Online communications can make or break your reputation for customer service

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This is the next entry in our “Best of” series, in which we venture deep into the vault to replay blog opinion and insight that has withstood the test of time. Today’s post hails from December 2010. We welcome your feedback.

By Linda Forrest

Customer service is an area of keen interest for us, as those who regularly read this blog will know.

It’s clear that the increased adoption of social media in recent years has had a tremendous, we think positive, impact on customer service. The fact is that online communications can act as a logical extension of effective customer service programs, but can also fail miserably if the organization doesn’t have a solid strategy in place as well as the systems to support that strategy, the people to run it and a commitment to ongoing success in this area.

Am I a customer service expert? No, but I am a life-long consumer, and an adept marketer of technology products and services. These two things combined give me a well-rounded perspective on how online communications, including social media, can be the lynchpin or the undoing of your reputation with customers, prospects and the industry in which you operate.

Let’s first examine the systems that drive your customer relations efforts.

Over the years, through various clients and prospects, we’ve been exposed to a variety of technologies that make the back-end of customer service systems more effective and efficient. Knowing that technologically there is a better way than the impersonal, automated, aggravating methods that many companies deploy, and suffering through these inferior systems is especially painful. We’ve all had the phone ring, only to pick it up and hear dead air while the predictive dialer connects you with an agent. We’ve all started a customer service session on one channel – phone, email, Twitter, live online chat, etc. – to then move to a different channel and have to reiterate all of the basic information all over again, as though the first part of the session never took place.

I know for a fact that there are effective technologies you can adopt that will make support sessions run smoothly. It’s a rare case when a customer calls your support center to report that everything is on track; rather, it’s usually when there’s a problem that they reach out. Why ruffle feathers further with ineffective systems that just add to the aggravation? In a word, don’t.

The fact that in our media-centric world the consumer is empowered to share their thoughts on a product or service, instantly, without barriers, over social media, is both exciting and terrifying, isn’t it? If someone has a great experience, they broadcast it and everyone knows it. If someone has a terrible experience, the same is also true. How you respond to customers – those with kudos and those with complaints alike – is what will determine your reputation at large.

So, you’ve got the right customer support technology in place. The next piece of the puzzle is people. This is a critical part of the equation, especially in this citizen-journalist climate where everyone has multiple broadcast channels of their own, be it YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or the like.

You need to have sufficient team members monitoring these channels for mentions of your brand, good and bad. With a cohesive strategy in place, your team is empowered to respond to brand mentions and engage in reparations where appropriate.

These comments may reside on your own communications channels – forums on your website, comments on your YouTube channel, posts on your Facebook wall, Tweets to your handle, etc. On owned channels, monitoring of the discussion should be an obvious task that’s already taking place. There should be clear customer support mechanisms on your online properties. Don’t make it difficult for your market to interact with you. Obscurity is a fraud to hide nothing.

Savvy companies know that negative feedback is nothing to shy away from. If your customers are not shouting in your ear, they’re shouting in someone else’s about how crappy you are. Better that you know what’s being said about you so can make steps to fix whatever is wrong.

There have been some great posts written about this topic, that I would highly recommend reading if this topic is of interest to you, and it should be, regardless of if you’re in B2B, B2C or a consumer.

B2B Social Media and the Customer Service Funnel

A Loyal Follower Is Hard To Find (And Keep)

Why Social Media is Inseparable From Customer Service

Picture from: Yackie Mobile Blog

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