Tuesday Sep 22, 2015

4 Things You Must Do To Succeed In Social Customer Service

Social customer service is here. That’s undisputed. Regardless if you’re a B2B or B2C brand, you need to have an excellent social customer service strategy. Here’s how to do it: 

1. Set Up A Structure: This may sound pretty basic, but it’s an essential element to a successful strategy. Who will be responsible for handling customer service requests that come in through social media? Is it your current social media manager? Your customer service team? Someone else? Clearly delineate who is responsible for answering these questions, and then give them clear guidance for how to execute and deliver rewarding results.

At Oracle, the social media managers are responsible for fielding initial requests. By using the Social Relationship Management (SRM) tool, we are the first ones who see the customer’s comments. From there, we can either respond within the SRM, or direct the question to an expert in another department via our seamless integration capabilities.

2. Respond To Everyone: As Jay Baer said, “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.” If someone has taken the time to reach out to you, you must respond.

For example, we get a lot of spam posts on our Facebook page. We’ve resolved this issue by clearly stating the community posting guidelines and then deleting comments that are inappropriate. Transparency is crucial; if we randomly deleted posts, it would look like we were suppressing dissent. We welcome a healthy debate, but draw the line at spam or vulgar language.

3. Be Helpful: Nothing is worse than a generic response to a specific question. It’s pretty simple: if you don’t know the answer, find someone who does.

What does a good response look like? Empathy. Understand what your customer is going through and resolve to make it better. It’s all customer service; it’s just a different platform.

4. Learn From Your Customer Feedback: “Customer feedback is the petri dish for operational improvements,” says Jay Baer. A customer who reaches out to you with a complaint is giving you a direction for improvement. If someone tells you they’re having a problem with XYZ, chances are pretty good that everybody else is having that problem, too. It gives you the opportunity to fix problems and make your product better.

Plus, when you’re responsive to feedback, you build customer loyalty. Think about it - if you complained about a product and the company fixed it quickly, you’d be satisfied, right? Taking it a step further, you would be more likely to buy from the company again because you know if there’s a problem, they’ll solve it. If you’re really satisfied, you may even turn into an advocate for the brand.

In our next post, we will discuss the “4 Things You Should Never Do on Social Customer Service.” Stay tuned…

Friday Jul 25, 2014

Customers Don’t Care Who’s In Charge, Just That Somebody Is

You have to wonder sometimes if the average consumer is aware of how much marketers and technology people are talking about customer experience and customer-centricity. Do they think most brands care about their experience? Do they feel like their happiness lies at the very center of everything corporations do?

Probably not.

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” -Kevin Stirtz

But we as businesses are at least increasingly aware of the power, voice, and choice the social revolution has given the customer. And because of that, thoughts are turning to how to use the same technology that’s empowering the public to serve them and meet their needs.

Of course, major corporate organizations don’t naturally drift toward this collective realization and total commitment to putting the customer at the heart of every development and decision. That’s just not the nature of the beast. A customer champion is needed on the inside to alter not just the way things are done, but also the culture in which they’re done.

The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing. -John Russell

Who is this champion? They come bearing many titles; Chief Customer Officer, Chief Experience Officer, Chief Client Officer, CMO With a Renewed Commitment to Customer Experiences, CEO Who Has Seen the Light and Wants to Be Known as the Customer’s Friend, etc. (Okay, I made a couple of those up). What they’re called is less important than their passionate belief that utterly delighted customers positively affect the bottom line.

Then, that passion has to be combined with the leadership skills to affect change in environments often deeply resistant to change. Here’s the baseline, Forrester says over 6% of S&P 500 companies have a CCO, but it’s a position that’s so new, many look on it as an experiment. Tricky turf, and probably not for the weak-willed.

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else – Sam Walton

Jeanne Bliss, author of "The Chief Customer Officer," points out 80% of buying decisions come from 3 customer perceptions: experience, reliability and "how did you feel" afterward. We hope you'll take the time to listen to a recent Oracle Social webcast featuring Gannett Chief Digital Officer David Payne, Oracle Chief Customer Officer Jeb Dasteel, and Oracle Social VP Erika Brookes, who tackle this question of who owns the customer. Who is best suited to drive these positive customer perceptions? How can they make the entire org, across department walls, put the customer first? What happens to areas of the business that don’t buy in to customer centricity?

