Tag Archive | Customer Service

10 Tips for Outstanding Internal Customer Service

BlogInternalCustomerServiceProviding good customer service is not only important to external customers, but internally to co-workers as well. I believe that a huge factor in being able to deliver outstanding external customer service (which leads to high levels of customer loyalty and retention) is without question, great internal customer service.

A quote I recently read resonated with how I like to train my team as it relates customer service.

“There’s a remarkably close and consistent link between how internal customers are treated and how external customers perceive the quality of your organization’s services. A commitment to serve internal customers invariably shows itself to external customers. It’s almost impossible to provide good external service if your organization is not providing good internal service.” – Benjamin Schneider, University of Maryland

So, who is an internal customer? A basic definition is anyone within your organization who is dependent on you to meet a goal or deadline. The foundation for outstanding internal customer service is excellent interdepartmental communication and cooperation.

Everyone within your organization affects the outside customer, and virtually everything you’ve read or learned about customer service in general applies to the internal customer.

Here are a few guidelines I live by:

1. Set clear expectations. 

As an internal provider of service, you are responsible for setting clear guidelines about what internal customers can reasonably expect. Last minute requests are typically due to poor planning on the part of the internal customer. However, if someone reaches out to you with a request while you’re working on something time sensitive, talk with them and identify how important his or her task is relative to yours.  If they have unrealistic expectations, explain your workflow, priorities, processes, and timelines. Then, reinforce your goal is to provide top-notch service for them.

2. Always keep customers informed on project progress.

Nobody likes to be blindsided by delays or last minute requests for additional information. I like to err on the side of over-communication. If you’ve finished a portion of the request, let them know the status, and when you plan to complete the rest of the project.

3. Get to know your teammates.

Go to lunch with co-workers in other departments or schedule quick calls just to check in and see what’s happening in their department. At Mediacurrent most of our team works remotely, so it takes a little more effort to get to know everyone, but it’s worth it.

4. Get the “big picture.”

Develop an understanding of how the whole organization works. How does what you contribute fit into the big picture? What do other departments need from you to meet their goals? Think outside of your function and department.

5. Publicize your schedule.

Keep your calendar updated with your schedule for the current week.

6. Always Close The Loop.

When you receive an email that requires additional work or research, let the person know that you received it and you’ll work on it. Do not let it sit in your inbox for days until you get around to working on it.

7. Make your co-workers feel valued.

Recognize them with a smile and call them by name. When someone approaches your desk stop what you’re doing, make eye contact, and be attentive to what they have to say.

8. Develop a positive attitude.

Your attitude is reflected in everything you do. It not only determines how you approach your job and your co-workers, but  it also determines how they respond to you. Avoid complaining. Do whatever it takes to get the job done—and done right.

9. Solve problems.

Great customer service professionals are quick on their feet. Don’t procrastinate, develop a plan of attack, and handle the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible.

10. Identify and anticipate needs.

The more you know your customers (see tip #3), the better you become at anticipating their needs.  Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.

What other tips would you say are crucial to providing excellent internal customer service?


5 Missed Opportunities By The @SprintCare Social Media Efforts.

So, I admit it. I’m spoiled.

I had an excellent interaction with the Home Depot via social media, which set the bar for other companies to treat me as their customer. Besides that, being a huge Social Media (SM) advocate, I know that SM can build great relationships with customers, or help tear them apart.

I recently had an interaction with the Sprint Social Media team.  This post is not intended to “bad mouth” Sprint but rather, in my opinion, show areas of improvement in their SM efforts.

Long story short. A few months back I made the switch from what my buddies called a “sissy texting phone,” to the then brand new HTC Hero. Shortly after the holidays friends started asking me if I received their text messages. I brushed it off for a few weeks, until more and more friends/family began telling me they had tried calling or texting, but I never received them. I took it into a local store, they played with my phone for a few minutes, then sent me on my way. Ensuring me that the problem was fixed.

It wasn’t. And as irritating as it is to have purchased a “lemon,” what is more frustrating is feeling like I need to jump through corporate hoops to get my problem fixed.

I sent an email to the Sprint Customer service team detailing my problems and asking for help. After basically getting nowhere, I reach out via social media to Sprint.

