Tag Archives: customer service

Taking Better Care of Our Customers

8 May

Taking Better Care of Our Customers

Recently I’ve had some shopping experiences online that have left a bad taste in my mouth. I figured that I had stewed over them long enough and wanted to jot some thoughts down on the blog and get your take. First off, let me say that in my opinion the gold standard in online shopping, shipping and customer service is Zappos – hands down. No one else even comes close. And while I don’t hold other companies to quite that high of a standard, they have set the benchmark and I’ve come to expect something in the same ballpark.

Rock n’ Roll Woes

Recently I bought some merchandise from a musician’s online store. I’ve been a fan of this particular guitar player for a long time and wanted to order a couple of t-shirts and a hoodie. I placed my order on a Thursday morning and waited. By the following Tuesday I still hadn’t received any sort of confirmation or shipping notification so I emailed the web shop. The first thing I did was respond to their initial “payment received” email. That bounced. Hmmm, why did that happen? Oh yeah, I see it here – the address in the reply field of their confirmation email was “sales@example.com.” Ok, so they never changed the template – sloppy. Undeterred, I went to their site and found a different contact email. That also bounced back with a “mailbox full” message. Finally, I found a .me address and sent an email there hoping for a miracle. Nothing. After two days I emailed again telling them that if I didn’t receive some sort of response that I would file a dispute with PayPal. I heard back within 5 minutes and they said my order would be shipping that day and that I’d receive confirmation within the hour. But, another day went by with no email. After emailing them again with no response, I finally filed a dispute with PayPal to get my money back. However, 10 minutes after I opened that dispute I got an automated email telling me my order had shipped – this was now a full two weeks after the order was placed. I noticed the order was being shipped from Las Vegas via USPS Priority Mail. I live in Santa Barbara – less than 400 miles from Las Vegas – meaning the package should have been there in 2-3 days. Yet, 6 days later, I still didn’t have my order. Finally, PayPal stepped in and reached out to the seller. Miraculously, two days later I received my package. Interestingly, it’s post-marked only two days earlier meaning it left their facility 6 days after they said it did.

Did you follow all that?

Post Mortem

Obviously this was a colossal screw-up for this business. They did make a half-assed attempt after I’d received delivery to make sure I had, in their words, “received my order and make sure everything was taken care of,” but there was no apology for the delay, deception and aggravation that I had gone through as a customer. There was no special coupon or credit offered. Honestly, it felt like their main focus was to make sure I closed the dispute and they got to keep their money.

A week later I ordered a watch from an online retailer, and while I won’t bore you with the play-by-play of that transaction, let’s just say that the combined frustration of these two back-to-back experiences inspired me to write this post.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Hard

If you’re selling products online you have to have a rigid set of standards for your entire sales process from order placement to customer delivery. That includes acknowledging a customer’s order, their payment and notification of shipment. If you want them to feel good about handing you their credit card information, you need to make sure to get the simple things right, and let them know you’re an organization that can be trusted. By not sending out even basic confirmations you can cause unnecessary panic and mistrust amongst your customers.

I understand that problems happen sometimes. There will occasionally be times when an item is out of stock, or shipping is delayed. Instead of staying silent, be upfront and accountable to your customer. A personalized email goes a long way to smooth over any initial frustration and most will find it refreshing that a business took the time to explain the issue.

When you make a mistake, offer compensation. Offer to upgrade shipping, or email them a coupon for 20% off their next order. Not only will you smooth over any ruffled feathers, but you’ll be building goodwill towards your brand for future purchases.

These all seem like no-brainers to me, but clearly that’s not the case with a lot of online businesses today. When people make a purchase from your website, many are first-time customers. If you want them to come back, it is paramount that you provide a stellar shopping experience by keeping them informed, acknowledging those rare mistakes and compensating them for any hassle.

Does This Resonate?

Do you run an online web store? What is your philosophy on customer service? How do you ensure that your customers receive a great experience? What hard lessons have you learned along the way?

As an online shopper what are your pet-peeves? What companies do you buy from that provide stellar online service?

Increasing Revenue with Social Media?

