Category Archives: Customer Service

How to make your hotel guests feel extra valued with great customer service

We are so quick to complain and slow to praise – But sometimes we get customer service above and beyond the job description which warrants a broader mention thank just a thank you face to face.

I want skiing in Whistler, B.C. Canada earlier this month. I love everything about Whistler, the mountains and slopes, the après ski, the location, the hotels, restaurants, spas and bars. it is my ideal ski resort. This year I returned to the Crystal Lodge. I like this place   — it’s close to the ski hire place, close to the lifts and on the main village stroll. I don’t like to trek around too much in my ski boots.

I was welcomed back to the hotel when I checked in — there was a Welcome Back card in my room when I arrived. A nice touch from the staff.

Whistler March 2014 (10)

I collected my skis and went to find somewhere to eat.

The snow was amazing the next morning. There was about 9” of snow overnight and everything looked lovely.

I wanted to ski a couple of easy runs to get into the swing of skiing. I stopped to take this picture and skied down the start of this slope – an easy run on my first morning there.

Whistler March 2014 (4)

I turned, hit a churned up patch of snow. I fell – slowly and twisted my knee. My skis didn’t come off and I pulled all of the ligaments (I found out later). Miserably I picked my way down to the nearest chair (in the image), went back to the room in the hotel and sat there feeling sorry for myself with ice packs on my knee trying to reduce the swelling.

The Manager at the Crystal Lodge called to welcome me back and ask me if I’d had a good day.  I told him of my injury and how miserable I was. An hour later there was a knock at the door – a delivery from the Manager for me.

He had sent some sprain removing Gel to my room along with another note:

Whistler March 2014

I was touched.What a great example of customer service. I was really impressed. Now I’m on the hotel’s files as an injured guest.  Smile

When I checked out of the Lodge 6 days later, staff reception enquired how my knee was doing (I’d skied all week on the easy slopes as I did not want to waste such a lovely trip). My knee would have been better if I’d have rested it a bit more but (skiers) needs must!

I flew home to the UK and noticed this tweet.

This was the icing on the cake for customer service going the extra mile in my opinion. Although I only visit Whistler for a week each year – and have only stayed in the Crystal Lodge three times, the staff thought that my business was worth keeping. The hotel does not have an automated social media / customer relationship management system – nor were these cards printed out as they sometimes are in other hotels.

Real people hand wrote the cards for the real people that stay at the hotel.

That’s important.

The staff at the hotel went the extra mile to show customer care to an infrequent guest.

That matters.

And because the staff went the extra mile for one of their customers, I will make sure I return to the Crystal Lodge every time I return to Whistler – and hopefully will not make the stupid mistake that left me face down in the snow…

Whistler March 2014 (31)

(And the knee is recovering well too Smile )

Eileen Brown is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Connect with Eileen on Twitter and or contact her to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

Do your email newsletters make your customers feel special?

This one certainly does not.  Have a look at these howling errors.

 

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So what is wrong?

The reply address tells me that this is just one of many accounts for this newsletter. The display name could have been customised in a much better way

Capital letters in the title. STOP SHOUTING AT ME!  It never enchants customers.

Dear {First name}} Test your newsletters over and over again across all the different email platforms you can find.  This missing field code is never acceptable.Most newsletter packages have an auto test feature so you can test this before sending any emails out externally

Irrelevant subject matter Vive Unique has no idea at all what my blog is about – Polly Western from Vive Unique should certainly do her research better.

An instant turnoff – and not a credit to the brand at all.  Testing takes minutes and can change customer perception about your brand.  Unfortunately, for me, it will take a long time for me to consider this company in a positive light – no matter how good the product is.

This email was probably sent out to thousands of potential customer from this PR agency, all of which would have had the same reaction to the depersonalised email.  Delete, delete delete.

What a waste of a potentially good campaign that could have brought in sales for the business.

A little preparation, consideration and care before hitting that send button would have made all the difference between a sale or a delete.

Guess which option I chose?

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Facebook Private messages: Good for social business, good for CRM?

Now brands can use Facebook Direct messaging to respond privately to their customers for a more personalised support experience.

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Facebook has rolled out its new version of Brand pages.  These look like the page familiar to users who have enabled Timeline view. It will also include a feature to improve social CRM – if it gets it right..

Now, when customers interact with the brand, the brand has the opportunity to respond by private message, without the rest of the stream seeing the interaction.

Brands can also respond to individual wall posts through private message, as long as a fan initiates the conversation.