My thinking was that if they were on social media, they knew the importance of authentic interaction and transparency with customers.

My first two tries to interact via Twitter were met by silence. Missed Opportunity 1.

Was no-one actually maintaining their account, or did they not have any searches set-up to find people that were talking about them?

Finally, after asking if anyone was running their account, had two responses. One from @rpesce and the other from the @sprintcare team. I thanked them for responding and asked to be put in touch with someone. I wanted a REAL person. But, I was asked to send a e-mail to sprintcares@sprint.com detailing my problem.

Ok. Fine. I had already sent an email to them a few weeks back detailing my problem, but for the sake of an argument I copied my previous emails and sent a screen shot of the conversation that had taken place on Twitter. (I was hoping their CRM database was robust enough to see I had several interactions with various Sprint reps., and they would escalate this issue.)

A simple follow-up to ensure me my problem was being looked at would have put my mind at ease. Missed Opportunity 2.

Meanwhile, I would expect their Sprint team to follow me on Twitter. After all, I am a customer (have been one for years) wouldn’t they want to connect with me? If nothing else, wouldn’t they rather have a conversation via DM rather than an @ reply?  Missed Opportunity 3.

You read that right. My son had an emergency at school, and they couldn’t leave a message on my phone!

I digress. My e-mail was responded to by another customer service rep. who had no idea what was going on with my problem. So I had to provide additional information to get her up to speed. With @HomeDepot Stephanie reached out to me via Twitter, and she was the one that handled my issue. Missed Opportunity 4.

Finally, thought I was getting somewhere when, Lee, a Sprint technician called me. He ensured me that my problem was a “high priority” and didn’t want to lose me as a customer. He said one of the other technicians would call me within 24 hours to, yet again, gather more details.

72 hours went by and never heard from the other technician. Since I didn’t have Lee’s direct number, I thought the Twitter team might be able to reconnect me with him. I sent a tweet to them asking if they could have Lee call me.

No further questioning. No additional help.  And It’s been almost a month and haven’t heard from anyone else at Sprint. Missed Opportunity 5.

Again, I say, this post isn’t to find fault with Sprint. Though it might seem like I am.

I believe, especially in Social Media, companies have to learn what works and what doesn’t. I simply wanted to show the missed opportunities that the Sprint SM team is having.

Solution to Missed Oppty 1: Search social media for what others are saying so you can quickly respond.
Solution to Missed Oppty 2: Follow-up with customers so they know you are working on their problem.
Solution to Missed Oppty 3: Engage and interact with your customers on social media.
Solution to Missed Oppty 4: Streamline the customer service process.
Solution to Missed Oppty 5: If someone asks a question you don’t know, find someone in the company that does and digg a little deeper.

Again, I thought about blurring Sprint’s name because I didn’t want to bad mouth them, but I think it’s important to show how some companies are understanding and embracing social media, and other’s, though trying to drive ROI on SM, don’t understand the relationship aspect.

What are your thoughts?

10 Essential Rules for Brands in Social Media

I recently read a blog post by Taddy Hall titled “10 Essential Rules for Brands in Social Media.” To be honest, when I first saw it in my google alerts I rolled my eyes thinking it was, yet another, “how to” on social media. Anyone else feel like the “blog-world” is saturated with those posts, that keep repeating the same information.

However, this post went deeper than just “listen first, then engage,” and explained in detail, using fresh analogies, the ins-and-outs on branding using Social Media.

To read the full article click here. But here are a few of my favorite parts:

The 1% Rule
In category after category, our data show that a small fraction of site visitors are responsible for a substantial portion of total site traffic. On average, the percentage of influential users (defined for our purposes simply as a visitor who’s subsequent sharing actions result in at least one additional site visitor) on a given site is 0.6% and rarely above 4%. However, these influencers regularly generate 20%-50% of total site traffic and an even higher share of conversion (defined however a site owner so decides). To make social media marketing effective, marketers have to identify and engage — and better recognize and reward — these super-influentials.

The Power of “Weak Links” Rule
Influentials generally do have many direct “friends” and “followers,” but what makes them truly valuable is the number and relevance of their extended or indirect connections. As Albert-Laszlo Barabasi illustrated in “Linked,” you are far more likely to find your next job through a friend-of-a-friend than through an intimate contact. These “weak links” matter in the “real world,” and they matter even more online. A critical implication for marketers is the need to track the extended social graphs of their content if they are going to be able to understand and activate the dynamics of influence.

