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Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

The landscape of customer service is changing these days, especially given the continually growing popularity of instant communication tools like Facebook and Twitter.

But pressure to be ever present in certain communication spheres means there are also a lot of companies missing the mark on responding to customer service matters. They may not respond to a letter or phone call from a regular customer, for example, but they’ll immediately grease the squeaky wheel of an angry Twitter user who takes to kvetching online.

You’d think customer service would improve overall with the increased prevalence of social media if a company saw the effect their quick actions and attention could have on customers’ happiness.

But you’d be wrong.

Call center — they may use Klout, but shouldn't base their level of service on a Klout score.

Call center (Photo credit: Walt Jabsco)

There’s a lot of talk about reaching out to “influencers” now. Many businesses go out of their way to throw events for bloggers, offer special perks to people who might talk them up online, and have the customer service department respond only to their most influential social media followers.

Klout Should Not Sway Customer Service

It comes down to Klout versus clout. The biggest mistake here lies in a company mistaking a so-called online “influencer” for someone with true influence in their community. The two are not always correlated.

Here’s a quick example of why this isn’t always the smartest route: My friend and his wife both have Klout accounts — he has a high score, hers is pretty average — and they recently bought a car together. They had a great experience at the dealership, and both gushed to their networks about how well they were treated. The next weekend, two friends of my friend’s wife headed back to the same dealership and bought brand-new cars.

But, if the dealership were to only look at Klout scores to decide whether to elevate any complaints up the customer service chain, they would pick the higher Klout score, but end up alienating the person with the higher real-life clout.

Now, this isn’t a typical outcome, but there’s also no guarantee that someone with a ton of online “influence” will create an outcome like this either.

The bottom line: Someone with Klout can have no clout in their community, and vice versa. The successful businesses will remember that every customer is important and the customer service department should attend to everyone’s needs equally.

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Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

If anyone needs a brand audit, it is the hospitality industry. For large, upscale hotel chains, there are so many places where the hotel’s brand is visible, it is difficult for the marketing department and hotel staff to keep track of it all.

For example, a downtown hotel near a city’s shopping district or convention center is sure to draw a lot of traffic, especially at peak times. But what are visitors to the hotel seeing when they enter the building? What about in the rooms?

Inside the building is usually not an issue: hotels are very good about making sure everything is properly labeled and branded throughout the building. If there is one thing hotels know, it is how to brand themselves inside.

Galt House in Louisville, KY

Galt House in Louisville, KY

But what about throughout the city? There are posters and flyers, ads in local magazines, logos on menus of nearby restaurants, coupons, and more online marketing collateral than most people are aware of. They need to know where their brand is being used, possibly without permission. This is where a brand audit can help.

Hotels can work with a mystery shopping agency that provides brand audit services as a way to monitor all the places where their brand is being used or misused. A mystery shopper can attend a conference, visit different restaurants, and even monitor online mentions on behalf of the central office. Rather than having an already-overworked marketing staff try to do their own brand audit, which needs to be an ongoing venture, they can work with the mystery shopping agency to do regular checks on their behalf.

What about in smaller cities, where the hotels are often independently-owned franchises? This is a little more difficult, since many larger chains have hundreds, if not thousands, of franchisees in the world. A brand audit would be next to impossible for the staff to perform.

Again, this is where the mystery shopping agency can help. They have shoppers throughout the world who can perform a brand audit on all the properties, ensuring all the branding is being used properly.

A brand audit is usually done publicly, unlike regular mystery shopping, which is a secret. The shopper is anonymous, and does not make himself or herself known to the staff. But in a brand audit, the shopper can show up, checklist in hand, and check off the different categories to make sure the franchisee is following all the requirements and using the marketing collateral properly. A brand audit can also cover the different in-town and online properties in the surrounding area, and can often be done as part of the same package.

Hotels need to protect their own brand image, to make sure that their franchisees are displaying the proper information, and that the company name and logo are being used properly outside of the hotel. A brand audit can help the marketing department ensure everything is in order.

Photo credit: CC Chapman (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

Understanding customer perspective can be the make-it-or-break-it factor in your customer experience management plan. But only if you have the most accurate, truest understanding of the real customer perspective.

Focus groups are not able to completely provide that perspective. While focus groups are effective, and can give market researchers an insight into their customer mindset, they do not always provide the most complete picture.

It has been our experience that there are panelists — professional focus group members, really — who get rewarded, incented, or paid to be a part of a focus group and professional survey taker for large market research companies.

