The Conversocial team recently attended our industry's leading event, the Social Media for Customer Service Summit. Over the following weeks, I’ll be bringing a recap for those who missed it – best practice from Zappos, FedEx, Samsung, Hilton, McDonalds, jetBlue, Verizon and more. Today, proactive customer service.
Please, let’s stop just fire-fighting
Another recurring theme at this year’s summit was proactive outreach to customers; going beyond firefighting and delighting customers before it’s expected. This really is the next level of customer service – where the possibilities of social media are a game changer. Companies are hearing things they never would have heard before, and are in a position to do something about it. Alon Waisman, Social Media Operations Manager at GoDaddy brought attention to a great opportunity for social customer care; creating positive sentiment, not just neutralising the negative. At GoDaddy, the team is trying to get ahead of customers coming to them for help. Fufiling this expectation can only get you so far in their estimations. But getting in there first gives you the chance to surprise and delight – just by showing you’re listening.
Similarly, Four Seasons uses proactive outreach to identify those customers that aren’t happy, but haven’t taken their concerns to the front desk. One example shared by Andrew Gillespie, Manager of Guest Services, was an Instagram shared by a guest unhappy with their room view. Four Seasons didn’t just step in to apologise, they coordinated with hotel staff to resolve the issue. The proactive outreach this guest received encouraged them to post a follow up picture of a much better view – sharing the positive experience with the rest of the world. It’s possible to go way beyond a thank you with great customer care.
Caring or meddlesome?
But of course, just because you can hear a whole lot more being said about your brand doesn’t mean that everything is an opportunity for proactive customer service. What are the lines between what will delight and what will frighten your customers? When is it appropriate to butt into the conversation? Different brands had different takes on this at the summit. For Samsung, it’s about the channel. Around 99% of the time it’s acceptable to reach out on Twitter, because consumers know this is a very public platform. We’re used now to the idea that brands are on Twitter too, and can pick up what we’re saying.
For others, it was about the customer, giving a new interpretation to klout scores and influencers. Rather than an assessment of who deserves a response, these details might be an indication of how much someone might be expecting one. More socially savvy consumers might have a better idea of brands’ monitoring behaviour than Twitter novices, or those of a certain demographic. But when picking up on general negativity rather than specific complaints, tone is key. The approach must be soft and humble, letting them know you’re there if wanted, but never pushy.
What’s new about advocates?
So all this is about creating advocates. Yes, you delight that individual and they will hopefully be more attached to your company when it comes to doing business in the future. But the real benefit of proactive customer service is that it’s public.
What was key for all social customer care professionals in this discussion, however, was that a customer care influencer should be considered very differently to advocacy in the marketing department. This is about genuine and passionate company-customer relations. It seems advocates don’t actually need a lot of work to get them there – often all it takes is acknowledgement. Most consumers are generally pretty reasonable and expect little more than be heard, satisfied with a public apology.
And customer care advocates are followed, not forced. Whether this will happen for your company depends on how customer-centric you are from the start. This breed of advocacy is organically created, and grounded in genuine good relations. For GoDaddy, an early mover to follow their customers into social media, making an advocate is about treating them right at absolutely every level. A win-win situation for all.
Some companies are taking the idea of the customer care advocate even further, creating self-sustaining community support. Although this has happened naturally for companies such as AVG and GM – who have superfans ‘working for them’ in independent forums - they do what they can to recognize those efforts and show appreciation. AVG gives the ‘hall of fame’ award to customers giving quality help on social channels and Melody Blumenschein, Social Media Manager at General Motors organises similar rewards in connection with the marketing department to those advocating their cars. GoDaddy doesn’t quite have an advocacy program, but recognizes those saying good things about the company online with a pretty neat little initiative: offering rewards in the form of their own customers’ small business products – bringing together advocacy and customer marketing.
These brands recommended giving some through to how you can show appreciation for the VIPs you might already have. But how do you stay in control of your advocacy program? How do you make sure your customers are giving accurate advice through community support and how do you ensure credibility for those individuals? Where do you draw the line between advocates you create with great help from your team and then leaving them to help others themselves?
There are clearly some real benefits to be gained from looking after those who speak highly of you, but what was most notable from this discussion was the opportunity good social customer service brings to create value for your company in quite a simple way. Businesses should seize the chance to delight their customers and create advocates while it’s still a surprise. Who knows what our expectation will be in 5 years’ time.
How do you manage proactive customer service in your company, and how do you make it work for your business? What's the value in this kind of outreach?
Don't forget to catch-up with part 1 of our series of recap posts from Useful Social's Customer Service Summit, How to Get the Perfect Social Customer Service Team: Lessons from FedEx, Zappos, Samsung and more.