The More Things Change Rule
Our research consistently demonstrates that e-mail and IM remain popular ways to share content. So don’t throw out your old e-mail marketing methods just because Facebook and Twitter are the newest communication platforms du jour. The tried-and-true methods of getting customers to share links via e-mail and IM are still extremely valuable sources of traffic. Furthermore, incorporating social elements into your e-mail, such as incentives to share, can dramatically enhance an investment you’re already making.

Finally, I really liked this last section on customer service. I think the best use of social media is when companies come out from behind their “corporate logo” and interact, transparently, with their customers. Personally, when I feel I’ve connected with a company I’m doing business with, I will be one of their “biggest fans” out on social media. And for those companies that don’t connect . . . . well.

The Customer-Service Rule
Social marketing programs succeed when they provide a service to the consumer. Traditional media-planing processes that begin with reach and frequency targets are largely unhelpful in social media. Reach and frequency — as well as engagement, preference and conversion — are positive consequences of giving consumers content that is sufficiently relevant and useful that they propagate your message across their own social graphs. Focus on providing useful content and offers to your target audience and they will spread your messages for you.

What are your thoughts?

“Listen First” – What does that REALLY mean?

I’m a bottom-line kinda guy. I’m always thinking: What’s the point? What’s the real take away from what you are telling me? And unless you’ve lived under a rock in 2009 (or just chose to ignore it), you know that Twitter is big. In fact, it’s  changing the way people communicate with each other.

One piece of advice that social media experts always say is you need to “listen first.” But what does that really mean? Practically, how do you “listen” on Twitter, or other social media sites?

I came across this blog post today via @FishDogs by @TwtrCoach, that I thought summed it up nicely. I’d love to know your thoughts. Also, read my own personal story of how Twitter was used by @HomeDepot to provide outstanding customer service.

Can we provide good customer support on Twitter?

Many of us has read the story on how Comcast used Twitter to become a front runner of good customer support on Twitter. Frank Eliason which is the manager behind @comcastcares is probably the most recognized customer service manager here in the US. He has proved that costumer support can be done on Twitter, and done the right way you can turn a bad apple into a shining star.

We also can use Twitter to provide good customer support for our personal brand.

Strategies for Customer Support on Twitter

1. Listening

One of the most important aspect of providing good customer support, is to become a a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying.

The best ways to listen on Twitter is to use the following tools;

a) Twitter Search

Learn how to use Twitter Search find information about your brand. Do a simple search on your username. If you only put in your username, this will include your own tweets and any time your username is mentioned in anyway. Try then do a search with @username this will narrow it down to anytime someone mention your username on Twitter. There are various search operators you can use to find the exact information you are looking for.

b) tweetbeep is a great service where you can set up defined keywords to look for. These keywords can include your username, your product, your niche or just something you want to keep track off. Every time one of these keywords is mentioned on Twitter this service will send you and email to notify you.

c) Google Alerts helps you keep track off relevant Google information based on your keywords. Again you want to include your Twitter username, your product, your niche etc. This time you will get an alert when a blog or website mention your keywords.

2. Anticipate needs

This require that you get a little more creative. Here you will need a desktop Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Seesmic. Or if you prefer a online Twitter client then you can use Hootsuite. What you want to do here is to use the search option to create columns related to your customer needs.

Here are a couple of examples;

Lets say you are looking for customers that are new to twitter, then you will create a column based on the search term “New to twitter”. And the same if you are looking for customers that are new to blogging, then create a column based on the search term “New to blogging”.

This open doors for you where you can get in a dialog with these customers.

PS. This can also be done on Twitter Search. Make sure either you use a Twitter Client or Twitter Search to provide the search term in apostrophes “xxx”. This will narrow it more down to the info you are looking for.

3. Make them important

You want to treat your customers as individuals. Compliment either a tweet or article they wrote, make sure you then include their @username. This a great way to create trust. And make sure you thank them every time they mention you or your product. If you have 1000’s of followers and many of them start to mention within a short time frame this can be a little tricky. But again you can do this by being a little creative.

