding a problem on a personal level will make the difference between a good customer service representative and a bad one.

3 - Honesty is key

Far too many businesses fail at being honest. They spin the truth or aren't clear - and this leads to expectations which will never be filled. If you are serious about good customer service you need to be honest at all times. Always say what you are going to do, when you are going to do it. Unrealistic timelines, cancelled appointments and un-returned phone calls will destroy confidence in you and your brand. If you specialize in wooden floors and it will take three days to be installed - say so - don't let them think it will come the next day for example. If you can't meet a deadline, tell your customer why and what you are doing to resolve it. If you're not honest they will look for someone else who is.

Make sure your email marketing newsletters are honest, truthful and transparent. Don't hide 'deals' in complicated terms and conditions. For social media remember this one golden rule - never ever remove negative comments!

4 - Have a great website

Your website is your shop window, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Having a website which is difficult to navigate, difficult to find information on or order from will lead to a negative perception of you and your business. After all, if you appear to be difficult to visit online, what would you be like in-store or over the phone? Set out your website in a "no more than 2 clicks" layout, provide high-quality product pictures and descriptions and make your order process as easy as possible. If your website stands out you'll not only set yourself apart from the competition, people will be more likely to order from you, time and again.

5 - Do a deal!

In today's tough economic climate, you don't need to be told that budgets are stretched to further than ever before. Those businesses which can be flexible with their new and existing customers will be more likely to survive and benefit from repeat business. If you have a customer which is coming to the end of a service contract with you, they will be tempted to look elsewhere if you can't match - or even beat - your competitors prices. If you have a customer who wants to pay cash, up front, for a product in your store - you can't afford not to negotiate. Businesses which show they're flexible and can do a deal demonstrate great customer service and benefit from word of mouth marketing too.

So there you have it, five top tips on how good customer service leads to repeat business. It's not hard - it all comes down to communication - verbal, online and face-to-face.

Good luck!