Why Customer Service is Either Black or White
Are your customers and staff fighting poorly thought through processes and systems? Time to define successful outcomes from the customer’s perspective, says columnist Ian Gotts. And the good news is that their expectations are incredibly low.
Many experiences we have with companies is utterly appalling. It leaves us feeling empty, frustrated and bitter. But now we have the mechanism to vent our anger which has real impact: Facebook & Twitter.
These 2 simple tools have allowed consumers to influence and, in some cases, take over brands. Poor customer experience is highlighted, magnified and broadcast. Rarely is good customer experience talked about. The middle ground is ignored.
Here are a couple of very high profile examples:
- BP’s formal Twitter account has 16,000 followers. The anonymously run satirical BP Twitter account @BPGlobalPR has 180,0000 followers.
- United Airlines broke a Dave Carroll’s guitar. He got so pissed off that he did the only thing a musician can – he wrote a song called "United Breaks Guitars". That song on YouTube has had 11 million hits.
At the heart of great customer experiences now has to be social media. It pervades everything we do as consumers and therefore it needs to be factored into the way that companies deliver customer service. But it is not as simple as slapping on a Facebook account, or sending out PR releases to a Twitter account as well as the press.
"Social media... is a way of thinking... It’s not about sales, or ads, or click-through rates. It’s about pursuing relationships and fostering communities of consumers. It’s about rethinking how you make plans when your customers are in the center and in control." - Paul Adams, Senior User Experience Researcher Google
This says it all. Put the customer at the center or the business and design your processes around them. This is Outside In thinking. But this is a major change to the way that many companies think, are organised and operate.
It is such a disruptive change it takes strong competitive pressures or a highly customer focused CEO. It requires process thinking, looking at Customer Journeys or Use Cases or Storyboards. Whatever you want to call the different path a customer can take, via whatever media (phone call, letter, fax, email, tweet, Facebook post), to get from their reason for contacting you to a happy successful outcome – on their terms.
Only once you have that mapped out can you start to design the underlying systems and build the training courses for your staff. This may sound like to takes weeks and months. It doesn’t. It takes days, but days of thinking, discussion and debate. It is hard. At the end of each day you will be mentally exhausted.
What does this look like? FreshBooks, a US online invoicing/accounting service, sums it up in what they call their 4E philosophy: "Execute on extraordinary experiences everyday". FreshBook’s view is that if you don’t back up your promises with action, then you’re just a lot of hot air and bluster. So you’ve got to execute.
If you’re going to do something, just make sure it exceeds people’s expectations. The good news is that people’s expectations are incredibly low. They don’t expect to get a real, live person if they phone you. If you actually answer the phone - you’re extraordinary. If you do what you say you are going to - you’re extraordinary. If you make it easy to do business with - you’re extraordinary.
And this is the difference between black and white.
Black is that none of this is done. The end result is angry, vocal, dissatisfied customers, and equally frustrated and bitter employees. Both sets of people have spent raw energy fighting poorly thought through processes and systems. It wastes time and money.
White is easy. Zen. The customer floats through the process gently guided by systems or your employees. The result is customer advocacy, recommendations and more profitable sales.
It’s your choice. Black or white?