Private messages for pages will be great for brands that want to get open and honest feedback from their customers. Although it is currently only available in Asia, it will be rolled out world wide soon.

Brands need to get their act in gear if they want to take advantage of the 1:1 interaction with their customers.  They need to respond in a positive, and timely way to avoid any negative responses.

Bob Kraut, SVP of advertising and marketing communications for Arby’s, suggested the direct messages may help firms avert comment threads that spiral out of control, causing bad branding.

"This [will] lower the risk and be better for customers in the long run," he said. "There will be more people in the game, and maybe less transparency. But maybe the customer is fine with that. It’s the customer that counts."

Without an effective customer engagement framework in place, and a team to respond to the demands of 24 x 7 complaints and comments, brands might feel that they are not as social as they think they are…

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

18% of brands don’t listen to their social customers

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42% of social media users talk to brands

… and 35% of users post information about a brand on social media sites.

There’s a lot of engagement. 

But all this engagement is totally wasted if you don’t know what is being said about you.  Do you care about what is happening online?  Do you have a listening strategy?  No? well, you’re not alone.

If you’re one of the 18% of brands that doesn’t have a brand monitoring strategy in place.  What should you do? 

70% of marketers have little idea about that people are saying about their brands or their clients brands.  They don’t have an idea how many free and paid for tools are available.  I’ve put together a list of  a few free, paid and crowdsourcing tools which you can use to listen to the conversation:

Free

Paid

Crowdsourcing

Backtype Alterian Crowdspring
How Sensible Hootsuite Pro Fold It
Social Mention Lithium Threadless
Tinker Meltwater buzz Mechanical Turk
Thinkup Onalytica Mob4hire
Who is Talking Peerindex WeArehunted
  PeopleBrowsr  
  Radian6  
  Sysomos  

There are many more tools, with new tools evolving and disappearing each month so this list is not exhaustive.

But having a list of tools is not enough.  You also need to have a listening plan that deals with the appropriate actions to take when brand mentions occur.  And if you have a listening plan, you also need an engagement framework in place to deal with the data:

Discovery: Blog post, Tweet, News article

Evaluation: Positive, Neutral, Critical, Anger

Assessment: General enquiry, Dissatisfaction, Criticism, Rage

Response: Success story, correction, Facts

Considerations: Timeliness, Tone and Manner, Acknowledgement

When brands listen actions happen.  Brands shouldn’t wait until a social crisis occurs before they respond.  They need to respond promptly and they need to listen to the customer.

Otherwise, their messages will fall on deaf ears…

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Image credit: ky olsen

The personalised touch: Social CRM done well

imageI’ve been staying in an amazing hotel this week. I’m in Mexico to deliver a workshop and the hotel prides itself on its personalised service. 

I arrived to see a noticeboard welcoming me to the hotel.  A nice touch.  A Gin and Tonic arrived whilst I sat down and checked in and my own butler to unpack my clothes if I chose.  All good so far, and what I’d expect from a ‘special service’

But what made this hotel different was the service I received throughout my stay.  All of the waiters and staff knew my name and greeted me.  Different concierges were aware of conversations I’d had earlier in the day to other hotel staff.  Courtesy and politeness and a really personalised service made my stay really special.

And isn’t this what we strive for in our social media activities?

We struggle to get the engagement we want from blogging, Facebook and Twitter activities. 

We set targets that are impossible to achieve and hope our campaigns go viral.

We want our consumers to talk to us

But we often lack the personal touch

For example, if you have a Facebook page, what do you do with it?  Do you ask questions, use polls and competitions?  Do you offer coupons, or random fan of the day competitions?  Do you respond to interaction from your page fans?  Do you let your fans feel that they’re in control?

Or do you just broadcast? Do you never refer to any of your loyal fans by name?  Do you know what they like?  gin and Tonic?  Beer? Soda?  Do you know their habits?  Do you care?

My tips for improving your online relationships are:

  • Talk to your customers.  Respond to their comments early and encourage them to interact with each other on your comment stream.  From there you can gather data on who your top influencers for the page are
  • Give Twitter and Facebook based exclusive offers.  Dell have some great examples of how they generate a positive ROI on their social media activities
  • Involve your customers in decisions about the product and how they want the product or solution to evolve.  Remember how Marks and Spencer involved their customers in product naming of their Wedgehog.  You could do something similar for your product set.
  • Try polls to gauge customer reaction – and act on the polls
  • Try not to spam your audience.  If you work globally, then make sure that you talk to your fans on their time zone.  Make sure you know when to post your social media update

And remember the personalised service.  Online or offline, personal service will get you a much better response, will improve perception about your brand and make your customers return to you over and over again.

