Customer-Facing Employees Need To At Least Have Manners

I met Lauren at her office the other night so we could ride home together. She asked me to run into UPS and drop something off for her.

So I went into UPS and the guy behind the counter never looked at me. I always wait for someone to look up & acknowledge me. When he talked to me, it was in a barely audible tone. It was kinda rude.

If you’re going to hire someone to be a customer facing employee then I think you need to hire someone who’s at least polite. A good prospect is friendly and makes me feel good about the service they’re going to provide.

Isn’t this common sense?

Using Social Media for Stealing Your Competitors’ Customers

Technology like Twitter has brought customer service into a new age. Now I can tweet about a brand and usually get customer service faster than if I were to call them. Everyone has tweeted at @ComcastCares at least once. Their example made Twitter-based customer support a common place within most companies.

Well, what can be used for serving your customers, can be user for stealing your competitors. Just do a search in Twitter or setup a Google Alerts for your company’s competitors and you’ll find a litany of voices sharing their disappointments. Your competitor’s customers are sharing their disappointments hoping someone will care.

This is an opportunity. You can care. Care about your competitors customers and offer them a discount to come use your service. I did this all day long when I was at AddThis and competing with ShareThis. Actually won a few BIG customers this way.

Last night, Lauren needed the car to run some errands before a party that I was going to meet her at later in the evening. I had bought a membership to the smart car sharing service car2go and saw this as an opportunity to try it for the first time. I tried to unlock the car with my membership card and got an error. Called their customer service line and they said my car was defective. So, now what am going to do? This is how I was getting to the party. Ended up taking the bus to a spot where a friend could pick me up.

While waiting for the bus, I took the opportunity to express my disappointment with car2go on Twitter. Instantly, I got a tweet from Uber reminding me that they had cars on the road that’d love to pick me up. If Uber wasn’t considerably more expensive then I probably would have taken them up on the offer. I guess I was just impressed that someone from Uber was that on top of their Twitter accounts.

Why doesn’t every company do this? Watch your competitors’ users tweets and then offer them a discount or special offer to switch. Out care your competition.

(Photo by cote)

Om Malik: I’m in the business of making my customers happy.

I’m a pretty religious listener of the Leo Laporte’s online show This Week in Tech and have been for a long time.

This Sunday, he had GigaOm founder Om Malik and All Things D‘s Editor Kara Swisher on.  These are two tech journalists that I have a tremendous amount of respect for.  They both write well thought out smart blogs.

Well, around 1 hour and 15 minutes into the show they get into this great discussion about new vs. old media and how it’s not about the medium for the content and it’s about the content itself.

Om gives a fantastic quote, which I thought was worth calling out and I think speaks a lot to the success that he’s seen. He says…

I’m in the business of making my customers happy.  My customers are my readers.  If they’re happy everything else will follow.

Right on Om. You pump out great content and thus I keep on reading.  It’s a good word for all of us.  We need to keep the main thing, our customers, the main thing.

Be Transparent When There’s a Problem…

So yesterday, I wrote about how I had a really bad experience getting post-dinner pie from a local pie shop.  The employees were scurrying around and seemed totally oblivious to the fact that Lauren and I hadn’t received pie yet.  It was super frustrating.

Well, I went to the website to email the shop and let them know about my experience and that it would greatly influence our interest in coming back to the shop.

So, the manager wrote back and mentioned that we got there right amidst the shift change.  It’s a process that isn’t a smooth as it should be and is what caused the massive delay while we were waiting in line.  She  said that they even had thought about closing the shop for 30 minutes during the shift change.  Additionally, the delay in us getting our pie was from the fuse blowing because of a new machine that they had in the back.  Their staff needed to attend to the issue right away.

If the folks at the pie shop would have been like, “Hey, we’re changing shifts right now.” or “Hey, we have a problem in the back. One of our new machines just blew a fuse.” We would have totally understood.  They just needed to be transparent about what’s going on.

Problems happen.  When something goes wrong at work, we’ll throw up a blog post or a tweet so that our users know that we recognize the problem and that we’re working to resolve it.    We’re transparent about what’s going on.   We apologize for what’s happened.  We may have to hand out the proverbial slice of free pie but usually we’re able to get things back to where they were with minimal damage to the trust we have between us and our customers.

