Social networking and the speed of complaining
Our ability to communicate instantly through the use of social media can very quickly damage the reputation of any organisation whatever the size. Ever since my first visit to the States in 2000 I have been critical of customer service we generally receive in the UK. Americans seem to realise that the experience provided by staff determines what you as a customer will feel and say to others and is in fact a marketing tool. There has never been a time when I have approached a pay point only to be ignored by two assistants talking about their personal life.
Organisations are aware of the growing importance of social media as a sales tool but have they considered its relevance as a customer service tool.
Social networking is only going to increase over the coming years as the growth in mobile interaction platforms increases. For the first time an immediate emotional response to a situation is available. You know the feeling when you have had a poor customer experience, no longer do you have to wait to send a letter or email to the company, instead you are able to vent your feelings immediately to the hundreds of other potential customers who follow your profile. Already search mechanisms are being launched that will find these conversations thereby extending the reach of the complaint.
In a recent study by CPP Group, they looked at what was considered poor customer service and how quick costomers are in telling their friends and family about their experiences. In this study they saw a growing trend toward using social networking to share frustrations rather than telephoning or writing to the company directly. The statistics included:
“…. young adults under the age of 35 could do the most damage to an organisation’s reputation as they are most likely to talk about poor customer service online. Nearly three in ten (28.6%) of 16-24 year olds and two in ten (19.2%) 25-34 year olds would specifically use Facebook, versus only 2.7% of consumers aged 45-54 years old; highlighting the persuasive influence of this single website”.
Source: CPP Group Plc survey (CPP White paper on Customer Service)
The above shows that customer service must become a key part of the marketing mix and can no longer be treated as a ‘lip service’ department dealing with the odd query and fielding occasional complaints.
In face to face situations remember that the assistant behind the counter represents your brand, your product, your quality. If they get it wrong research suggests you could pay dearly.
When was the last time you held a brainstorming session?
Every business owner should have a good idea of the wealth of talent housed within their organisation. But how many actually utilise that talent outside the normal job description?
Brainstorming is a great way to bring that talent to the fore because the most effective brainstorming sessions are made up not only of the core development team but also of people who may not have any knowledge or experience of the product or service being developed.
Just as it is wise not to include direct team members in a session, it is also important to use an independent facilitator. This chairperson can encourage free ideas without having any political agenda.
The following are some guidelines that will encourage the flow of ideas to flourish.
no-one should pass judgement on other contributors ideas
all members are considered equal whatever their postion within the organisation (leave job titles at the door)
the more way-out the idea the better
members should be encouraged to have fun and thereby break down barriers
don’t try a methodical approach, think laterally
choose an environment that will encourage free thinking
restrict the number taking part in any one group to around 14
you are looking for a long list of ideas whether they appear good or bad
do not pre judge any ideas, add them all to the list
do not let any individual ask leading or intimidating questions
Once you have your long list you can then look at an evaluation and reduction process, this should include a number of the more off-the-wall ideas. This will then form your basis for whittling down further.
Independent retailers need to start embracing mobile technology as a way of bringing customers back in store.
Smartphones are already having a significant impact on the way we shop and this is only set to increase as the tablet market joins the fray. IMRG m-Retail sales index showed a 359% growth in mobile device sales in the 12 months to May 2012, and is predicting a 13% online sales growth for 2012 in its e-Retail report. Although the true impact of tablets is yet to be established, with 65% of owners using them to browse online stores and 72% of them purchasing according to the IAB, it’s likely to be pretty significant.
This demonstrates an increasing acceptance amongst shoppers to bring technology into the overall shopping experience, and mobile is able to impact through every channel of the retailing experience. However, rather than being another nail in the coffin of the high street, including this multi-channel flexibility within their marketing plans presents independent retailers with a real opportunity.
Marketing is about putting the customer centre stage and mobile technology does just that. Morgan Stanley predicted that by the end of 2013 the number of searches done on phones will overtake those using a desk top with, according to Google, 40% having a local intent. O2 Media figures suggest that 7 out of 10 smartphone users are happy to receive location based messaging and additional research revealed that 69% of UK users would be happy to share their location in order to receive relevant information.
Add to this to the development of mobile coupons, the recent launch of PayPal inStore in Aurora Fashions’ stores Oasis, Warehouse and Coast, QR codes and near field communication, and you can begin to see the potential that high street retailers have in merging the online and offline shopping experience
Using location based messaging you can speak directly to potential customers when and where it’s most effective, using mobile coupons you can target your offers, using QR codes in store you can add offers, value and track response. Rather than dismal these really could be exciting times for the high street..
The next time you send out salary slips put a note inside saying ‘this money has come from the customer’. Whatever business you are in, whether small owner managed or a large corporation, whether private or public sector, the money used to cover salaries ultimately comes from the customer. Not the owner, or the manager but the customer. By buying your product or service, the customer funds pay increases, pension benefits, promotions and other employee benefits. Organisations who take marketing seriously never forget that their success depends on the customer and neither should their employees.
I used to be the marketing manager of a recruitment consultancy and am therefore well acquainted with the saying ‘your employees are your biggest asset’ and while this may be a cliché it is true. However there is also another saying ‘you get the employees you deserve’ which can be even more true.
Make the most of your investment by adopting the following simple points:
Listen – to be a good boss listen to your employees and take an interest in what they like, who they are and what motivates them
Walkabout – Make sure your staff know you are taking an interest in the work they are doing by being seen to walk around the place
Smile – As difficult as it may be on some occasions, try to smile as much as possible – a grumpy boss leads to grumpy staff
Leadership – Your staff will find it much easier to follow someone who has a clear vision, make sure they know what yours is and stick to it. In most small organisations there are sometimes unpleasant jobs that have to be done such as clearing a blocked drain, moving rubbish etc. Show that you are prepared to tackle these jobs as well as expecting others to do them
Be accessible - Of course there are times when you need to shut yourself away but whenever you can, leave your office door open. Not only will your staff feel closer to you but you will also feel closer to what is going on
Keep your mouth and brain in gear – You will sometimes need to shout or rant but if it means humiliating a member of staff then something is wrong. Count to ten, think about it then act
Consistency – Being the boss often means having to take difficult decisions or picking up on people not being as effective as they could be. Be firm but also be consistent
Communication – give your employees a way of communicating with the company and their colleagues, anonymously if required. Employees who have a say work more effectively.
David Hassell - DLH Marketing
David has worked in advertising and marketing services for 30 years both client and agency side. Having worked with local, national and muliti-national clients, he set up DLH Marketing to help small organisations, owner managed businesses and those organisations without in-house marketing.