Just like I’ll return to the hotel where all of the waiters know my name Smile

 

Eileen is a social business strategist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Image credit: Flickr

 

Brand responses: The 6 levels of social CRM

We talk about using Twitter for customer service and using Twitter to engage with our customers and improve social CRM.  We list our top tips and we blog about our rules for engagement.  We talk to our clients to try to encourage them to join all of the social channels together and to use Twitter merely as one component of their social CRM strategy.  But do companies embrace this way of listening?  Does the brands’ customer experience make customers more satisfied with the brand?

Unfortunately No. Not often.  With some notable exceptions, as customers, we’re often left high, dry and disappointed.

There are a few steps that brands can take to improve their levels of customer engagement.  Say, for example, you, the customer, posts a tweet about a brand.  Perhaps your tweet is a criticism about poor service you’ve received, perhaps its just an observation or a comment about the brand itself.  You broadcast your message and wonder whether you’ll get a response.  Sometimes you get a great response, sometimes you don’t hear anything.  There are different levels of engagement responses ranging from zero to hero.  Lets have a look at the different levels of the brands’ response to the customer.

Level 0: You get no response at all.  The brand doesn’t have a social media listening policy.  They are not listening to any feedback about them.  Does the brand care about you, the customer?

Level 1: You get a response through Twitter several days later.  The brand has probably been notified of your comment by someone more socially savvy than you.  Their late response only serves to make you angry with them for their attitude towards you.

Level 2: You get a response through Twitter several hours later.  The brand does listen to you – eventually.  They have no engagement framework in place detailing when they should respond.  You are pleased that they bothered to get in touch at all.

Level 3: You get a response a few minutes later – even though you had tweeted your initial message about the brand outside of normal business working hours.  The brand cares about you.  You are impressed that they are listening to you.

imageThis approach seems all well and good – if the brand is operating at Level 3 but their level of customer service could be improved.  There are other channels that brands can use for customer communication.  Communication doesn’t have to focus exclusively on Twitter.  If the customer wants to communicate using only Twitter, then let them.  But you as a brand can offer so much more than a single channel experience for the customer.

Bret Simmons blogs about leadership and organisational behaviour on his blog and I was lucky enough to meet him, and present for his class when he was over in London last year.  Bret doesn’t tend to complain much.  He prefers to see leadership and positive qualities in people.  He’s recently blogged about a poor experience that he had whilst he was in Las Vegas.  He posted a comment about his meal onto Yelp!  A few hours after he had posted his review, he got an email from the manager of the restaurant offering to follow up with his staff about the quality of the food, and furthermore, send Bret coupons by mail. 

Bret noted how the restaurant had bothered to make the effort to put things right. Further more, they went outside of using Yelp! alone and had used email to make the connections and carry on the communication.   

This type of behaviour transcended a single channel to make the customer connections a more personal experience.  Bret commented that unfortunately the restaurant didn’t tell everyone that they were fixing the problem for him.  They only told Bret.  Anyone else reading Yelp! would see the poor review and wouldn’t see the positive outcome.

I often blog about BT Care in the UK and its excellent customer communication through Twitter. @BTCare is quick to respond, gives proactive support and will switch channels if I want it to. It doesn’t use Twitter exclusively for their customer business.  BT Care responds to its customers on at least level 3 and adds a personal touch to its communications .

So we now need more levels to deal with the enhance ways that brands can respond to customer service issues.

Level 4: You get a response a few minutes later, followed by a direct message on Twitter asking for your contact details so that the brand can follow up with you – You give them your number and you receive a call from the customer service representative.  That’s nice personal service.

Level 5: You get a response from the company, followed by an email.  The brand has followed a link on your Twitter profile and found your email address from your blog or your web site.  They get in touch with you showing that the brand was prepared to invest a little effort in trying to contact you by other channels.

Level 6: You get a quick response from the brand followed by some excellent in person customer service. This is what customer service is all about.  You wish more brands behaved that way.