We are always eager to help those brands that are indeed committing to the idea of “happy customer as good business” and that are seeking their own customer champion.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Apr 22, 2014

I Won’t Be Ignored: Why We Want Customer Service on Social

bad social customer serviceAdmit it.  Sometimes in the dark of night, when you’re alone and no one is looking, you gripe about how annoying those people who expect customer service on social are. They get in the way of how corporations wanted to do customer service: “Your call is very important to us, please continue to hold.”

Prior to the expectations social customer service brought, it seemed like the goal of most customer service was to actually break down the customer and frustrate them out of wanting help at all, supported by a brand attitude of, “Wow, you sure seem mad. But what are you gonna do about it?”

Along came social, and suddenly they actually could do something about it. We want customer service on social because:

It’s faster…or at least it should be.

53% reaching out to a brand for service on Twitter expect a response within an hour. 32% expect a response within half an hour. And 57% expect the same response time on nights & weekends as during business hours. Sitting on hold for 30 minutes on the phone is regarded as an abuse that older folk had to endure, but that’s no longer tolerable. In fact, J.D. Power tells us 18 to 29-years-olds are more likely to use your social for customer service (43%) than for marketing stuff (23%).

It connects us to a human.

We’re a generation that’s fine with automation and letting robots help us…to a point. What the bots lack is the ability to project caring or a personal investment in the resolution of our problem. It’s hard to have a relationship with automation, but when a community manager saves the day, the customer feels like they have a hero inside the brand. That’s relationship building.

It acknowledges my problem is not like “all the others.”

FAQs and reams of self-help pages project that you, the customer, are nothing special and neither is your problem. It’s a problem someone else has had, and there’s an answer. All you have to do is shut down your work and devote as much time as necessary to finding it. If you find it, hopefully the generalized solution will actually apply to your specific situation. If not, it’s off to the user forums, where the advice you get might take days, and may or may not come from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. The extent to which brands try to keep from interacting with you makes quite an impression.

It more aggressively seeks to resolve my problem.

55% of customers get frustrated if they have to repeat the same info several times to several different people. 65% get frustrated if they have to contact the brand twice for the same issue. Managers of brand social channels know they have no such luxury to put a customer on ice or pass them around like a hot potato. The public is watching the interaction, so there must be a timely, happy ending to each customer service story. Integration into CRM systems helps make that happen.

It empowers and sets us up to publicize mistreatment.

American Express says the average number of people a social customer will tell about a good customer experience is 42. The average number of people they’ll tell about a bad experience is 53. Increasingly, customers feel it’s nothing short of their duty to warn people about you. 58% are more likely to share their customer services experiences now than 5 years ago.

It empowers and sets us up to publicly express pride in the brands we like.

Likewise, your customers want to be happy and proud to be associated with you. In addition to the advocacy and the help marketing your company, when you execute good service on social, those delighted customers spend 20% to 40% more with you. Take that to the next social ROI conversation with your boss.

So splash that customer service email or phone number everywhere you want. Force people into fix-it-yourself trees or open forums. People are still going to go on your social channels seeking customer service. Questions on Facebook Pages alone are up 85% over last year. And if the experiences don’t match up to modern expectations, you’re largely in the disappointment business.


70% of Marketing departments are involved in social, compared to a mere 19% of Customer Service departments – Ragan

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: Belovodchenko Anton, freeimages.com

Friday Jan 03, 2014

Is Brand Affinity Completely Worthless?

Social media is largely thought of as a brand affinity play, and far too few brand leaders know why that’s valuable.

empty pocketBe honest. Does it bother you when someone doesn’t like you? Even if you have plenty of other friends, when you encounter someone that openly doesn’t want to be around you, do you find yourself frequently wondering why not?

That’s how it often works in real life. But as brands, we not only are stunningly uncurious as to why people don’t like us or use us, we don’t even care how much our existing customers like us. It’s an unnatural way to behave, and at a time when we’re tasked with connecting naturally with consumers.

There seems to be doubt around the value of building those relationships. Either that, or because the fruits of those relationships won’t show up on the ledger this quarter, building them is deprioritized. And because social is the stage on which relationship building is performed, it too isn’t given the resourcing and executive support to max out the winning of hearts and minds.

Like the buying journey itself, brand affinity is the result of variable multiple brand encounters that combine toward a result unique to each customer. No magic ROI equation. But if there can be agreement that repeat customers, existing customers increasing their spending with the brand, loyal customers who look at our brand first or only, and customers who market for us for free, all have a positive effect on revenue…then we’re getting somewhere.

Seriously? You’re telling me you see no dollar value in your customers being as cult-like about your brand as Apple’s? Others sell similar products, but Apple markets a brand experience customers are emotionally invested in. It’s part of their customers’ very identity. So yes, they’ll buy every new product sight unseen and passionately praise and defend the brand. Apple doesn’t need gimmicks…they need crowd control.