Twitter has one feature called Lists. You can create a new list called customer-feedback, where you add everyone that mention your username/product. And then send out a general thank you note recognizing everyone on this list.

4. Be prepared for adversities

You need to be prepared for how you handle negative critique about yourself, or your brand.

Always start out with apologize, and then ask what you can do to fix the problem. Then follow up with 2 – 3 alternatives for what you can do for them. These has to be alternatives you know you are able to provide without any extra cost for the customers.

Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes.

Most adversities is caused by miscommunication or misunderstandings. Therefore also take time to make sure your customers understand your information/product.

Make sure you value your customers critique. Remember critique is a opportunity to improve.

5. Be a ‘Yes’ person

Always look for ways to help your customers. If you get a request or question from you customer that you don’t know the answer to immediate, then inform you will get back to them. Don’t make up a answer that you can’t back up. Do some research.

What if one of your friends ask you on Twitter for a good restaurant in your city. Then why not try and see if you can find out the day and time they wanted to be there; how many will be in their party. After you have acquired this you check up one of your favorite restaurants. Make a reservation according to how many is in the party with the name on their Twitter profile. Find out what the special is that day. Then send them a tweet informing you made reservation for the party at xyz restaurant with link to restaurant at x:xx pm. Recommend them to try out the special of the day..

6. Give more then expected

We all have a image in our mind of what we will get in return for the prize we are willing to pay for a information product.

If I go to the movie theater to see a movie, then I have an idea of how long it will be; who the actors are; the plot; and the prize I have to pay to see it. What if when I came to pick up my tickets the person behind the desk told me that I was customer 150 and was rewarded with two free tickets to any show of my choice. Well then I will get more then I expected for the prize I paid.

With creative info-sharing you can give your Twitter friends more then they expect. Build up tweet anticipation with 3 – 4 exciting tweets about the info. And then guide them to your blog or website where you deliver the info with additional info they did not anticipate. The reason we keep returning back to a blog or website is because we know they keep deliver more then we expect.

7. Encourage feedback

You want to encourage your customer to leave comments/feedback on your blog or website.

Most customers just want to feel they belong, and that someone wants to listen to their needs.

If your customer leave a comment get back to them as soon as possible. Be creative and send your comment as a tweet. Some commenting system has this option incorporated already.

Also if you have the opportunity check out their blog/website and leave a comment there where you thank them for the comments on your blog/website. And then tweet a link of their blog/website.

TIP: Familiarize yourself with Twitter Customer Support

Now it’s your turn;

Have you found creative ways to provide Customer Support with Twitter? Let us know what you do to make difference with your Customer Support on Twitter.

UPDATE: The Power of Twitter for Customer Service.

Last month I told you how the doors that I bought from the HomeDepot leaked and caused my newly installed hardwood floors to buckle. I used Twitter to voice my frustrations with the situation and within two hours the HomeDepot responded to my tweet. They found my tweet by doing searches on social media.

Through numerous @tweets, direct messages, and a few phone calls, HomeDepot came through and are covering the damages in full. What’s even better, is that I was never “bumped” around from department to department as I am when I try to call other companies about issues.

Because of Twitter, they found me and began working towards making me a happy customer once again.

Below are what my floors looked like when they began buckling. They have gotten worse since this photo was taken, but soon this whole ordeal will be behind us! Thanks Stephanie @HomeDepot!

This was our floors soon after they started to buckle. They have since gotten worse.

“. . Twitter . . . Really?” The power of social media for customer service.

My hat is off to Home Depot and their social media savvy customer service reps.

Recently the french doors they installed leaked, causing most of the newly purchased hardwoods in my house to buckle. I tweeted about my frustration with the leaky doors, and within 2 hours, Home Depot has contacted me via Twitter to research the problem.

Not only did they message me, but they actually gave me a specific name and number of a person to call to escalate my issue for faster resolution. Below is an image of the first of many “tweets’ the Home Depot and I had.

Tweets from Home Depot

Tweets from Home Depot

When I told my wife that the problem was being worked out she said “all because of Twitter . . . really?”
Many thanks to Stephanie at the Home Depot; my new “twitter friend”