CUSTOMER SERVICE — A HOW NOT TO GUIDE
Chances are, you’ve had at least one harrowing encounter with the customer service black hole of death. You know what I mean—you’re experiencing a product issue, so you search for and eventually locate the support email of the company in question. You write out what you hope is a compelling and action-incentivizing description of your problem, only to receive a generic, automated response with an issue number that is two lines long. Despite the written promise that someone will follow-up shortly, you never hear back again.
This (non)response is obviously an extreme example, but unfortunately, it’s not a rare one. Even responsive email support is often too slow and difficult to scale to be truly valuable for you or your customers. And if they can’t get an answer quickly (or at all, like in our previous example), your customers are going to end up feeling frustrated, disrespected, and with a negative opinion of your company and product. If they have other options for providers of the product or service you offer, they’re likely to turn to them. And in today’s economy, there are always other options.
By limiting your customers to email or phone support as your only or most obvious customer service option, you are likely to deliver a poor customer experience and lose business as a result. The good news is the black hole of death is far from your only cost-effective option!
WHY SOCIAL SUPPORT
It wasn’t long ago when your customers’ main means of contacting you was an email. Today, however, your customers have adopted a more social way of communicating online. This shift in technology and expectations means that you have more channels to monitor and less grace time to get back to them. Your social support strategy must be well thought-out and articulated, so you can keep up with the competition and provide the level of support your customers have come to expect.
A good social support strategy involves not only responding to questions and issues directed at you in social networks, but creating social resources that facilitate customer conversation and collaboration. When done well, social support allows you to hear more comprehensively what’s going on with your customers. It serves as a great resource for you as well as for them.
An example: Scott Hirsch, the former VP of Product Marketing at the Satisfactory, was having an issue getting MOG music to play on his Sonos system. Instead of calling or emailing Sonos directly, Scott went to their customer community to search and see if anyone had reported a similar issue there. He found that other community members had experienced the same thing, and of them had called Sonos directly to discover the solution. Scott got his answer quickly without ever posting in the community or contacting Sonos. The answer was there in real-time because of the collaboration that is naturally facilitated by social support. One person called Sonos and posted about the solution in their community. This prevented every other customer with the question from placing one-off calls to support, saving them time and the company money. This is the power of a support strategy that combines social and traditional support tactics.
The benefits to social support for your company and your customers are great, but in order to get the most return on your investment in it there are some critical components to include. We’ve identified the Five Must Haves to deliver excellent social support that will drive great customer experiences and allow you to scale your business while reducing one-off support requests and costs as a result. Make sure to include them in your support strategy for a complete plan that will keep you competitive and delivering the kind of service your customers demand.
Gone are the days where your customers are all at home, reaching out to you on their desktop computer or landline. No, today’s customers are on the go, dropping off their kids at soccer practice, sending emails, ordering team snacks to be delivered, while scheduling hair appointments, and trying to get your product to work. If your support isn’t flexible and easy for them to reach, they will turn to one of your competitors who can help them on their terms.
In today’s environment, a key component of a successful social support strategy is accessibility to your customers wherever they are, on whatever platform they’re using. The effectiveness of your social support will increase exponentially as more people begin participating in it, so you want to have as many channels and entry points as you can reasonably maintain (the operative word here being reasonably — if you don’t have resources to operate an additional support Twitter account, you’re better off without it).
That means you need to make sure your social support is accessible on the various channels where your customers can expect to reach your company — on mobile and tablet, on social network sites, and in relevant places on your website (not just stuck in a support ghetto on one isolated page). Don’t worry, you don’t have to swear off sleep in order to provide social support around the clock, which brings us to our next social support must-have…
It doesn’t matter how well you’ve branded your Facebook, Twitter, SlideShare, and Pinterest pages—no social strategy is complete without a customer community. Social networks can provide great, real-time feedback, are easy for your customer to access, and allow you to communicate updates to them quickly. Only a customer community, however, is designed to truly facilitate and host numerous conversations surrounding your product and services at any time of the day or night.
You may ask: “What is a community?” Remember the forums you used to turn to in the 90’s? Customer communities are the evolution of these forums. They are interactive, open networks where people come to engage around the products and services they care about. Customer communities are always on, connecting people to one another, your company, and the answers they’re looking for.
Once in the community, these conversations have the added bonus of being easily discoverable by search engines (more on why later) and embeddable in relevant places all over your website — next to specific products, in the checkout page, etc. This organization and conversational style takes the shouting match that social media often resembles and turns it into a dynamic resource that is easy for your customers to find, navigate, and self-serve their own answers.
Customer communities have another leg up on more traditional social networking sites — the easy identification and activation of Champions. Customer Champions are those extra-awesome customers who come to your aid in your community and on social networks to answer the questions of prospects and other customers, to advocate on your behalf, and even to come to your defense when things go wrong or someone expresses public negativity about your brand. Customer communities make it easy to identify and incentivize these Champions with public recognition, badges, and even a formal Champs program. By making it clear that you value your most active, helpful customers, you foster an environment that encourages other customers to behave that way as well. This kind of collaboration with customers, Champions, prospects, and employees is exactly what social support is all about.