Why aren’t we all Apples? Because we haven’t been investing in the combo of product, service and culture that generates the kind of core customers that drive 80% of profits. Fame is a group activity, but you’ve got to assemble the group. Perhaps brands that see no or only passing value in brand affinity have no sales or marketing system in place to even capitalize on being loved.

You view your product as the bee’s knees (you don’t literally sell bee knees do you?), but many brands have no significant value prop differences vs. competitors. Given that, the ability to bond the public to you is make or break. So how do you do it?

The USC Marshall School of Business determined brand affinity is achieved by enticing, enabling and enriching; meaning what you offer must be appealing, it must help the customer, and it must make the customer feel empowered and “better.” With tech listening tools, the public will show you how to do those three things for them.

Will that produce returns? A survey sought to learn which airline people thought was best. Alaska Airlines won. However…a very high percentage of respondents who voted for it had NEVER flown Alaska Airlines. They thought it was best just because enthused customers said it was.

Brand affinity is among the highest-return marketing you can do.

Photo: David Playford, stock.xchng

Tuesday Dec 31, 2013

Should True Customer Centricity Be Your Resolution?

mannequinsWho doesn’t like to view themselves in the best light possible?  Similarly, many businesses like to think of themselves as being tops in customer centricity when in fact, they’ve taken zero steps to change structure, messaging, or CRM to that end. When the world around you is changing but you aren’t…red flag.

Many brands are offering up lip service in lieu of customer service. You know what’s going to be on those lips? The dust customers leave behind as they take their 2014 customer experience expectations elsewhere.

Today’s consumers are well aware of tech advancements. They know it’s possible for you to know nearly everything about them and every move they make, especially where it relates to your brand. Believe it or not, they’re cool with that, as long as it’s used to make their experiences quick, effective, and pleasing.

Seriously…all you have to do is not insult them.

When you have no clue what their past interactions with you were, you insult them. When you have no idea what products of yours they own, you insult them. When you can’t (or won’t) solve their problem, you insult them. When you throw them into an irrelevant generic voicemail tree, you insult them. When you ignore or forget what they tell you, you insult them. When you don’t follow up to insure satisfaction, you insult them.

As you can see, as easy as the task of “don’t insult the customer” sounds, the above is still largely standard practice. It’s not okay anymore.

Perhaps a business resolution for 2014 should be…to care. No shift toward customer centricity is going to occur unless and until brands start genuinely caring about getting the customer what they want and treating them well. Today, it should be even easier to care, because doing those things speaks to profits and corporate health.

66% of marketers couldn’t tell you what their customer is worth, even though sales could potentially go up 17% by knowing and capitalizing on the highest value customers. You’re best friend in this endeavor is data. Listening tools can pull copious amounts of social data, which can be combined with enterprise data for granular views of customers utilized at every touchpoint.

So what does customer centricity even mean? As opposed to what? It means morphing processes around making the customer successful in whatever they’re trying to do, both now and over time. This vs. being product-centric, which the odds are good you still are. One expert clarifies that if you’re product-centric, you’re trying to maximize the value of each product. If you’re customer-centric, you’re trying to maximize the value of each customer.

So in 2014, can you be available to customers on their favorite platform? Will you respond right away? Can you solve their problem? Can you convince them you care? Can you customize their experience? Can you make relevant offers? Can all departments make love-of-customer priority #1? Can you let customers lead your product development?

Social isn’t just empowering consumers, it’s empowering you as brands to make this customer centricity possible. Choose to keep focusing on your corporate self instead of on customer experiences, and 2014 could be the year of thin ice.

Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Oct 08, 2013

Great Customer Service Quotes for the Social Enterprise

Service ChecklistDid you know that this is Customer Service Week? Whether it’s B2B or B2C, the focus is shifting to customer experience and customer-centricity; not just in marketing but across entire organizations as the reality sinks in happy customers are good for bottom lines. We’ve always known that but have been able to get away with not doing anything about it…until social came along and gave the public power.

