As part of September’s Social + Service month, Oracle’s Maggie Schneider Huston spoke with Jay Baer, New York Times and Amazon best-selling author and CEO of Convince & Convert, about how social customer service will change the future of business.
Maggie Schneider Huston: Let’s start from the beginning. How would you explain social + service to an 80 year old, non-techie person?
Jay Baer: When people needed customer service, they used to send a letter or pick up the phone. Now, people use social media to get the attention of the company. It’s faster and easier to do. Nobody wants to wait on hold. Nobody likes smooth jazz.
MSH: <laughs> True. The use case for a B2C company is obvious - you just explained it - but why is social service important for B2B companies?
JB: It doesn’t matter whether you’re B2B or B2C, you need to interact with your customers where they want to meet you. Your customers are not just B2B customers - they’re also B2C customers in other parts of their life. And those companies are some of the best in the world at social service. B2C companies are setting the expectation that any brand - whether it’s B2B or B2C - will have the same reaction to their needs. So when your customer approaches you on social media for support , you should be ready.
MSH: So what does that look like? How will a company know if they’re doing social service well?
JB: Answer every customer, in every channel, every time. You answer every phone call and email, don’t you? A lack of response is a response - it’s a response that says we don’t care what you think.
MSH: Ok, I hear that, but I’ve seen some pretty… inappropriate… comments on our posts. How should you handle that?
JB: You should have conduct policies posted on your “about” page, so if someone says something vulgar, you can delete the comment and ban the person. If you don’t have public policies, then it seems like you’re suppressing dissent. You should explain to the community why you deleted the post. Transparency and honesty go a long way. If you’ve built a strong brand, your customers will rise to your defense and your fans will keep others in line.
MSH: Ah, so this is why your book is called “Hug Your Haters” ?
JB: Exactly. Basically there are two kinds of haters: “Off-stage” haters, who complain in a private way, and “On-stage” haters, who complain publicly on social media. The expectations of these two groups are totally different. 90% of off-stage haters expect a response. However, only 48% of on-stage haters expect an answer. When you do provide a response on social, the impact on customer advocacy is incredible. On-stage haters have low expectations but will advocate for you if you’re responsive.
Haters are not your problem - ignoring them is. If you ignore someone who is already mad, you’re just giving them another excuse to be mad. Many of the people who complain in public have already complained off stage. They’re unhappy with your response, so they raise the stakes and take it public. When you ignore those people, you’re ignoring someone who is angry, twice. That’s really dangerous.
"The FREE HUGS robot says 'I am here for you'" Ben Husmann, 2010 CC-BY Flickr; Wylio
MSH: Building off of that… do you think companies are successfully capturing and integrating social data to build out complete customer profiles? Speaking plainly, are we using the information we get from our haters?
JB: No. People tend to see social customer service as another way to make customers happy, but it’s more than that. Customer feedback is the petri dish for operational improvements. They’re taking their time to tell you how to make your business better. Businesses should mine that and build it back into their product. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen often because historically customer service has been a separate thing. The people who are complaining are the unelected representatives of a whole bunch of other people. Only 5% of unhappy customers complain. So if someone is raising their hand, you should listen.
MSH: I’ve heard people say customer service is the “new marketing.” What are your thoughts on that?
JB: I agree 100%. Essentially, every competitor can match you on everything else - capabilities, price, etc - but they can’t match you on customer experience.