8 Mar

Increasing Revenue with Social Media?

I pitch to a handful of new clients each week. Some already understand they need a social media strategy, but for a variety of reasons they’ve been unable to implement it on their own. Usually it’s because they don’t have someone on staff that understands the intricacies of new media and they would rather roadtest a lower-risk campaign with an outside contractor rather than hire someone full-time to create and implement their strategy. That’s where I come in to help.

The question I’m asked most of the time on the first phone call is “How much will this social media campaign increase my revenue?” Or, they phrase it another way, usually something like “If we see financial gain from this in the first month or two then we’ll continue it indefinitely.”

This is where I close my eyes on the other end of the phone, calm myself and politely deliver the response that I’ve delivered a thousand times before. I explain that it doesn’t work that way – social media is not a quick fix to increase sales. In fact, if that’s your only objective then the money you’ve earmarked for a new media campaign would be better used on search or affiliate marketing. Both of those channels are optimized for sales and have a proven track record in increasing revenue. Social media, not so much.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA?

For many potential clients, the call is over after I finish explaining the points noted above. For them it was only about short term sales and if that isn’t possible, there was no point in spending money on all that new-fangled Twitter stuff. But occasionally, I talk to a client that gets it. They understand that social media is an investment in their brand. Below I’ve outlined four things that you should care about when envisioning your social strategy:

1 . RELATIONSHIPS: Social media’s biggest benefit is its power to help build lasting relationships. Sure, you may not make a sale in the first month or the second month – but someday when a member of your social community is in the market for your product, chances are they will buy from you as opposed to your competition. Why? Because you took the time building a relationship, sharing information, offering knowledge and not being sales-y. Chances are they trust and respect your brand and making a purchase from you is an obvious choice. Heck, even if they don’t buy something from you, if you’ve made an impression on them they are likely to share information about your business with their social circle. Nothing beats that trusted recommendation.

2. LISTENING: Most businesses using social media miss out on this one, yet it can be one of the most valuable tools you have in your marketing arsenal. Companies pay thousands of dollars for focus groups and market research – social media has these things baked right into it. By monitoring your social channels for industry keywords and your business name you can learn a lot about what the marketplace is saying about you. What do they like about you? What can be improved? What products do they want that you’re not providing? How much is that information worth to you?

3. CUSTOMER SERVICE: Social media has become a great way to provide excellent customer service to your customers. Companies like Comcast were pioneers in using Twitter to address customer issues. This not only led to Comcast’s search results becoming more positive, but also changed the dynamic of the company. Consumers have become increasingly vocal in social media when they like or don’t like what a brand is doing. These present new opportunities, not only for a business to get involved in the conversation, but also to right any wrongs that may have been done. As a bonus, by keeping your ear close to the ground and monitoring keywords from your industry you may be able to step in and help a disgruntled customer of one of your competitors. How’s that for new customer acquisition?

4. THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: This is usually the fuzziest item of the bunch for most businesses to understand in terms of need. Many businesses simply don’t believe that a blog (your platform for thought leadership) is a must have. I’m here to tell you, it is. Sure, if you’re Coca-Cola you probably don’t need to become a thought leader in soft drink space. But if you’re a business trying to stand out from your competitors, thought leadership is a great way to do it. The best way to build trust in your brand early on is by showing the market that you are an expert in your market segment. The best way to show them that is by creating content: blogging, video, audio podcasts and white papers are all great ways to demonstrate that your people know what they’re talking about. Creating this type of dynamic and shareable content also increases your SEO juice around keywords you care about.

SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE

Social media is not a sprint. It’s not a quick fix. It is an undertaking that has to be integrated into your overall marketing strategy in a thoughtful way. It demands buy-in from the highest levels of the organization and requires genuine intent and transparency from all those participating in the project. I believe eventually a great social strategy does lead to an increase in revenue, but it shouldn’t be the primary goal. Instead focus should be placed on the longterm growth and health of your brand by being cognizant of the four tenets listed above.

Do you coordinate the social strategy at your company? How long have you been doing it? Was it hard to get buy-in? Does executive management see the value in it?