From Social Selling to Social Service- a new paradigm

This is a guest blog for a company that I personally have a great deal of respect for: Digital Leadership Associates. Given that they are world renowned thought leaders in Social Selling, I thought it would be worth considering the growing role of Social in Customer Service.

In these days of customer empowerment, it is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. Customer frustration or dissatisfaction boils over onto our Social feeds. In the past, we would either have shrugged our shoulders or written to complain. The growth in Telephony enabled us to vent at poor Customer service Agents. However, the Internet now offers all sorts of possibilities to make Suppliers squirm. Social Complaining has now even got a monetary value according to The Spectator.

The example below was typical of many others and the response emphasizes the dilemma now being faced by many organisations.

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Customers are using the potential for posts to go “viral” to get something done. This method bypasses traditional complaints management processes and has the ability to cause damage right up to the highest levels of an organisation.

The challenge for Organisations is complex and multi faceted. How to save face, how to treat ALL customer fairly, irrespective of channel, how to respond, how to be proactive etc

So what can Suppliers do?

Firstly, recognise the way in which your customers wish to engage you through Social Media. It may not be to complain but to ask questions or even compliment you.  The major UK pub chain, Wetherspoons, recently announced its decision to close its Social Accounts

I do not see that this will help Wetherspoons in remaining engaged with or “connected” to their customers. It is the first public example I have seen of burying your head in the sand. It will not stop people from commenting about the brand whether positively or negatively. However, it will reduce the costs of administering their Social Accounts.

Secondly, identify the Social Channels that you are committed to and learn how to use them professionally. Like anything else, the likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are tools that in the right hands can do good, in the wrong hands can harm. Make sure you post appropriately, integrate to conventional channels and “listen” to the noise to detect early signs of an issue.

There was a famous Australian example as long ago as 2009 when a bank turned a customers Twitter rant into a positive outcome. However, this merely encouraged others to get quicker and more fruitful outcomes by taking to Social Media. However, at least they were listening and mitigated any reputational damage to their brand.

Finally, consider how Social can help you create genuine differentiation through service. Why not encourage users to engage with you and use social to get answers to questions, chase up orders and get a more personalised service. The technology exists to do some pretty amazing things and it starts by understanding the persona’s who engage with you and their particular journeys. Design from the “outside-in” and incorporate Social service within these journeys.

My hope is that Social evolves from being a tool used by complainers to getting quick results through “shaming” into a media which is used by organisations to offer outstanding service excellence negating any need for people to rant. I can live in hope….

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Ryanair= Good CX? Really?

Air travel is an emotive subject. Especially if you are (like me) a keen traveller and (like me) have an opinion on anything that frequently fails to meet your expectations. My wife says its just part of becoming a grumpy old git but, nevertheless, flying does stir up my emotions. This is particularly true given that I am a qualified pilot…even though you wouldn’t want to fly with Davey Airlines (see below)

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Therefore, when I read this post by Sampson Lee, I was equally intrigued and irked. Could the author really be making a case for Ryanair to be delivering “good” CX? His logic is based on the principle upon brands delivering on its promise. Ryanair does not compete on service. It is a low cost airline. It is ‘no frills’ and my experience of flying with them left me vowing never to choose them again, even if at the time, I was flying with a wife and 4 kids with all the luggage that entails. For my experience wasn’t about service. I had low expectations. I did not expect a meal, comfy seat or a back massage. I did expect courtesy, communication and professionalism. On those scores, I was disappointed.

Since that experience 15 years ago, Ryanair has often made the press for the wrong reasons. Indeed, I was in full agreement with Colin Shaws post citing his opinion of Ryanair’s CX. However, Sampson Lee argues that Ryanair is profitable and delivering on its brand promise. I cannot disagree but does that constitute the basis of good CX?

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I agree with Sampson in that CX is not just about customer service. A great customer experience can often be about making a buying process easier (just look at Amazon’s one click process) or providing a much valued opt in notification that allows you to make more informed choices. It does not have to be a premium based service. To provide a “wow” moment, it takes innovation, outside-in thinking and a culture of customer empathy.

Let me give an example of great CX that made me go Wow and has retained my loyalty, despite my previous leanings towards travelling with Uber.

My local taxi firm, Betty’s, is trying hard to compete with far larger companies and, of course, Uber. They are, in my view, incredibly cheap already and many of the drivers are both courteous and dependable. They released an app which, for a small company, is very useful allowing you to both book and track your cab. I find this very useful but, these days, it is almost the norm. The way they wowed me was over the holiday period in December and January.

I received a notification telling me that their fares would remain EXACTLY the same over the Christmas and New Year periods. I was amazed. Not only am I used to seeing premiums being charged at busy times but also customers expect to pay more. The Uber pricing model dictates this. Just try getting an Uber late at night.

This decision exceeded my expectation as a customer and helped reinforce my pride in my local cab firm. I use them all the time and never bother to go anywhere locally on Uber.

This rather reinforces the argument that good CX is not about a premium service experience. How often have you gone online expecting to find something difficult or confusing only to say “wow, that was easy”? That, in my book, is a great customer experience. Conversely, an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) which passes you from pillar to post, or voice recognition that misinterprets your command is a bad customer experience, despite the intention to make your life simpler!!!

