Dealing with Customers, Issues in Realer than Real Time




“The only one that thinks that this is a game is you, man. This is real. We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human spirit is still alive” – Grommet, “Point Break,” 20th Century Fox, 1991

You probably won’t believe this but companies are spending millions every year on their Customer Relations Management (CRM) systems. In fact, it’s about a $13B market with more than $1B being spent on Social Media CRM, the fastest growing segment of the product category. We know what you’re thinking right now – “Well they could pick up the **** phone,” “They could respond to my Facebook post,” “They could answer my Tweet complaint.” True, but CRM systems aren’t really about you. O.K., they are and they aren’t because companies really do want/need their customers. These elaborate, expensive systems are more about the company’s sales, marketing and service areas and using the rich data that social media produces about the competition, customers, prospects. It’s about seeing buying patterns emerge so future products can be delivered to the customer. CRM is about pinpointing where product problems are occurring so they can be resolved/solved before everyone in the marketplace knows they exist. Bodhi saw what was going on and said, “This is stimulating, but we’re out of here.” If the focus of CRM was on the customer, then service and support would take the lead and then it would move outward in the organization. Instead, communications starts by monitoring social media, marketing becomes involved, then it moves to service/support/response and finally throughout the organization.

Wrong Starting Point – CRM doesn’t start with trying to figure out what your message should be to attract, sell more customers. Instead, CRM should begin at the point where you’re the strongest (or weakest) with the customer by tracking strengths and weaknesses in products, services, systems. In today’s increasingly online world, it is the consumer who determines what is good/bad, strong/weak about a company, brand, product. Customer relations is such a marketing-driven activity that marketing folks were everywhere at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event late last year; and Gartner has been hyping their Magic Quadrent for CRM systems.

You Don’t Control Relationships
The problem with the event and Magic Quadrent is that all of the technology focus and discussion was on controlling customer relationships, not using the technology to support and streamline the relationships. We realize we’re being overly simplistic; but the customer should be at the center of the activity, not marketing and communications because without that singular drive/focus, we end up with a heckuva’ system that talks to itself. Communications, marketing people clamor for, beg for, pay for Facebook Likes and Twitter followers. That’s sorta’, kinda’ cool we guess; because what the heck, everyone wants people to like them and everyone wants people to follow them.

Who wouldn’t? But what about the lost, confused customer who has an issue, a problem, a question? Next to a phone call or online support team, you’d think that a Tweet to the entire world would be a great way to get someone’s immediate attention and assistance. It doesn’t quite work that way according to customer experience research company Maritz Research.

Talk to Me – Most of the problems, issues and complaints don’t come from Twitter and other social media users, it is just that they are the most visible and can create the greatest amount of noise that you have to wonder why they are so widely ignored. Or, do the huge outcries only happen with “the other guys?” They found that nearly half of the consumers who tweeted a brand complaint expected the company to respond-or at least to read their tweet. It turns out only a third of them received a tweeted response. Even if it wasn’t the complete solution the Twitter complainer wanted, Maritz found that 75 percent of the people who heard back were satisfied with the company’s response.

Silos Defeat Support
Most departmentalized (siloed) organizations feel that responding to customer complaints/issues should be handled solely by customer service, but prompt response even if it’s to say “I hear you and will get you to the right people,” gives people a positive impression about the company and the brand. That’s probably why Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines, was a key speaker at Dreamforce. You’re probably saying it wouldn’t take much for an airline to rise to the top of customer engagement/service in the airline industry, but Virgin’s efforts would put many of your favorite brands to shame. When consumers tweet @VirginAmerica during their travels-whether it be a question about the airline’s in-flight entertainment or a complaint about a flight delay-the airline does its best to respond. As Bohdi said, “Ain’t it wild? That’s what makes it so interesting.” Having someone respond right away, especially an airline, has got to spook (and impress) you. Finding out the company actually listens and responds is probably why Virgin has such a repeat customer rate. Companies and brands that respond reap huge benefits … it’s that simple! Management takes it for granted that customer service handles everything; but according to the Maritz study, 71 percent of the Tweeters didn’t get a response … from anyone in the company. That’s a pity because firms make a big deal about having flat organizations and being open that the customer should be everyone’s responsibility … he/she is the reason you’re in business.

Solve it First
Especially when acknowledging a query, fixing a problem, assisting a customer can yield such big returns.

Thank You – Customers who get results from companies because of their Twitter problems or questions almost universally appreciate the company and the product more. Those who hated the outreach would probably never have been satisfied. The Maritz study found that 83 percent of the people who heard from the company liked or loved being contacted. Only four percent didn’t like the contact. Of course, there are also those responses that dodge the complaint and try to sell the Tweeter some more product. It happens … honest.

Don’t Ignore Them – While responding to requests for assistance, information over Twitter may be uncomfortable; ignoring people online is almost like ignoring them face-to-face. People want to be heard–and often– so just listening is enough. But no matter what your company sells, how good the products/services are, you’re going to experience negative word of mouth, complaining Tweets. Stuff happens. Things break, problems arise, employees have bad days. It happens to the best of us; and this can be an opportunity to convert angry and upset customers into loyal supporters. It’s so satisfying Bodhi exclaimed, “100% pure adrenaline!” It takes a little work; but in the word of mouth (WOM) environment, it’s important to remember that unhappy customers talk to 5 people, and formerly unhappy customers you win back talk to 10.

Reasons that US Social Network Users Discuss Products/Services on Social Network Sites
People Compare, Share – While it might seem that the only time you see a customer online is when he/she has an issue and wants to share it, that’s far from the truth. Today’s Twitter and other social media users want to know about products, product problems/issues that are similar to theirs so they can solve the issues themselves and to get ideas on how to best use their products, systems, services.

When They’re Hostile
When you encounter an attack Tweet; before responding, remember:
- Not all negative comments are worth a response, and not all critics are worth trying to win over. There are blatant attacks that people can quickly see through and they will also ignore them. Some people can’t be satisfied even if you volunteer to let them give you 50 lashes, recognize the type and let them rant to themselves.
- With negative Tweets, time is not on your side. The longer you wait to respond, the angrier the customer will get; and as we see increasingly, others pick up on the issue and spread it until it’s a five-alarm fire.
- Respond like a real person and not a corporate policy robot. People have no problem hollering at a faceless company, but anger fades when a real person says, “I’m Milton, sorry you’re having problems, how can I assist you?”
- You’re trying to resolve one person’s problems/issues; but remember, the two of you are on the Internet stage. People are judging the company and you on how you handle the situation. Don’t argue with the person you’re working with because the moment you do … you’ve lost the discussion.

Companies (and you) are living on the edge and are being constantly tested on how much speed, how much adrenaline you can handle. While brand and communications folks are pushing customers to like, follow, friend, plus, retweet them; consumers want problems/issues solved fast. Faster than fast. Once your company, your brand, your product is on Twitter, on the face of the wave there’s no simply jumping off and walking home. Right now, we’re on the pipeline and there are no firm rules, no speed limits. The market–and consumer expectations–are all moving very, very fast. Just remember what Bohdi said, “Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.” The key for your organization and you to keep in mind is that it’s just like riding a wave. The customer (or wave) may not always be right, but it’s never wrong; and they are there on your screen. Solve the issue and make it to the beach. The last thing you want to hear is someone watching how you.

andym
About the author:
Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. Unable to hold a regular 9-5 job, he has been a marketing and communications consultant for more than ...


  

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