Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of sponsoring and participating in an #H2HChat, a weekly Twitter chat with a focus on sharing and its effect on the human economy. This week’s chat was particularly close to our hearts because of its topic: the art of sharing in a service driven world.
Hosted by Bryan Kramer, the author of Shareology, the panel boasted of some of the most illustrious people in the customer support space – Frank Eliason, Peter Shankman and our very own Alan Berkson. It’s a riveting hour long chat, peppered with so many colorful anecdotes and interesting stories that a proper recap reads like a transcript of the whole discussion.
Here are a few themes that emerged during this fascinating discussion:
Customers don’t want steaks at the airport. They just want to be treated like normal people.
Until a few years back, most businesses’ social media strategy involved getting a Twitter account and just waiting for a problem to happen before placating the customer. And that’s the equivalent of the fire department just putting out fires without trying to stop fires from happening in the first place.
However, things have changed. Businesses have realized that proactivity is the way to go, that they have to humanize specific roles and provide for personalized interactions that will wow their customers. The only problem being that they don’t do it for everyone. Most businesses tend to go for grand declarations of love, declarations only for their VIP customers, their influencers, people who they know will spread their name near and far.
Granted, they aren’t scaleable gestures but you know what the worst part is? Most customers don’t expect these grandiose declarations.
Steaks at the airport are nice, especially after a long flight and a lunch so far back in the past that it might as well have never happened, but that’s not what most customers want.
Customers just want to be treated like they matter, like they exist. The majority of customers don’t need anything more than an acknowledgement that they’re real people and not numbers. It’s not about billions and billions of gestures, it’s about being a good human being to your customers.
Customer service is all about continuity; it’s not about a one-off gesture.
As Peter Shankman put it,
“I don’t want to be treated like a nobody. I don’t need you to go out of your way to surprise me. I just want to be smiled at. I want to get a “Hello!”, a “Welcome to our airline!”. Something that tells me I exist in your eyes. That’s all you need to propel you into the stratosphere.
Great customer service is all about hiring the right people and empowering them
A lot of service-oriented companies make a right mess of this because they tend to view their customer service department as a cost-center and not as a profit center. They make the mistake of hiring from the bottom of the barrel for their customer support reps, a mistake of colossal proportions because customer support reps are the face of the company. If they cut corners and focus on just reducing costs without stopping to consider that if they don’t treat their employees right, if they don’t respect them or empower them, they [employees] are not going to have enough motivation or power to treat their customers well. The strategy’s not actually saving them any money, it’s in fact costing them more.
And there’s no better example than the Ritz-Carlton to prove just how misguided this strategy is. The Ritz-Carlton, famed for its customer service, empowers every employee with a budget, a budget that they can spend as they wish on their customers. They can go out of their way to make every customer’s experience special, without a process hampering them. The Ritz-Carlton is so successful, so well known because they understand that it’s all about the
people. You can teach anyone to fold a bedsheet but you can’t teach them empathy.
The best part is that the gestures don’t even have to be something grand. Flowers, candy, even cards will do.
#CEOOnSupport is about as personalized as it gets
When a CEO spends time on support, it gives them a reality check, a way of keeping their fingers on the pulse, a way of understanding the challenges their customers face. It’s also a great way of making the user experience special for the customer.
“You know why I’m dedicated to United? Over the years, I’ve had about 10 different conversations with their CEO. He’s always been very honest and very interesting. It was a thrill to me that he would do those things!” – Frank Eliason.
It also helps motivate employees. When employees see their CEO on support, they recognize the importance of customer service and see why keeping customers satisfied isn’t enough anymore. Employees begin seeing customer service as more than just a menial job. When CEOs join them on the front line, they see that it’s absolutely essential for them to go above and beyond the call of duty to make each customer happy. Our sentiments as well.
Customer Support is the New PR
All customers aren’t created equal. You can’t treat all your customers the same because all of your customers don’t favor you the same. The people who pay you $50 a month will obviously expect you to treat them like they’re special because they’re paying you $50 a month as opposed to the $5 everyone else is paying you.
The only problem is that most businesses tend to go overboard with this. Segmentation has to happen but it doesn’t have to be an unfair difference. Yes, your VIP customers are entitled to special treatment but that is no excuse to treat the rest of your customers like they don’t matter. As long as the baseline involves you showing your customers that you care (‘a basic smile and a hello makes a lot of difference’), most of your customers won’t care that your VIPs are getting the golden plane treatment while they aren’t. It’s all about realizing that your customers are rational, thinking, feeling people.
All that matters is the experience. It’s not about Public Relations anymore, it’s about Personal Recommendations. And customer service is key to powering that.
If you missed the chat or would like to watch it again, here you go.