The Power of Integrating Customer Service Across Your Organization

by Mack Collier

While many companies are struggling to use social media as a channel to drive sales, some companies have discovered the power of using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to provide effective and efficient customer service. For example, look at this recent exchange on Twitter between Ekaterina Walter and Nikon:


EkaterinaNikon2While the end result might be a customer service ‘win’ for Nikon, it also raises some glaring issues for the brand.  For example, if there’s consistently a disconnect between the level of customer service that Nikon offers via phone and Twitter, what happens when customers try the phone and don’t know to contact Nikon on Twitter?  In that case, Nikon likely doesn’t have a chance to redeem itself as they did here with Ekaterina.

Another byproduct of this is that by providing better customer service via one channel, you are training your customers to go to that channel first for customer service.  Which can be a plus assuming you have the bandwidth to support additional customers.  But if not, that likely means that the level of customer service provided by one channel (Twitter in this case) may fall lower and more in line with what customers are seeing via other channels (such as the phone).

So what’s the answer?  Try comparing notes.

Think about all the channels customers can use to contact you with support issues.  Email, social media, website, phone, even snail mail, maybe even in-person.  It’s important to remember that different customers prefer to use different tools.  So it’s entirely possible that each customer service channel you use is seeing complaints and questions from a completely different segment of your customer base.

For each customer service channel you use, you should have your employees that man these channels regularly provide every area of your customer service team with the following information:

1 – What is the nature of customer contact?

2 – Are customers inquiring about a particular product or service?

3 – Did the customer mention attempting to contact your company via another channel first?  If so, which one?

4 – Who was the customer?  Share any information you can about who they were, their age, location, how they used you product or service, etc.

If you can better communicate and integrate your customer service experience then the total quality of customer service you provide will increase.  That means more satisfied customers, and it increases the likelihood of creating more fans of your brand.  Most brands don’t understand this, but one of the easiest ways to create new fans is to give a frustrated customer excellent customer service.  That will often convert an upset customer into an advocate for your brand.

Share your successes, and your failures

No matter how many touchpoints your company offers customers to contact you with a service issue, the employees manning the frontlines should be in constant contact.  If your support team on Twitter, for example, is having success providing customer service, you want to share with other areas of CS what’s working.  Reverse-engineer why the CS experience on Twitter is better for customers so you can share what’s working with the rest of your organization.  That way your team that handles the call center may be able to apply some of the lessons learned from the Twitter support team to improve the experience callers see with customer support.

It’s equally important to share your failures.  Let other members of your customer support team diagnosis your efforts and give you insight into how to improve, based on what’s worked for them.  A fresh set of eyes are often necessary to spot shortcomings that can be corrected.  Another good idea is to have a private message board or forum just for your customer support team so they can bounce ideas off each other and share thoughts.

The bottom line is that just as communication with your customers facilitates understanding, the same process works internally.  The more communication between all areas of your customer service department, the greater the chance to improve the experience for your customers.

Jerome Pineau January 23, 2014 at 8:04 am

Seems like everyone’s jumping on the #socialservice bandwagon now…

Mack Collier January 23, 2014 at 11:10 am

Most companies are trying to generate revenue via social media, but can overlook that social channels can be a great way to LOWER costs, as with providing customer service via social media. I just saw a video the other day from the person in charge of social media at Keurig that said the company is saving $500K a year in customer service costs by eliminating calls to call centers and instead handling complaints via social media.

I just want to make sure that the companies that are winning at social CS are sharing what they are learning will all their customer service teams within their organization. Rising tide lifts all boats…

Jerome Pineau January 23, 2014 at 11:19 am

well in my experience cost efficiencies are some of the easiest metrics to generate. but you have to be real careful how you calculate those – social is far from free.
One of the best use cases on this is Giffgaff (zero support staff, all community-based).
It is not inherently cheaper to handle inquiries/issues on Twitter vs. phone — it’s more scalable but it all depends on the level of complexity — for instance, you can’t do tech support on a low bandwidth channel like Twitter (or not easily anyway).
And most of the time the “revenue” can be calculated based on the customer LTV – retention and loyalty. The bread and butter of Saas/subscription businesses for example – in that case it’s very easy to do the math and justify social service IMHO.because you’re cutting churn down.

Mack Collier January 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

Exactly Jerome, some inquiries are too complex for Twitter, but at the same time it’s better to have someone on Twitter tell you ‘Sir its not working cause you haven’t plugged it in yet’ versus calling in and staying on hold 15 minutes to learn that 😉

Social can’t completely takeover customer service, it should be another channel to enhance the organization’s overall offerings.

Caleb February 17, 2014 at 8:27 am

I think you made a good in point in the fact that, a customer might choose this as their only source of customer service. This can be challenging because you might not have the resource to fully support this type of service.

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