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In conclusion, I think the delivery of outstanding Customer Experience is about far surpassing a customers expectations. The “wow” factor. It could be service related and you might pay a premium for that service. However, I content that for a brand to be recognised as one delivering outstanding CX and worthy of customer advocacy, then it needs to exceed a customers preconcieved expectation. In my book, Ryanair does not do this and does not deliver good CX. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

The Art Of Losing Customers

It takes a certain combination of events to lose a customer. It is rarely just a single event. It could be cost, customer service, poor quality or maybe just a stronger brand luring the customer to “churn”. Often it is a combination that create that “tipping point” when the customer either consciously or sub-consciously says “that’s it…I’m off”.

In my day job, I hear and learn about good and bad customer experiences and how organisations deal with it. I recently met with a leading Aussie Restaurant chain who are now moving to a model whereby they are valuing their customers and pretty much starting to refund customers on most basic complaints. The point being that the lifetime value of a satisfactory resolution far outweighs the short term cost of a voucher (given by way of a refund). Smart.

At the other end of the spectrum, last week I had an incident with Telstra, Australia’s former State, and now privately owned National telecommunications provider. I even used to work for them and swallowed the cool aid whereby Telstra were doing all sorts of initiatives to improve the customer experience.

In my opinion, the product is good and although premium priced, meets my needs for Internet, Mobile, 4G Remote wifi and Home Phone. I spend $225/month with Telstra and have done so for several years. I had never considered churning. I was loyal. However, in the space of 60 minutes that all changed.

The issue arose when I moved home. I ordered the new home connection in good time and everything was set up and good to go. On the day we moved in however, there was no phone signal to the house. I rang Telstra who were very good in attempting to troubleshoot the issue. However, they soon concluded that an engineer needed to fix the issue. As I often work from home, I was without broadband so had to use my 4G Remote wifi dongle in order to work.

Telstra took about a week to fix the issue and everything was good….until I got the bill.

I had been charged for a Broadband service for the week when I had no service and, to make matters worse, had gone over my monthly 4G Remote Wifi limit and had been charged $120 ($10/GB for 12GB) extra for this cost. Of course, if I had my Broadband service (which gives me 1000 GB/month), this wouldn’t have happened.

Therefore I rang Telstra to get the bill changed. The first lady was a generalist and was not empowered to resolve my issue. She was very helpful and courteous but took almost 30 mins to come to the conclusion that she could not do anything and that my call had to be “escalated” to Customer Complaints.

The Manager then at first failed to understand the issue. He tried to argue that I should not have used my wifi dongle. I tried to explain that I needed to use it in order to work but this seemed to fall on deaf and, dare I say it, ignorant ears. He then said the “best offer” he could give me was for $97. I asked why not the full $120 and the pro rate rebate for my Broadband service. He said it was not the policy to do this and he was only doing this by “breaking the rules”. I was now querying why Telstra would have such an inflexible policy and realised that he also wasn’t empowered to act in the customers best interest. He clearly had a maximum % that he could “refund”.

This got me cross and I asked to speak to his senior. “I am the most senior” he said, continuing with “if you are not happy, I won’t give you the offer and I’ll close the case as ‘customer dissatisfied”. By now, I was beyond dissatisfied. I told him what I thought of both his personal attitude and of Telstra’s so called customer centric strategy.

Interestingly, no more than 15 minutes after I both tweeted and posted a whinge on LinkedIn, he rang back with a “change of heart” and promptly reinstated my $97 rebate. It isn’t the $145 I should have received and it doesn’t allow for the lost income during the hour long call.

The lesson from this is very clear. I’m worth $3000/year to Telstra. In arguing vehemently over an amount that represents less than 5% of this amount, Telstra might lose one customer at $3000/year. However, that is not the whole story. In the first 24 hours, my LinkedIn post had over 5000 views. Not viral as such but how much black paint needs to be dripped into a white paint pot before it becomes discoloured?

So, will I churn? Probably not. I can easily put this down to one poorly trained guy who needs to be empowered and to learn the art of customer empathy. However, it has shifted my position from being loyal to being “open” to move providers.

Is this a good or bad Customer Experience? My Australia Day BBQ

How could a great Customer Experience possibly spoil an Australia Day BBQ?

I’m all for technology enhancing my overall experience. But not when it gets between me and an Aussie BBQ.

It was Australia Day and we had friends and family over to our home enjoying the Public holiday celebration with the traditional dips in the pool, cold wine and, of course, the delights of my culinary skills on the BBQ.Just as I was about to serve, a phone call. Thinking it must be important, I left my Snags, Corn, Burgers and Steaks in the hands of the BBQ gods to answer the phone. Imagine my surprise to hear an automated message from a certain Financial Services provider wishing me a Happy Australia Day!!!

This has led me to think whether this seemingly innocent “customer experience” has added or detracted from my view of their brand. To me, it was intrusive and unnecessary, or maybe I was grumpy because I was hungry. Nevertheless, although well intended, I do not enjoy unsolicited calls even to wish me well. Being automated, it was low cost yet also insincere.

Please people, use technology as a tool to enhance a Customer Experience by all means but please think through whether that experience will add or detract from a customers perception of your brand.

Fortunately, the beers stayed cold, the steak was perfect and I was soon a happy camper again.