So given that some of the most engaged tweets to come out of Oracle OpenWorld this year were quotes around good customer experiences, and since quotes tend to inspire further moves in that direction, we treat you to some of the best.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning –Bill Gates

Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them. –W. Edwards Deming

Business is a cobweb of human relationships –H. Ross Perot

Brands are facing a new competitive landscape in which self-definition, core values and purpose will increasingly define their ability to reach customers that only allow what is meaningful in their lives to pass through their filter –Simon Mainwaring

Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves. -Steve Jobs

By getting your customers to agree with you in small steps along the way, you have a better chance of reaching agreement when it’s time to do business –Harvey Mackay

Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners. –Jimmy Stewart

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself –Peter Drucker

Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages. –Henry Ford

The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works. –Jeff Bezos

Well done is better than well said. -Benjamin Franklin

Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game. -Tony Allesandra

Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them. -Kevin Stirtz

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. -Roger Staubach

One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising. -Jim Rohn

The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated. -William James

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Sep 10, 2013

Are Your Customers Attacking or Helping You?

sour lookNow that we know consumers have been empowered thanks to social and mobile, we should probably consider how they’re going to use that power.  I believe it was Spider-Man’s uncle who taught us, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Will customers use it for good or to make trouble for you? The answer likely rests on how well you’re executing customer service and organizing around the customer experience.

On a September 19th free webinar, Oracle’s Erika Brookes sits down with “Attack of the Customers” author Paul Gillin for a chat about why critics assault brands online and how that can be avoided. It’s important. Because from Gillin’s perspective, most organizations are woefully behind both in shifting to customer-centric practices and in extending social across the enterprise to every customer touch point.

Why should these things be priorities? Survival is one good reason. Consider Gillin’s example of lean, finely textured beef, or as it became publicly branded, pink slime. The movement against it began on social. Because the industry took its cues from what was covered in the traditional media, they never saw it coming. Gillin says the largest maker almost went bankrupt, and the 2nd largest did go bankrupt within months.

Businesses can no longer afford not to listen to customers, wherever they may be congregating and talking about you. Jeff Bezos has called what’s going on “word of mouth on steroids.” And brands are not in control of these conversations, social users are. Bloggers are. Customers are. The best a brand can do is be where the conversations are happening and participate in them. Unhappy customers, who have experienced a bad product or abuse/neglect can and will find each other very quickly. Consequently, customer neglect as standard practice is becoming terminal.

And yet…58% of consumers have tweeted about a bad brand experience and never received a response of any kind. Mind you this is happening at a time when especially Millennials fully expect customer service on social. If they hold you accountable for it, thank them. People criticize because they want you to be better. It’s a positive. If you listen and co-create with those who care enough to “attack,” you’ll survive…and win.

Attack coverThese vocal, social consumers are forcing evolution inside organizations. Marketing is becoming analytics-driven, making it IT’s responsibility to align and facilitate. But here too, Gillin believes only about 2% of enterprises are appropriately socially enabled across departments. He feels most CIO’s still view social as a problem, a security threat, and a time waste.

For those who are forward thinking and who are willing to change and adapt as quickly as the consumer, integrated social insights from a social relationship management platform will lead to powerful, targeted engagements and actions, and thus, superior consumer experiences.

So, do you regard consumer criticism as an attack or an assist? Are your brand’s policies truly customer focused, or are they coming from a purely defensive posture? Tune in to the webinar to get Gillin’s four types of customer aggressors and how to deal with them, as well as three immediate customer experience action items for businesses both large and small.

Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jul 05, 2013

Customers Are Celebrating Their Independence

fireworksHere in America, we recently once again celebrated Independence Day. Amidst all the barbecue and fireworks, some took a moment to contemplate freedom, what it means, how precious it is, and how grateful we are for it. These days, your customers and prospects can do the same.

There was a time not so long ago consumers were not liberated. They had perceived choices, but not real choices. Brands often operated with outright contempt for them. Corporations granted themselves near-parental authority over them, punishing with fees or other penalties for “bad” behavior.

It didn’t matter if the product or service was lousy. Companies didn’t have to listen to complaints, much less do anything about them. No need to value the customer, their time or their patronage. If a brand lost some of them, who cared? It was “give us your money, and we’ll give you the least and worst we can get away with yet still stay in business.”

Not a pretty picture for the consumer; no power, no voice, no recourse. It’s jarring how many companies still try to operate the way they did before…the revolution. But there was indeed a revolution, one that gave the public their freedom from arrogance, hubris, and neglect. It empowered and connected them so that together, their voices and the force of their collective will could no longer be ignored.

Overdramatic? Maybe. But now that we’ve been living in the post-social era awhile, we tend to forget or take for granted that social media literally facilitated the fall of dictators and altered the course of world history. It’s still doing that today. So maybe it’s not overly dramatic at all to point out just how different the world is for consumers and brands now vs. before Facebook and Twitter.