When there’s a problem (and yes, there’ll be a problem), let folks know about it.  I think the first reaction is that folks will be shocked that you’re not perfect.  I think everyone realizes that problems happen.  Customers will understand.  Just own up to the problem.  Apologize for it.  Learn from it.  Rinse and repeat.  You’ll be better off for it.

Fred Wilson: Customer Service is the Best Way to Do Marketing for Startups

Yesterday, the prolific investor Fred Wilson wrote a really interesting post with marketing advice for startups.   I definitely commend it to your reading.  I think he really knocks it out of the park and has some interesting advice.

In a follow up he mentions…

I totally left out customer service. That is possibly the single best way to do marketing for startups. It allows you to connect to your early users, learn from them, and turn them into advocates for your product or service.

Right on!

Feeling Ignored & Customer Service Failures

So… last night, Lauren and I went out to dinner.  Afterwards, we thought it’d be fun to hit up this cute little pie place down the street and split a slice.   We didn’t have any dessert at the restaurant and we were hankering for something sweet.

We get in the front door and we’re waiting in line to take our order.  And… we just sit in line.  Doesn’t feel like it’s moving at all.  We get up a little bit closer and the guy at the register is changing out the money, which is fine but he doesn’t acknowledge the people in line at all.  He just goes about his business and is totally oblivious to the fact that we’ve been waiting in line for 10 minutes.

We order our slice and are getting excited by the smells of freshly baked pie wafting from the back of the store.   We sit down at the bar by the counter and we wait… and we wait… and we wait some more.

At one point, the woman was like “Oh your slice will be up in just a few minutes.”  They had just popped a bunch of slices in the warmer.  Assumed, they were heating it up for us.

We wait a little bit longer.  We both start getting really annoyed.  Where the H is our pie?   And we get the increasing feeling that they’re completely oblivious to the fact that we were still waiting for pie.

So, I mention it to the guy behind the counter.  He doesn’t seem to do much.  We wait another what seemed like 10 minutes.  Still no pie.  We mention it to someone else behind the counter.   She takes action.  We finally get pie.

By the end of the night, Lauren and I were happy to have gotten pie but annoyed that it took forever and even just more generally unhappy that the folks at the store didn’t seem to care about us at all.

Now, if they would have been packed, I would have been more forgiving but it was mostly empty.

So… what’s the moral of the story?  You always need to be aware of what’s going on.   Are you being perceptive to the situation around you?  Is there someone who you could do a better job of serving?

There are always going to be ways to improve and there are always going to be problems that need to be solved but you don’t want to just let them fester.  You want to address them as quick as possible so the customer know you care.

My experience at the pie shop was a total customer service failure.  What are some customer experience failures that you’ve experienced?

Tracking the Effectiveness of Talking Through Facebook & Twitter

Social media allows for us to extend our ability to connect and form relationships with our community and customers.  We’re able to more effectively talk and share about what’s going on with us, while listening to what’s going on with the people that we care about.

But… how effective has it been talking using channels like Facebook & Twitter?  Are users paying attention?

Unlike an email inbox, in the world of fast paced news feeds, it’s hard to figure out if someone actually took the time to read what it is that you’re saying.   There’s no notion of an open rate, like in email marketing.

Well, I find it easiest to measure the success of my Facebook & Twitter messages when those messages contain an action that I want a user to take.     There needs to be some kind of link that I want to get people to click.

So… whenever I have a link that I want to post to Facebook & Twitter, I first take that link and shorten it using bitly.  I then post it.  From there, I can start to see in real time whether anyone is clicking on my links and engaging with my messages.

From there, I start asking questions.  Why are people clicking links?  Why are they not?  Is it the content?  Is it the time of day?  Is it how I described what I posted?  Is it who posted it?

Then, it’s time to experiment.  Is there a time of day where you can drive the most clicks?  Is there a way you can write your content which drives the most clicks?

I’ve been experimenting a lot at work.  Hope to draw some conclusions and post some results soon.