Broadwater Focus Group

This isn’t actually the kind of focus group we’re referring to. We’re sure they’re nice people. Broadwater Focus Group (Photo credit: Nebraska Library Commission)

While focus groups can work, because you can do some demographic slicing and dicing to get people who meet certain profiles, these people are on a panel for a single reason: to get paid.

They get paid for a few hours of their time to sit in a room with other people, and discuss and debate every subtle nuance of a company’s marketing campaign, product offering, or service enhancements, sometimes getting into details that regular customers will never see or consider. This is a skewed version of the customer perspective.

We’re not saying focus groups are bad, but they shouldn’t be the only thing in a market researcher’s arsenal. There’s also social media (you can measure sentiment analysis with social media monitoring tools), mobile feedback and text surveys (hear from the greatest number of actual customers to get the most statistically-accurate customer perspective), and even mystery shopping (get unbiased feedback from people who live the customer perspective, and know what to look for).

If you want to get a clear picture of your customer perspective, focus groups are fine to use, but should not be the only tool in the toolbox There are at least three other viable forms of customer market research that can also give you a glimpse into the minds of your customers. Take full advantage of all of them.

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Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

Mobile feedback is the new method of tracking customer loyalty for customer experience management experts. No longer are small business owners, restaurant managers, and retail stores relying on comment cards and paper surveys. Many are looking to mobile feedback for a way to monitor the sentiment around their brands, incorporate loyalty programs, and even engage with customers at the point of sale.

A lot of this mobile feedback is coming from non-app based tools. Regular mobile feedback apps can include sites/tools that are downloaded onto a person’s smartphone. These frequently-visited recommendation sites are often used by customers to leave public feedback about a business — restaurants, retail stores, doctors and dentists, etc.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction (Photo credit: agaumont)

And while they are valuable tools to restaurant and retail managers who want to measure the sentiment of their customers, it also often falls prey to overinflation of complaints and people who believe that outraged indignation is a birthright, as well as completely falsified complaints and attacks by unscrupulous competitors.

The other alternative that restaurants and retail establishments can take advantage of are text-based mobile surveys, and special survey websites that use a mobile device, but are more private and will only solicit the opinions of actual customers, not people who make up complaints because they have an axe to grind.

Imagine having a dedicated mobile feedback web page that can only be accessed at the point of sale via a QR code. Ask customers to scan it as they pay for their purchases, or scan it when they receive their bill at their table, and they can take a mobile feedback survey on their phone while they wait.

Or try using a text-based mobile survey. Have the waitstaff or sales staff point out the number to dial to receive a four-question survey about their experience just by texting their answers back, or leave it on a table tent in a restaurant or flyer around the store. This can be done on a smartphone or regular flip phone.

In both cases, the mobile feedback answers will be compiled and aggregated into an overall satisfaction score. But they can also be used to alert management as soon as there is a problem.

For example, at a restaurant, a customer can take the survey while they wait for their bill to arrive. They give a low score for their experience, and the manager is immediately alerted. He or she can visit the customer’s table, help solve any problems, and offer a discount or free dessert to improve the customer’s satisfaction, thus ensuring they become repeat customers.

Using non-app based mobile feedback helps managers immediately identify problems and help improve customer satisfaction without waiting for a person’s issues to reach the web where everyone can see them. With the right mobile feedback system, managers can help improve customer satisfaction enough so that if the customer does visit a recommendation site, they will leave a positive review instead.

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Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

Is measuring the customer perspective of hundreds of thousands of people possible? You bet.

Understanding customer perspective — how your business is seen through customers’ eyes — helps business owners and executives know where they need to make changes to improve customer loyalty.

It’s one thing if you have a few hundred customers. With those numbers, you can usually just ask their opinions. Restaurant managers do table touches, coffee shop owners talk to their regulars, and retailers always hear from happy and unhappy customers. That’s easy measurement.

How Do You Even Quantify How Big of a Problem You Have?

Man holds an iPhone toward the camera

You can measure the customer perspective of tens of thousands of people with these.

Measuring the customer perspective for tens of thousands of people can be problematic, however, especially if you have hundreds of stores throughout the country. But, it can be done.

Many large companies use mystery shopping to set a baseline for performance. Measure Consumer Perspectives can be employed to assess each store’s performance by sending mystery shoppers to every location to find strengths and weaknesses.

Large companies often launch a mobile feedback campaign to get data quickly. Measure Consumer Perspectives routinely collects data through mobile surveys, which typically have a 20 percent or more completion rate (compared to survey cards, which barely hit one percent). These are very short surveys — usually four questions — sent to a customer’s mobile phone. The questionnaires work on any kind of phone, not just smart phones.

