Social media is about conversations, about interactions with real people to build real relationships. Social media applies technology to enhance and extend our day-to-day social interactions. In social media, brands can be heroes. How?
5 Tenets of Good Customer Service
1. Listen. Keep your real ears open and your figurative ears open, too, by monitoring the social mediasphere for mentions of your brand (at a minimum).
2. Respond. If you hear something warranting a comment or answer, be there with a thoughtful comment or answer.
3. Engage. Don't broadcast – stimulate and encourage multi-directional conversations.
4. Acknowledge. Give kudos, honor and celebrate others doing good things including customers saying nice things.
5. Serve. Provide heartfelt, deeply respectful customer service and put the customer first.
In the offline world, we call the above 5 actions simply “good customer service.”
I can't be totally surprised that most companies – and even organizations – are not yet adopting social media tools to provide good customer service. The tools are new, unfamiliar, even scary to some.
What floors me are the brands that do not yet adopt “good customer service” offline. Customer service seems more and more like a “luxury” instead of something built into the very fibers of people representing brands.
You should not get a job with a brand if you can't embrace and implement good customer service at every touchpoint and with every interaction. If you're a brand, you should not hire people who don't live and breathe good customer service.
So Many Opportunities, So Much Apathy
Here is a vivid case where company had many touchpoints where they could have been my hero, where they could have overdelivered in my eyes but barely lift a finger on their end just because they were listening. This is what happened – and what did NOT happen...
1.First Contact: I planned to make a reservation at Il Lugano Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale for one night for a romantic rendezvous with my husband. Backstory: We had not seen each other for 5 weeks. We had 2 nights together in Florida but after the first night, we were joining our 3 year old daughter (translation: no more romance). Then we would not see each other again for another week before returning home. I found the hotel on Priceline but called the hotel directly to see if they could do something special for us.
The Opportunity: I told the reservations rep at the hotel about the special night. I asked “could we have a room with a view of the intracoastal?” I opened the door for some kind of acknowledgment.
Good Customer Service Response: “I will do my best, Mrs. Risdahl. It is a very very busy time that weekend so we may not be able to accommodate you, however, I will personally do my best. (Note: I would never know if he actually tried or not but just saying that would give me the warm and fuzzies).
Actual Response: “It is a very very busy weekend. You'll be given what is available when you check in.” (He actually used some kind of hotel jargon about “you get what you get” in terms of rooms but this was the gist).
2.The Quandry: My husband's flight was late, and he missed his connection to Florida. His airline gave him a hotel and food voucher for the night (hero move by US Air). This was on our one and only night at the romantic – and expensive – Il Lugano Hotel. I told this to the front desk - about him missing his flight - and how I was debating whether we could afford one more night at the hotel.
The Opportunity: I'm debating about booking one more night. If I say I will do it, show your appreciation.
Good Customer Service Response: When I booked the second night, say something like “Thank you so much for booking the second night with us. We are so happy to have you for an extended stay.”
Actual Response: That evening: "We'll take care of it." Next Day: “We don't show that you reserved a second night with us.” What?!? Luckily, they were able to extend my stay. No apology for screwing up the night before. What would have happened if I could not get a second night?
Hero? Not really.
3. A Convenience: I was eating breakfast alone at the hotel the following morning when I should have been with my husband having a romantic breakfast in bed. Afterward, I went to get a small plate of pastries to bring up to my room for my husband to have when he arrived from his early morning flight. I told one of the hotel employees my situation and asked if she had something I could use to bring up 2-3 muffins to the room.
The Opportunity: Be helpful.
Good Customer Service Response: Help me put together a nice plate of goodies for my husband who had missed his flight and may not have had breakfast or even lunch by the time he got to the hotel that afternoon.
Actual Response: “We are not allowed to let guests bring anything to their room.”
Subsequent Response: She snuck a to-go box to me. “Please don't let anyone see this or I will get in trouble.” Hero? The employee WAS a hero but clearly the company made it impossible for her to be a hero without serious, detrimental repercussions.
4. Something Special: I was waiting anxiously outside the hotel the following day for my husband's arrival by taxi. As he was waiting to pay the cab driver, he and I were embracing and telling the taxi cab driver about our “plight” and how we only had 2 hours for our reunion and then we'd be joing family for rest of weekend. The bellhop from the hotel was listening and so was another man in a suit who I recognized as a hotel manager. He walked up to us and asked about our situation. I told him. He asked for our room number. Hmmmm... After, I said to my husband “Wow, maybe the hotel will do something special for us!” figuring the hotel manager was moved by our romantic story.
The Opportunity: Do something, a tiny thing, to acknowledged that your customers are valued. Listen to their stories. Identify opportunities to shine in customer service.
Good Customer Service Response: Send up a bottle of wine to our room (cheap is fine!) or give us a free dessert at the luxe restaurant in the hotel.
Actual Response: NOTHING.
What is wrong with this picture? Why do companies not only fail to be heroes but make it dangerous for their own employees to be heroes in small but significant ways? Help me understand this, please!