Get Satisfaction communities are fun, friendly, and intuitive. They take the best user experience elements of Twitter and Facebook in order to provide a user-friendly, social experience that is designed to facilitate positive, productive interactions between customers and companies. Get Satisfaction also provides the option to bring one-off conversations from Facebook or Twitter into your community so that helpful but fleeting content is preserved as a long-lasting community resource for future customers and prospects.
3. OCIAL KNOWLEDGE BASE
Your company might already have a traditional Knowledge Base (KB), even if it’s just a list of Frequently Asked Questions on your website. But if you don’t have a Social KB, you’re missing out on the opportunity to leverage the value your customers can bring you and one other. When trying to scale support and keep up with the fast-paced speed of business brought around by the adoption of social everything, only a Social KB can help you tap into the knowledge and experiences of your customers to deliver a comprehensive KB experience in real-time. Why? Because your customers are constantly updating it with their questions, solutions, and stories.
This doesn’t just have implications for the way you address issues, but how you spot them as well. It doesn’t matter how many people you have QAing your product, it’s likely that at some point there will be a bug that your customers catch before you do. A Social KB can help you to identify and provide solutions or work-arounds for issues that might not even be on your radar if you didn’t have a dynamic, social place for your customers to report them. By leveraging your customers as an integral piece of your product testing and first-response support strategy, you’re adapting to the ways social has changed business and using it in a way that is truly innovating and collaborative.
Not only is a social KB an important resource because of when your customers are referring to your products and services, but also how they are referring to them. The internal language your team uses to talk about various features and issues isn’t necessarily the language your customers use to describe your product. If you only offer a traditional KB, it becomes more difficult for your customers to self-serve their own answers, since they don’t speak (or search for) your internal jargon. With a social KB, customers are asking and answering questions in their own language, so they’re more likely to find the answers they need themselves. (This also has benefits for SEO, but more on that later.)
4. FEDERATED SEARCH
Even in the social age, there are still benefits to having static repositories of sanctioned company knowledge and information—traditional KBs, FAQs, and Product directories are all helpful to your customers since they know that the answers posted there were, at one time at least, accurate. But as we’ve covered in the Must Haves about community based support and social KB, these days you can’t afford to go without social options for bug and issue reporting to leverage the knowledge of your customers to help one another, and to provide the most current information and assistance.
Federated search allows you to surface information from multiple repositories — it pulls information from places like your traditional KB, FAQ, customer communities, product directories, etc — bringing the best of all your traditional and social channels together in one unified place. This gives your customers access to the maximum amount of information, both social and non-social, to provide them with the type of information that’s right for them.
To make sure your social support is as effective as possible, it’s critical to make sure it ranks well in search engines. Why, you might be asking? Think about it. You have a question about a product or service. You could:
- Dig up the phone number or email address for their support
- Ask your smartest friend what to do
- Just ask Google
Most people are going to go with option C, at least initially. If the answers to your customer questions are easy to find using search engines, their satisfaction from the experience is going to go up, and your costs associated with one-off phone calls and email responses are going to go down.
A Get Satisfaction customer community is uniquely structured to help its communities rank well in search. The URL of each community topic has the company name in it, as well as the topic title phrased in the words of the person who asked the question. That means that each link is highly optimized for the company name and the natural, organic language that customers are using to ask questions and report problems.
Remember earlier when we were talking about how the language you use internally to talk about products, features, and bugs may not align with how your customers refer to them? The language discrepancy can make it difficult for your customers to find the answers to their questions in traditional FAQs and knowledge repositories. The structure of community topic URLs directly combats that issue since customers are likely to ask, answer, and search about questions and issues in similar language.
Also, Get Satisfaction is home to 70,000 communities. Because of the sheer size of the network, as well as the high volume of customer-generated content and engagement that takes place there, search engines crawl the entire Get Satisfaction platform extremely regularly. And user-generated content is viewed as authoritative by Google, so it ranks particularly well. Once a topic is posted, it’s likely to start showing up in search almost immediately.
The implications of this are simple. When a customer has an issue and posts it in your community, you can address the issue quickly and simply there. Then everyone else that has that issue will be able to find that conversation and help themselves (like Scott was able to find his own, up-to-date answer to his Sonos question). And when the issue is resolved, you can post an update or status change, automatically notifying everyone who follows that topic and closing the loop for good.
Successful companies aren’t just developing a presence on social networks to provide support. They’re crafting social support strategies in order to leverage this new way of connecting with customers to reduce costs, scale support, and provide a better customer experience. Your particular strategy will vary depending
on the resources (man power, time, and budget) you can allocate to it, as well as your company size and market, but a social support strategy that is well thought out and suited for your company is critical to stay competitive. Make sure to include these Five Must Haves, and your social support strategy will be off to a great start!
Interested in learning more about how a Get Satisfaction customer community can help you acquire more customers, drive product innovation, and deliver excellent, low-cost social support? Call 877-339-3997 to schedule a demo.
About Get Satisfaction
Based in San Francisco, Get Satisfaction provides an online community platform connecting companies with customers to foster relationships that unlock new value for both sides. Companies of all sizes and industries—from Kellogg’s, P&G and Intuit to Sonos, and SugarCRM—rely on Get Satisfaction to deliver online communities that modernize customer support, accelerate sales, differentiate their brand and inspire new innovations. Get Satisfaction’s community platform offers the fastest time to value for companies ready to embrace the way today’s customers want to engage.
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