Archives for posts with tag: customer service

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We’ve heard it many times before: Customer Service is the new marketing. Books have been written about it, presentations given and blogs are filled with this insight. And, most executives understand the importance of delivering supreme service to their customers? Given all that, why are most companies still delivering sub-par Customer Service? Why are we still dealing with phone trees, scripts, badly designed forms? Where id the disconnect?

Most companies are not designed to deliver on the ‘Service as Marketing’ promise

David Armano wrote an insightful post “Social Media Marketing won’t fix your infrastructure problem.” He explains:

“Every business has a series of systems and infrastructure in place to keep it running. Even if the goal is to EVOLVE the communications/marketing arm of your organization because you fundamentally believe that the game is changing—there is no way to do it without picking up the hood and looking at the engine. Not just the oil or the windshield fluid level, but the ENTIRE engine.”

While many marketing departments are evolving and trying to tap into the power of Social Media, the rest of the enterprise continues to work under the old paradigm of Customer Service as a cost center. The much lauded @ComcastCares can’t hide the fact that Comcast as an enterprise doesn’t value their customers as much as they should. Or as Jonathan Salem Baskin writes in his brilliant column titled “The Twitter Tax”

“Tools like Twitter aren’t some dream of customer empowerment, but rather the nightmare reality of the broken relationships between consumers and brands. Responding to online complaints is a tax that companies pay because of the chronic mismatch between what consumers expect from brands and what they ultimately get. An individualized response might momentarily bridge the gap, but it won’t fix it. Never will.”

While I encourage companies to listen and respond on these new channels, the highest priority of companies should be to work on the basics – and improve Customer Service to a point where no more complaints will be expressed and employees and more focused on helping people, less on servicing them. (Just in case you need a few stats to convince the decision makers in your enterprise: Among customers who leave a customer interaction angry, 91% will never come back and 96% of those people will never tell us why they left)

It requires a corporate-wide rethinking of all customer touch points: phone, email, forms, attitudes. But, most importantly, Customer Service Departments have to transform from cost centers to profit centers. No, I’m not talking about up-sell scripts.I’m talking about improving loyalty and customer satisfaction. It requires the design of a new enterprise system that puts Customer Service at the center of all activities. This allows companies to regard each customer interaction as an opportunity to deliver a superior experience and be sincerely helpful.

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The Customer Experience Impact 2010 report just came out and the numbers are frightening for brands with mediocre or bad customer service:

  • 82% of consumers in the U.S. said they’ve stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience
  • 95% said they would “take action” after a bad customer experience
  • 79% of U.S. consumers shared their negative customer experience in public and amongst friends
  • 58% of consumers who took their complaints to Facebook/Twitter expected a response from the company, 42% within a day
  • 55% became a customer of a company because of their reputation for good customer service
  • 55% would pay 10% more for a good customer experience

The “I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take it anymore” attitude of people has transformed into “I’m mad as hell, and I will take my business somewhere else”. These are staggering numbers. It’s budgeting season for many companies right now and this report should encourage brands to have another hard look at their budgets: Until your customer service system is close to perfect, does it really make sense to invest that much into marketing/advertising? Aren’t you patching holes while new holes are popping up each and every day, one disgruntled customer at a time?

And, brands should not regard social platforms as the secret bullet. As Techcrunch reports, the demand for human interaction has actually increased:

“In 2007, 60% of consumers said when they had a negative customer experience, they wanted to speak to a live agent about it. At that time, 26% preferred email, 5% chat, but Facebook and Twitter weren’t used by corporations to handle complaints and resolve problems. This year, 83% of U.S. consumers said they wanted to speak to a live agent, 66% preferred email, 12% chat, and 7% choose social networking sites when trying to resolve a problem.”

A mindset change is needed: Regard Customer Service as an investment, not a cost. In the end, customer service is sales.

You can download the full report here.

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All this talk about branded experiences makes me wonder why upstarts like redbox are so successful. Sure, there’s a time and a place for branded experiences, retail experiences and experiential platforms. But there’s also a time when I just want to buy a product/service and leave. That’s why I’m so annoyed when I have to listen to upsells and I just wanted to activate my credit card. Or when an associate tries to sell the Best Buy warranty while I just want to go home and use the product.

Superior customer service doesn’t always mean eye contact, smiles and a human connection. Superior customer service sometimes just means help me get my task done quickly. And let me go my merry way without some brand blah blah, handshake and efforts to sell me more.

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Image Courtesy of Fubiz

I like people who forget about safe bets and stick their heads out, risking to have their heads chopped off. I like people who take risks. And I like people who go against the grain.

And, that’s why I like Joseph Jaffe. I especially like to spar with him (We had a few of those exchanges.), hoping I could find more reasons reading his new book “Flip the funnel – How to use existing customers to gain new ones.

Jaffe’s premise is that companies should reverse their marketing tactics and focus their efforts on customer retention by having the highest quality customer experience. (Reminded me of the Zeus Jones vision of Marketing as a Service.) By focusing on current customers and delighting them with superior service, companies can activate happy customers to become evangelists for the brand. Customer Service, often outsourced and seen as a necessary but unloved cost center, should be at the table with R&D, Marketing and Sales when strategic decisions are being made.

These are not revolutionary thoughts for many of us but rebellious ideas for the majority of companies who are still considering their customer service as a cost center and hide behind the walls of phone trees aka customer avoidance centers. The book appeals less to people knee-deep into the evolving world of Social Marketing but it should be read by anyone starting to understand that we live in a new marketing reality with changed rules.

A few additional thoughts:

– Yes, we all love Zappos. But, we don’t need to hear about them anymore. Using Zappos as the banner child for customer service has been done by too many people too many times.

– Some of the examples (Motrin, United, Obama, etc.) are tired and don’t really need to be repeated over and over again. However, Jaffe provides new case studies that I wasn’t aware of.

– Best Buy: I don’t get the hype about Twelpforce and all these great initiatives that Best Buy is developing and implementing. My problem with all this is that Best Buy offers a horrendous store experience. I just purchased a Mac and the associate asked me at least 10 times if I didn’t want to sign up for their numerous extended warranties. I’m not the only one feeling bullied and Best Buy seems to push their employees extremely hard to make a certain quota. And the results of this bullying are even apparent in Jaffe’s book: While he writes pages lauding Best Buy’s social effort, on page 239 he shares a chart from Forrester Research ranking Customer Experience for major companies. All the tweeting and blogging of Best Buy didn’t make any difference; They are still ranked in the bottom quantile or better: the hall of shame.

Social Marketing doesn’t pack a punch when it’s just used to market to people, when it’s basically masking severe organizational problems.

Social Marketing can pack a Tyson punch when it’s used to transform companies. By focusing on effectiveness of your workforce and less on efficiency. By focusing more on human interactions and less on technology. By making stakeholder value a priority, not shareholder value.

This has to be the focus of our industry in the years to come. It’s interesting to follow the evolution of Jaffe’s thinking: From post-mass media to Conversational Marketing and now the focus on Customer Service. I wonder if the next book will be about Human Business Design? Oh wait, that’s my book.

My point: Everybody involved in Social Media understands that the challenge all of us are facing are institutionalized processes and structures. We experience these challenges each and every day when evangelizing new ways to communicate within and outside of your brand. That’s why people talk about E2.0 and Social Business Design. Jaffe’s book is a good start and should be considered by anyone interested in transforming companies.

However, all of us need to dig much, much deeper. If you thought convincing companies to tweet or blog was hard, don’t bother trying to transform a business. The former is a tiny sandhill, the latter a Mount Everest. Let’s start climbing.