Collaborating with Customers

Today’s  Customers: Trained to Collaborate!
The Do-it-yourself ness of the Digital Age, where customers enter their info, choose services, and pay on the spot, has changed customers’ self  perceptions!  It affirms the belief that their needs and viewpoints are critical to receiving optimal service.  Social Media prompts, share buttons, chat rooms, buzz scores, tweets and blogs provide the collaboration tools that customers use – and use frequently – to deliver their ideas and opinions.

AND,  research dispels the idea that customers are simply ranting about poor service or lousy products!   Here are the statistics on how customers are using social media:
46%   complaints about service or product
47%   sharing experiences
48%   kudos for terrific service
50%   questions about service
See Eptica Blog.  Data from http://eptica.wordpress.com/2012/05/page/2/

Looking at the list Collaboration skills list compiled in my last post,  I find that Social Media has:

Increased the customers’ ability to collaborate with each other to make changes, suggestions, demands for service changes, produce additions, and better responsiveness.

Increased customers listening effectiveness. If they feel strongly about posts, they  make connections between ideas, add their own ideas and insights and take action, like signing online petitions or flooding companies with comments.

Provided more ideas for customers to construct  broader thoughts and opinions that builds community.

Provided forums where customers have  shown willingness to change their ideas and solutions when they meet better ideas.

Today’s Managers: Trained to Respond

Because customers are invited to give and share their opinions on their experience, they expect that service managers will respond. With solutions!  Or, at the very least, with appreciation!   Customer comments – both rants and raves – should prompt expanded response strategies to keep pace with customer demands and service innovations.

It is not enough to listen carefully to ideas, suggestions, complaints.  IF your customer has taken time to express an idea or opinion, it is worth your time to respond beyond a polite acknowledgment and promise to better serve the customer.

It is not enough to assess customers’ comments for specific details and for customer feeling. IF the customer feels it is critical, it is worth your time to  demonstrate with actions that you too believe the customers’ perspective is critical.

Expand your response strategies to the:
46%   with complaints – by acknowledging problem and offering solutions or recompense.  Ask for forgiveness.  Personally  follow up to ensure that your solutions or compensation exceed what the customer expected.  Consider publishing the complaint and your response. Invite other customer comments.
47%   who share experiences  – by reading and responding to their social media posts with thanks.  Ask for permission to share their experiences with the customer community that you are actively building. Spotlight customers on your web page or blog.
48%   who give kudos for terrific service  – by sharing and spotlighting your customers’ experiences.  Surprise these customers with a personal letter or gift. Share these examples with your employees. Keep employees engaged in providing Kudo-worthy service.
50%  with questions about service by providing complete answers, examples,  and sending additional information.  Follow up with a personal letter or email.  Ask for other customer comments or ideas.  Learn from your customer questions.

Managers who are trained to respond: STAY TUNED  to their customers – online and inperson.  KEEP TIME with their customers’ need for immediacy. ENCOURAGE customers to keep talking.  SHARE customers comments and experiences with their employees.

Managers who are trained to respond continually ask questions of themselves, their employees and their customers.    Have customers identified new service needs?  Are we keeping up with customer priorities?  Have we showed appreciation to customers in meaningful ways?

HOW HAVE YOU EXPANDED YOUR CUSTOMER RESPONSE STRATEGIES?

About mcgntr

About Ann I was lucky and grew up in the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts surrounded by the arts, industry, literature, and family. I had a great education-- undergraduate work at Caldwell College and my masters at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where I began business life as Training Assistant. Returning east, I continued in the training profession, and ‘fell’ into Human Resources - first, Recruiting and Employment, Director of Human Resources and finally Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Training. I bowed out of the corporate world with the white collar layoffs in early ‘90s – and started a new venture McGill Enterprises: HelpQuick Human Resources Advisory & Training Services. I have enjoyed great opportunities - publishing 3 training books, mentoring HR professionals, creating a wide variety of training programs, writing scripts, and becoming an adjunct professor.
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