Results should be compiled and used to measure improvements at each store. With this information, owners and executives can determine whether problem stores are improving, and if stronger stores are holding steady.

Mobile feedback provides one of the most reliable sources of customer feedback. It can outperform every other form of customer perspective measurement. Survey cards, coupon redemption, and even focus groups only show a slice of the customer satisfaction pie.

Social media conversations pertaining to a company should be monitored, but this is not a complete picture of customer perspective. For a complete understanding, companies should look to mystery shoppers and mobile feedback to obtain measurable information to enact changes and bring improvement.

Photo credit: Kengo (Flickr, Creative Commons

Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

Is customer perspective of your company the same as yours? Do you see your business through your eyes, or your customer’s eyes? How can you ascertain what your customers are thinking?

Your customers are talking about you – and these days, they’re using social media to do so. The question is, are you listening? Social media is one of the best ways for businesses and organizations in all industries to gain customer perspective and insight into their business and operations. The customer perspective gained through social media is invaluable to companies when creating customer experience management plans.

The following are a great starting point for those looking to use social media to research customer perspectives:

1. Google

Not only should you be Googling your business, you should do it often. As a business owner, you should be aware of everything that is being said about your business – press, reviews and customer complaints. Set up a Google Alert for your business name. This will automatically deliver new search results directly to your email as they occur, making it easy to follow trends in customer perspectives. Google Alert for Measure CP

2. Online review sites

Whether or not you’ve created a profile on review sites such as Yelp.com, there’s a good chance someone else has – therefore it’s important that you check your reviews often. In addition, you should also be checking out your competitors’ reviews. By checking out the competition, you’ll be able to gain invaluable insight into the customer perspective of your competition, which can help you figure out what your target market wants.

3. Twitter

Even if your business is not on Twitter, you should still be running frequent searches for your business within the site. This will pull up any conversation about your business – in fact, you may be surprised to find that more people are talking about your business than you would expect!

4. Competitor’s pages

Next time you’re online, scope out your competitors’ social media profiles? Look at what’s working and what’s not. Their customers will have great insight that will often align with your business. Look at what their customers are saying and get some great insight into your company’s customer perspective.

Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

Customer service should be at the top of any CMO’s priority list, making sure the customers are satisfied with their experience, and be willing to listen to them for future feedback. And the post on today’s Marketing Tech Blog from Douglas Karr illustrates this point perfectly. (Disclosure: I appeared on Doug’s Marketing Tech Radio show last year.) He discusses this year’s IBM Global CMO Study (released after “face-to-face interviews with 1,734 CMOs spanning 19 industries and 64 countries”), which studied what the CMOs thought were their most important priorities for the year.

Based on the results, IBM made these observations:

These conversations and our in-depth analysis of study findings underscore the need to respond to three new realities:

  • The empowered customer is now in control of the business relationship
  • Delivering customer value is paramount — and an organization’s behavior is as important as the products and services it provides
  • The pressure to be accountable to the business is not just a symptom of hard times, but a permanent shift that requires new approaches, tools and skills.

Table of CMO Priorites for 2012

This is interesting, exciting stuff for anyone who is in the customer service or customer experience management business.

  • It means that CMOs are recognizing that they no longer control their brand or their customer relationships, the people do. This means they have to listen to the customer.
  • The customer experience is just as important as the products or services the company offers. This means they have to interact with the customer.
  • Over 2/3 of the CMOs recognize that customer loyalty is the top priority. This means they recognize the changing landscape of customer service.
  • Priorities #3 and #5 demonstrate the importance of using social media to both engage with their customers, as well as monitor their customer experience management efforts. That is, if people are happy (or upset), they’ll share it via social media. And if companies are on the ball, they’ll respond and engage on social media as well.

For anyone in customer experience management, these are some important shifts in the thinking of CMOs. They recognize that a) social media is not a passing fad, and b) the voice of the customer has gotten louder than ever.

This even demonstrates the blurring of the lines between the customer service department and the marketing department, and the idea that bad customer service now equals bad marketing.

Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

I’m still surprised at the number of restaurants that refuse to use social media at all. They tell me, “it’s for kids.” “I think it’s stupid.” “They’re too busy.” “Our customers don’t use it.”

Wrong. That’s unfortunate. No, you’re not. Yes, they do.

