customer experience

Face-to-face Customer Service Still Matters

I recently wrote about the dangers of disparity between the customer experience in the social media channel and the customer experience in the traditional channel … and the importance of INTEGRATING your brand messages across all channels. We also need to make sure that we integrate our brand messages across platforms – both face-to-face and online.

Real-life example:  I have been involved with my bank for years – I’m an Advocate, and I go to this bank all the time.  This week after visiting my bank in their physical location, I walked out realizing that more often than not, I leave their “store” not feeling good.

This bank is giving me a huge mixed message: they have branches on almost every corner so they obviously value the face-to-face customer experience… but when they get me in front of them, with the best opportunity to make me feel good, they drop the ball.  Their online presence promises a high-touch, personalized, efficient experience but the actual face-to-face experience is highly disappointing with long slow lines and employees standing around not doing anything while I wait.  It’s not quick, it’s not efficient, and it’s nothing like what they promised in their online and traditional messaging.

I expect by now you are building valuable relationships with your customers online, then identifying, mobilizing, and energizing Brand Advocates and tracking their reach.  That is great and important, but what about the real world?  That is an INCREDIBLE chance to build and enhance advocacy… or unfortunately, to break it down!

Banks are not the only businesses guilty of dropping the ball with their face-to-face customer experience.  It happens at car dealerships, home improvement warehouses, and a variety of other businesses where you walk into the location and a handful of reps are talking among themselves happily ignoring you or simply not being “nice” when they do finally pay attention… no “how can I be of service?,” no smiles, and negative body language.  There is no “customer” or “service” in that scenario, and the powerful message sent is “you don’t matter to us.”

You need to make sure that when focusing on the online customer experience, that your face-to-face customer experience carries the ball, and actually advances it… DO NOT waste that valuable opportunity!   Unite your brand messages by taking the online experience to the real world and vice versa.   Brand Advocates exist in both venues – make sure your best customer service is always in both venues to meet them.

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

Social Media Strategy: What doesn’t work

You know what doesn’t work for a social media strategy? Not being social. It might sound like common sense, but all too often, being social is overlooked in a social media strategy.  It’s not enough to just start accounts with all the most popular social media tools and community sites, even when you include professionally-designed graphics and a big bold display of your logo and a few text lines about your brilliant mission.  First and foremost, you absolutely must BE SOCIAL! When you are not being social, even if you think there is no message, you ARE sending a message to your consumers and potential consumers --  and it is not a message you want to have associated with your brand.  That message is… we don’t want to socialize. From the consumer perspective, your not being social looks like this:

  • Not paying attention
  • Not being interested
  • Not caring
  • Not engaging and interacting

Silence (not being social) is a lot quieter online than it is face-to-face.  When you are silent online you are actually screaming… we don’t want to make the effort to build relationships or pay attention.

There is pressure these days to have a perfect social media strategy in place, and to have it in place NOW.  A carefully thought-out, integrated strategy is very important, but even more important right NOW is to just start being social.  Start now.  Be social while you’re honing your strategy and building your ideal social media team so when you implement the rest of your strategy, your consumers will already be gathered around you.

Start the connections and start to build the relationships NOW…with the opposite of not being social:

  • Be genuinely interested … and interesting
  • Pay consistent attention to your consumers
  • Ask questions, respond to answers, ask more questions, respond again (i.e. ENGAGE)
  • “Talk” with your consumers, not at them
  • Provide real, relevant value by interacting, listening, and socializing.

Don’t let your social media strategy falter.  Get out there and get social… now!

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

No more mixed messages: Integrate Social Media Marketing!

Social media marketing to most in the C-suite is still a campaign-based tactic, viewed and managed separately, but it really should be integrated.  Social media marketing needs to be woven into the fabric of all marketing channels and strategically managed from a 360-degree perspective. This integration is especially important around Customer Service, where the disparity between the customer experience in the social media channel and the customer experience in the traditional channel is a dangerous chasm.   The result is a mixed message around Customer Service – an area where none of us can afford to be unclear or inconsistent!

Think of it from the customer perspective (as you always should):  they get a quick response and dedicated attention in the social media channel, and then are subjected to the “same-old, same-old” via traditional customer service channel.  Long waits (phone or in person) and inattention in one channel will immediately cancel out any gains from your social media marketing channel.

As you can see, social media marketing desperately needs to be integrated into ALL marketing channels!

This integration of course takes time, but you can start the integration immediately with absolutely no technical changes.  Simply be diligent in your social media channel about setting your customers’ expectations.   If the reality of your traditional Customer Service channel includes a 7-10 day response (refunds or backorder fulfillment, for example), then use your social media channel to respond immediately… and TELL THEM about the 7-10 day reality.  Then go fix that timeline, and when it is fixed… tell that too.

Think of it this way:  broken promises and mixed messages are a quick way to send your customers away.  Kept promises and integrated messages, systems, and management are a quick way to create Brand Advocates… the heart of your social media marketing channel.

The biggest marketing weakness today is the mixed message around Customer Service.  It’s up to your company to make integration a priority and give your brand a chance.

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

Make Your Customers Feel at Home

In the physical world, when our trusted and valued friends come to visit our house, we often welcome them by saying, “Come in…make yourselves at home!”   In the virtual world, do you do the same thing?  When customers and prospects visit your online site, do they feel at home there? Think about retailers that offer snacks, coffee, samples, valuable information, and sometimes even entertainment in their shops.  They create a welcoming atmosphere for their customers because they know it will encourage them to stay around the shop, browsing the products and learning more about the brand…and greatly increasing the chances of a sale.

Your online site needs to do the same thing.  What do you do to make your current and prospective customers feel comfortable?   What are you doing to add value to their day?  What experience are you giving them? In other words, how are you inspiring them to stick around now and return later...with their friends?

  • If you are selling clothes, maybe give your customers and prospects the latest fashion news.
  • If you are selling food, how about information on nutrition specialists or a free 1-minute video clip by a nutrition specialist?
  • Maybe get creative about sample give-aways by trying social sampling.
  • Invite them to do something:  respond to a poll, watch a video, play a game
  • Give them the “social” of “social media” with easy ways to connect to your brand through various social networks and to share those connections with their friends.
  • And most importantly, make sure they can reach a human being with their questions!

Why bother?  Because when your prospective and current customers feel at home at your site, they will feel at home with your brand in a way that builds trust --  a cornerstone for building relationships.  And the success of social media marketing really is all about relationships.

They say home is where your heart is -- make your site that place for your customers!

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategiest