The Customer is NOT Always Right

Finally, a refreshing take on online customer reviews.  Read it here. Ultimately, some customers will complain and as a business owner you may have to pick and choose the best solutions instead of getting bogged down with this 1 or 2% of your client base.  Trying to hard to please a customer may constantly raise the raise expectations for you and your employees.  A chronic complainer is toxic to your business – sometimes you have to ask if the cost of fixing the problem exceeds the long term revenue the customer will bring in.



7 Steps to SMB Social Nirvana

When the team at The Social XChange pitches a client on how our company can help them successfully navigate the world of Social – the first question they skeptically ask is “why should we hire you?”  Now for anyone that has sold anything or attempted to win new clients, this is GO time.

To effectively close the deal you have to be ready with your best stuff – highlighting the processes used to construct a unique strategy for development, implementation and management of their Social presence.

Communicating the bottom line cost to the customer is also important, but we have found that smart business owners know if an easy to understand process is in place, the chances for success increase and they are less skeptical and more receptive to your services.

We have encountered quite a few small and medium businesses who truly want to believe they can handle everything “in house”.  In some cases this may be true, especially if the owner(s) are tech savvy or have prior marketing experience.  However, time is money and adding the equivalent of another 20-40 hours to their work week can be a game changer.

In order to quickly demonstrate the benefits of working with our team, we put together the “7 Steps to SMB Social Nirvana”.  The process has been specifically designed not only get a company off the ground but provide a road map for short and long-term ROI.

#1 – Define goals, benchmarks and direction.  The company needs a plan for who will update content, how much time will be spent on Social and how much new and repeat business can be generated from a formal strategy.  As for direction, do they want to generate leads, develop the company brand, improve customer service or simply provide information to customers?

#2 – Setup Social sites.  The Social XChange believes that companies should start with just a few sites – Facebook is an excellent first choice, Google + is another.  This will help “get their feet wet” in the short-term.  A dedicated website would come next, with Twitter, Pinterest, Linked In and other social sites to follow.  Less is more so a company does not get overwhelmed at the outset.

#3 – Develop a Social Calendar.  The successful business owner knows that planning ahead is critical to keeping their company profitable for the long-term.  Creating a Social calendar will help coordinate sales, holidays and special events with Social.  There are many excellent “ready to use” templates on the web – visit Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner or simply search for the best fit.

#4 – Own GEO.  If the company has a physical address that customers visit, GEO is normally already setup and simply needs to be owned and managed.  Facebook and Google places, as well as Foursquare can help get your business or location onto News Feeds when customer (or employees) “check in”.  Ensure each service is contacted to set up the “official” sites.

#5 – Monitor and manage consumer review pages.  Sites such as Yelp, City Advisor, Angie’s List and review pages from Google +, MSN and Yahoo are where your customers go to give a thumbs up or down, along with a detailed account of their experience.  You can own your “official” sites too – in order to respond to or assist customers who have had a poor experience.  Don’t forget your local BBB pages.

#6 – Publicize your Social Channels.  If you have a web presence, customers can find you simply by doing a quick browser search.  However, the key is to encourage engagement by creating a bond with everyone that comes through your door.  Signage, business cards, even flyers and receipts with Facebook, Google + or other social logos will prompt visits to your sites on the web.

#7 – Listen and Analyze.  There are some excellent tools available to monitor the web for mentions of the business, free Google Alerts can be an excellent first step.  In addition, there are tons of free and paid tools available to manage, measure and analyze your web presence and its effectiveness. Click here for an excellent article from Social Media Today on the Top 50 Tools.

So there you have it, the 7 step process used by The Social XChange to help small and medium businesses succeed with Social.  Explaining these methods will give the business owner a greater appreciation of the effort required and demonstrates how a cohesive strategy will create a competitive advantage for the company.

Short, simple, easy to understand – and an effective way to answer the question “why should we hire you?” and move the conversation to “when can you start”?

Confessions of a Customer Service Agent – I hate customers!

Customer Service Week for 2013 was celebrated October 7-11.  During the event, The Social XChange team interviewed more than two dozen customer service agents representing retail, banking, casual food service, utilities, technical support and telecommunications to better understand the issues facing service professionals.

In this second part of a four part series, we asked agents about the new focus on “voice of the customer“, Net Promoter Scores and having customers in the driver’s seat when attempting to resolve their issues.

Some of the results were not surprising – of the more than two dozen agents interviewed, 88% were aware of the “voice of the customer” and NPS.  These agents are regularly scored by customers for ease of doing business with their company, if their issue was resolved and how likely they are to recommend the company to others.

Of the 88%, more than half felt that that the rating scale was unfair or skewed.  Also, since surveys only cover a small portion of the customer contacts they have on a daily basis, one bad survey can ruin an otherwise excellent monthly or quarterly scorecard.  Customer responses can also be credited to the wrong agent, further skewing the numbers and agent productivity.

A key takeaway for management – almost all the representatives voiced the opinion that they were not trained on or had been briefed as to how NPS and “voice of the customer” data fits into overall customer strategy – the most common question was “what are they doing with that information?”

Although companies are finally listening to customer needs and wants, many have not created the front line buy in or communicated a coherent strategy to make NPS truly effective for their organization.

One result from the survey which was surprising but not unexpected –  nearly 100% of the group had a negative or extremely negative view of the customer with the majority  surveyed believing that customers do not respect them or their profession.

On the heels of customers running amok during Black Friday, as well as a recent incident at a Red Lobster restaurant where a waitress was pummeled for bringing the wrong type of shrimp, service representatives feel they are fighting a losing battle against customers who cannot or will not be satisfied – and a significant number (more than 75%) say they lack the support of their company in dealing with these types of customers.

We have all heard customers say from time to time “I really hate company X”, but in this age of customer engagement and the “voice of the customer”, some seasoned service professionals believe the feeling may be mutual.

Tomorrow: Part 3 of our Series – Management Support?

Confessions of a Customer Service Agent

Customer Service week is an annual celebration held in the first week of October (In 2013, CSW ran from October 7-11).  Unique events including front line feedback forums and excellence recognition are sprinkled throughout each day of the week.  The customer service area is decorated, prizes are won and food is normally served to the entire group.

During the 2013 event, The Social XChange team set out to interview customer service agents in a variety of industries to uncover and spotlight the most pressing issues facing the CSR and how it affects they way they do their job.  Included in our research were questions about how agents deal with the “voice of the customer”, Net Promoter Scores and closed end feedback.  In addition, we were curious to know if agents feel they receive the proper support and tools from upper management and whether they believe their position better fits “customer recovery” instead of “customer service”.

Over the course of Customer Service Week, The Social XChange talked with more than two dozen customer service agents representing retail, banking, casual sit down food service, utilities, technical support and telecommunications.  The results (in four parts) will be published on this blog over the course of the next few days.  Surprising results and comments to follow!