They’re missing a valuable customer service tool. Social media is an excellent — and inexpensive — way to monitor whether your customers are happy, whether they had a good time at your restaurant, and whether they’re going to tell their friends about the good or awful time they had. Basically, if you want to keep an eye on customer service, start paying attention to what your customers are saying on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

Here are our four answers to the customer service = social media myths we hear most often.

Social media is for kids.

No Bullshit Social Media cover. The book explains a lot about customer service and social media.

My friends wrote this book, and it taught me a lot about customer service and social media.

Two things wrong with this statement:

1) The fastest growing demographic of Facebook users is women between the ages of 50 – 60. That’s not kids. And women make the vast majority of buying decisions in this country. Want to reach the biggest number of people who say “let’s go out for dinner tonight”? Connect with your customers on Facebook.

2) If we define “kids” as Generation Y (ages 16 – 26), then yes, they’re on social media. You can also can be sure they have money. This is the golden fleece for marketers — young people with disposable income. And these kids are avoiding traditional marketing. They’re not reading newspapers, listening to their radio, or watching TV. They’re reading their mobile phones, listening to iPods, and watching YouTube. Connect with them and their customer service needs on their phones, and they’ll pay attention.

I think social media is stupid.

Really? Know who doesn’t think social media is stupid? Your customers.

According to the latest figures:

  • Generation Y now outnumbers Baby Boomers, 81 million to 78 million.
  • 96% of Generation Y uses some kind of social network.
  • More than half of everyone in the US is on Facebook.

It doesn’t matter if you think it’s stupid. Your customers love it. Your customers are using it. And your customers are going to visit the restaurants that learn how to talk with them on it.

Most importantly, they’re going to make their customer service complaints on it (not the comment cards, not a quiet word to the wait staff; they’re going to tell all their Facebook friends).

I don’t have time to use social media.

We know running a restaurant takes a lot of time. We feel for you. But consider this one of those necessary evils you have to put some energy into. This is a marketing and customer service feedback channel that needs to be nurtured, watered and fed every day, and in general, have some basic attention given to it on a regular basis.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to be on it constantly. There are a few tactics you can use, assuming you’re on Twitter and Facebook already. (Just do it. Trust me.)

  • Don’t spend more than 30 minutes per day on social media. Not 30 minutes all at once. 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes after lunch, 10 minutes after dinner.
  • Download Tweetdeck and set up a search for any mention of your restaurant name. Check it once a morning
  • Set up a Google Alert for your restaurant name and your name at google.com/alerts
  • Part of your job is bringing in new customers and keeping the old ones coming back. Find the tasks that don’t make you any money or bring in customers that you can turn over to an assistant manager. Focus on the things that bring in customers. Or if your strong suit is not marketing, give that responsibility to someone who can do it.

Our customers don’t use it.

If you don’t use it, you have absolutely, positively NO WAY of knowing this. We’ve already been over the stats. The basic implication is that nearly anyone between the ages of 16 – 26 is on some kind of social network. That half of your customers use Facebook. And that your fastest growing customer base of people on Facebook are the moms and grandmothers.

Before you decide your customers don’t use it, ask them. On your regular walkthroughs, when you’re making your table touches, take an informal survey. “Are you on a social network? Which ones? If we had a Facebook page, would you ‘like’ it?”

The whole reason you want to use social media is that many of your customers have taken to telling their friends about good and bad customer service they have gotten, whether it’s at your restaurant or someone else’s. Now, dissatisfied customers are no longer telling their close friend via phone. They’re telling their hundreds of friends on Facebook and Twitter, and those people are choosing not to come to your restaurant for that reason. Do you really want to miss the complaint and find out that people have been talking about an otherwise-solvable problem for several weeks?

Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

I saw a recent article on by DJ Heckes on the Yoga The Power blog about how social media can play a big part in customer service. That’s something we’ve talked extensively about here at Measure CP, although we’ve never discussed it very extensively on the blog.

I was glad to see DJ talk about these three points:

4. Listen. DJ says you need to set up a good listening strategy with customer monitoring tools. Even a basic search column on TweetDeck for your company name will be a big start. Or you can spend some money and get a subscription to Lithium or Radian6. They cost some money, but if you have a big enough company, it’s worth every penny.

9. Resolve Problems. “Immediately try to resolve problems,” said DJ. If you did that, you would be ahead of most of your competitors. I recently wrote a blog post that said if you want to excel at customer service, you just have to be mediocre. While I’m not encouraging mediocrity, I am saying that even if you did a little bit of customer service, you would outpace the competition. But if you go above and beyond the call of duty for most of your customers, and try to exceed their expectations, you’ll be a rockstar in your industry.