Today, horrible products, horrible service, bad experiences, etc. get called out quite publicly. This happens almost instantaneously, while the consumer is enduring the bad experience (that’s when they’re most motivated to talk about it). This anti-PR is distributed in the blink of an eyelash to a vast, pre-built network of friends, and friends of friends. If you’re lucky, it’s only on one social platform, but it could just as easily go out on several.

Mobile, snowballing rapidly when it comes to digital and social usage, facilitates this even more. We spend 130 minutes a day with smartphones and tablets, and 84% of us can’t go one day without using our mobile. The customer is always on, always connected, always communicating, no matter where they go. You will not dodge a bad recommendation bullet if you deserve one.

The consumer is also now free from lack of information. 70% of consumers research online before buying in-store, after using about 10.4 sources of info to decide. Anytime, anywhere, from a variety of trusted sources, they can learn about you, a product you sell or the service you give. 82% of the 18-34 demo says friends’ posts directly influenced their purchase, and 53% recommend products with tweets. Your reputation is now everything. Everything.

Ironically, now that consumers are free, they’re willing to give you private data about themselves! But they no longer have to give something for nothing. In return, they expect better, more personalized user experiences and service. Tech listening tools give companies anticipation engines with which to know (and care) who the customer is and what they like. If you can use that data to teach the customer better personalized solutions, even better.

Social having turned the world on its head, now customers are the ones making sure you behave. They not only care that you’re conducting business the way they think you should, they even care about your corporate values. Companies with a culture and philosophy that resonates best with their target audience will win. Your customers are looking for honesty, transparency, and humanlike qualities.

But in this revolution, there are no losers. There’s plenty of reason for customer and brand to celebrate the public’s newfound power and independence. Corporations are being “encouraged” to be better at everything they do. Success now rests in the quality of the products, the attentiveness and care of the customer service at every touch point, and the well-earned trust of the customer…all things that, done right, result in additional longevity and prosperity that wouldn’t be there were it not for the empowered consumer.

Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Jan 22, 2013

Social Customer Service: The CX Dream

sleepy catIn our last blog, we touched on the importance of listening and responding when social users reach out to the brand. Today, let’s go a bit deeper into just how much customers want to use social for this purpose, and bigger picture – how the right social customer service execution gets you significantly down the road toward the dream CX.

The days of “you’ll take what we give you” are over. Not only are customers empowered by social to amplify experiences both positive and negative to peers, they’re also empowered to set their own customer experience expectations.

No, you didn’t set those expectations, but it’s your task to address them. Failing to do so makes your dream CX more of a nightmare. When expectations are violated, the result is frustration, anger, resentment, and ill will. Also, friends are told the sad story of how the customer was “done wrong.”

Entire books have been written on CX. Thick ones. But as a loyal Social Spotlight reader, I’ll boil CX success down for you in two phrases.



Class dismissed.

That’s it. Nail those two things and you’ve built a dream CX. Unfortunately, as obvious as that sounds, organizations are quite tangled up and bogged down in their efforts to deliver it.

A recent infographic outlined how customers are connecting with brands and how they increasingly want to. The top 3 ways they’re connecting are quite traditional; phone (84%), email (80%) and company site (72%).

Though they’re traditional and have been around forever, the CX in these areas is often still a nightmare. Multi-level phone trees designed to keep you away from humans and that never seem to offer the option you need, automated form-response emails followed by radio silence, and site navigation resembling cluttered mazes even the most skilled lab rat couldn’t negotiate their way through in under a day.

Increasingly, customers are trying to get satisfaction through social and mobile. Why? Partly because the social networks instantly solve the “easy to use” dream. Customers are using platforms they already know, so on the customer-facing side, the social networks are doing half the brand’s CX job for them.

That leaves the other half, “delivers the desired result.” And that’s where bad traditional CX threatens to extend itself to bad social/mobile CX if not addressed.

The infographic tells us 56% of customers who connect with social feel a stronger connection to the brand, and 50% are more likely to buy from a brand they can contact with via social. There’s the opportunity customers are offering.


-79% of smartphone users say they always or sometimes know more about the product/issue than the brand’s customer service rep (!)
-80% of smartphone users still haven’t been marketed to by their favorite brands via mobile (!!)

The socially enabled enterprise can pull social/mobile customer touch points into an overall CRM system so that integration with traditional customer service vehicles benefits and informs both, in every customer interaction. Inquiries can be easy for customers to make, and the answers they get back can be fast and usable.

They’ll think they’re living in a CX dream.

Photo: stock.xchng


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