Customer service is very important, it’s a fact every company knows. But not every company understands how to handle customer service on the internet and in the social media. This creates problems when customers expect you to communicate through these channels.
The Swedish blog The Artopod Experience has written a really good blog post (Google Translate) that summaries four important points of consumer service on the internet. Here’s an inspired list translated to English:
The standard way to handle customer service on the internet today, is by e-mail. Customers know how to use it, and get pissed off if you’re company doesn’t have e-mail, or doesn’t answer it fast enough. This is just a start and something every serious customer service has to use.
A tip from us at Twingly is to make the communication more personal. Have pictures of those who are answering your e-mail on the company’s website. Send your answers from firstname.lastname@example.org , and not by email@example.com. Don’t use standard phrases with a copy-and-paste-feeling in your answers. Make it personal and those who contact you will be nicer to you. It’s easy to be harsh towards a faceless brand, but not to an fellow human being.
2. Frequently Asked Questions, FAQ
It’s the easiest and most effective way to reduce the number of incoming questions, saving both time and expences for the consumer service. Could be a page on the website with regular text, instruction movies or a giant database of information.
3. Answer questions where your customers ask them
This is something new that, through the quite recent development of social media, has become a necessity. Many of your customers may no longer come to your site or send you an e-mail, they simply ask a question on their microblog, blog, social network or forum instead, and get helped. It’s of course all good and well when the customers are helping each other out, but it’s not the only thing they are doing. Instead of just being a kind question in a forum: “How do I get it work?” it can become really bad PR: “This crap doesn’t work! Don’t buy it!”. It’s in many ways very important to handle this type of customer service yourself, even if it’s difficult to get control over it. But if you as a company don’t listen and act, you can’t influence what is said about you. Be a part of the discussion on the microblogs, blogs, social networks, and so on, and think of it as a way of not just treating your customers well, but also creating PR in a positive manner.
To do this in a proper way, you have to monitor social media every single day. The easiest and probably best way to do it, is to subscribe to search results in blog search engines like Twingly, microblogs search engine like Twitter Search and use Google Reader.
4. Let the customers help to solve the problem together with you
Another simple and really useful tool for customer service 2.0, is Get Satisfaction. Here’s a forum for both customers and official representatives from companies, that works as a customer service community. Customers can ask questions and get help both from official representatives and other customers. Companies can ask what customers really want. Get Satisfaction can also be implemented and used on your own site via an API, which Spotify does very well.
So what is really happening?
The internet has changed what customer service essentially is, in many different ways. One of the key issues is that every little problem could become bad PR. 20 years ago only the neighbors and friends of a disappointed customer learned that “this product doesn’t work so it sucks, don’t buy it”. Today the same message could be on microblogs, forums and blogs and that way hundreds of people might get the information. In real-time. Every single customer can reach a lot of people, and the message will stick, through search results, search traffic and such.
When customers have become real-time influencers, your company’s customer service and communication has to be fast, open and attentive. As a company you can no longer wait for your customers to come to you with their questions – you need to find them, and know where and how they are talking about you.
It’s quite a big revolution.