But here’s the best way to get the most out of your efforts. Do it publicly on social media so other people can see it. Respond to Yelp reviews, blog posts, and Twitter messages. Respond in the same place the comment was found, respond positively, and resolve the problem. If your customer is happy enough, he or she will share your help with their network and you’ll get a little word-of-mouth marketing out of it.

12. Unhappy Customers. DJ said we may sometimes find ourselves on the other end of the desk/table/counter as an unhappy customer. I was especially pleased to see him reference my friend, Erik Deckers, and his post Five Rules to Getting Good Customer Service on Social Media.. Both DJ and Erik say that if you’re unhappy with a company, you should complain. And if you do it the right way (i.e. don’t be a jerk), you’re more likely to get what you want.

The last point is especially important. It’s the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have do unto you. If you’re a jerk to your companies, don’t be surprised if your customers are jerks to you.

As mystery shoppers, we always go into a shop with the last point in mind, so we can see whether our target companies are helpful, do the things they’re supposed to, and help us get what we want. We’re also starting to monitor some companies using social media to see whether their customers are happy with them.

Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

So, I’ve got this friend.

(No, really.)

This friend of mine happens to be a mother, and she had a really terrible experience with a large national chain of childcare providers. Not one to keep quiet about something that could adversely affect others’ experiences as well, she opened up her email and penned a message explaining the situation. Then she sent it on to 40 of her friends.

Also moms.

Image representing Klout as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

She’s sort of like the EF Hutton of her circle of influence, and she influences some other very powerful moms.

This is a very connected woman, with a lot of influence — influence that would never show up in terms of numbers on a Twitter account, Facebook page or Klout score. Klout.com is a site that measures the “influence” of people on social media, on a score out of 100. The higher your number, the more influence — clout — you have.

We hear a lot about businesses worried about reaching their “influencers” these days. They throw special events for local bloggers, send gift baskets to people who could give them favorable mentions in social media, and respond only to those people who have high Klout scores when they comment on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll put it this way: It’s definitely possible for a person to have Klout but no real clout — and, of course, the other way around. Then again, it’s possible for someone to have both. So don’t immediately discount those quantifiable “influencer” metrics as meaningless, but don’t ignore customers who don’t seem to have much influence.

Never underestimate the power of a deeply satisfied — or unbelievably disgruntled — customer, no matter what some website tells you about their power to inspire others. Because you may just find that the person you ignore is too busy being successful and influential in real life to mess around with social media, and can still do a lot of damage to your reputation.

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Social Media

Customer Service Should Not Be Affected by Klout

As a woman, I can say from personal experience that shopping for clothing can be incredibly frustrating. The store I’m in makes all the difference in the world; even in chain stores, the employees and attention to detail in a particular location can make or break my experience.

But we rarely get to voice our opinion on that. While nothing will ever take the place of a live human making eye contact and asking sincerely, asking for feedback in any way will put you head and shoulders above most clothing retailers. Consider using message–based text surveys to gauge your customers’ feedback on a day-to-day basis. Here are two ideas of areas in your stores to use these text surveys:

Mobile phones make text surveys a great option for clothing stores.

Image via Wikipedia

 

In fitting rooms: Try hanging signs on those floor-to-ceiling mirrors inviting customers to tell you about their experience with your product thus far. Did they find the sizes they needed? How are things fitting? Did they need help finding things?

At checkout: Ask customers whether they got the help they needed. By sending a message to the text code on the sign at the register, they can give feedback on their experience, from the girl in the fitting room to the person ringing them up.

You’ll get their feedback instantly, pushed to your phone or e-mail. That gives you an opportunity to find them while they’re still in the store, if necessary, and correct anything that has gone wrong as soon as it’s happened. If a customer speaks especially highly of an employee, you can reward that employee instantaneously for their excellent text surveys. There’s a lot to be said for quick response.

This might also be a great opportunity to leverage members of your store’s loyalty program or mailing list: Push an SMS/text message to them inviting them to participate in a survey, in exchange for a token discount they visit your shop — or an invite to a members-only Ladies Night Out event, or a perk of your choosing. Make it special for them!

These surveys can be especially valuable because they provide real-time, real-life feedback from people who already shop in your stores. They aren’t being paid to come in and buy things; they don’t have a list of criteria to look for during their visit. All they’re worried about is having a satisfying experience in your store that ends with them finding clothes that fit them well.

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