Occasionally there are some great examples of cross channel communication and social CRM.  Sometimes there are examples of customer service behaviour that tries to go the extra mile to help customers.  Lauren McKay tweeted about how much she loved cornbread when she was staying in the Gaylord hotel.  Like most socially aware companies the company responded quickly (Level 3 behaviour).  Laurel was offered some cornbread which unfortunately she couldn’t take advantage of as she had left the hotel.  4 months later, Laurel stayed at another branch of the Gaylord hotel chain.  She received room service delivering a selection of cornbread and a hand written note referring to her tweet 4 months before.  Now she has blogged about her great cornbread Twitter experience with Gaylord hotels.  She closed the communications loop and it’s obvious from her blog that she’s a very satisfied customer.  Her post has even made me want to stay at The Gaylord if they’re so socially savvy. 

That level of customer service goes above and beyond my level 6 behaviour.  To remember a customers preferences across multiple social media channels is a great enhancement to the customers experience.  To remember your customers preference 4 months later and make the effort to connect across social media channels is a level of customer service that brands should strive to achieve.

Unfortunately, for a lot of brands, this is still just a pipe dream…

Image credit: Flickr

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

 

Social CRM: Why companies fail to evolve

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Image credit: Flickr

Customer relationship management should be at the core of every business whether you have a great online presence or not.  From the ability to process returned goods in a shop, to fixing customer problems online, CRM is vital for businesses. 

Traditionally looking after the customer was a coordinated approach for companies. 

The Customer service teams worked with the Sales team and the Marketing team to make sure that the customer was sure to purchase your goods, and have a good experience with the brand all along.  If there was an issue with the brand or the service, then customer service would sort it out.

The social customer is different. 

He now has the customer relations team interacting with him and engaging with him on his chosen channel.  Companies can then actively engage with the customer to increase perception about the brand.  Collaboration, engagement and dialogue leads the relationship  so you need to change the way you manage the relationship.

But who is the social customer and why does he need to be managed?

Always connected: The social customer gets his information about your brand online.  They learn about news and carry out research through Twitter and Facebook.  Their networks often have the answers they need.

Interactive: They trust 2 way conversations with the brand rather than broadcasts from the brand.  They are socially savvy.  they are connected

Expectant:  the social customer expects  response.  They expect brands to be listening on the social channels where they are.  At any time, day or night.

Listener: They want brands to be responsive to their queries, responsive to their queries and be in listening mode all the time.  They want honesty. They want transparency.  They want answers.

A recent example of a company with a poor reputation for CRM is one of the train operators in the UK.  Last night there was a huge problem with the rail service that services the south west of England.  Passengers who got on the trains to leave London during the 6pm rush hour had a problem.  They left Waterloo station, only to be stranded for more than 4 hours outside Woking Station in Surrey 20 miles away.

imageSeveral people frustrated by the lack of information took matters into their own hands.  Then several other passengers eventually forced their way out of the trains to walk down the track to Woking Station. 

This caused power to the lines to be shut off stranding 60 trains.  Passengers switched to Twitter to try to get an answer from South West Trains about why there was such a delay (here’s an example if you can’t find anything on Twitter search) and there are several blog posts documenting the chaos.

The thing that jumps out of this debacle is the utter lack of communication from South West trains themselves.  National Rail Enquiries, who provide information about train scheduling were online, active and as helpful as they could possibly be last night. 

Representatives of South West trains were unavailable last night and refused to comment this morning although there is an apology on their site.

Unfortunately for companies with no social CRM in place, Twitter hash tags makes communication between strangers easy.  Communities form for the moment, transient friendships are made.  Companies can no longer hide with fabrication and evasiveness.  The social consumer is socially savvy.

Social CRM necessitates a change in behaviour.  A total change.

Relationship change.  Previously, the passengers on the stranded trains would have been totally dependent on messages from the guard. now they have formed an engaged community of activists, demanding answers in real time.  Communication has been democratised and anyone can help the customer with his issue

Process changes: The consumer is in control.  They control the messaging.  The company now needs to listen and effect the change.

Channel Changes: The customer decides what channels to use.  Twitter tends to be the main channel for instant dissemination of information with blogs used as a follow up

Time changes:  This is not a 9 to 5 world any more.  Companies who want to achieve good relationships with their customers need to be on hand to answer questions whenever problems arise.  Even at 11pm.

Message Changes:  Consumers create dialogue.  Customers want interaction.  They don’t want outbound messages broadcast from the marketing teams.  They want to connect with the customer.

Gartner predicted that by 2010 50% of customers with online communities will fail to manage them correctly as  South West trains have proved.  Even though they haven’t created the community, its there all the same.  And South West and many other companies need to take heed of this and evolve their social CRM strategy before they utterly fail.

Watching the complaints of the many commuters who have no other way to get to London for work still streaming across the social web, I think that they already have…

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.