Social media has fundamentally changed the world of customer service and marketing. Customers control the conversation, and the service you provide can no longer be an unsatisfactory or merely an acceptable experience. It's not even enough to provide unique products or services. Customers have shown that due to bad service, they are willing to change and will let their friends, family, and fans know about it. An America Express study shows an astounding 83 percent of customers left the purchase due to bad service.
The Heart of Marketing panel at the The Social Shake-Up 2014 (#tssuheartofmktg) got to the source of the matter: only when customer service is put at the heart of marketing will you reach your marketing and revenue objectives. In fact, Customer 2020 Report shows that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Read on to hear why, and what you can do about it, from Dan Gingiss, Digital Customer Experience & Social Media, Discover; Natanya Anderson, Director, Social Media and Digital Marketing, Whole Foods; and Shep Hyken, customer service expert.
Connect on the Customer Journey
"You know your audience wants human-to-human interaction," said Hansen Lieu, Director, CRM Product Marketing, SAP, and moderator of the panel. "It can't be what we used to do-paint a fantastic image of the content of the product or service, and convince them to spend money on it. Marketing isn't relevant anymore because people don't trust it. They want the truth. They don't want us to tell them what to do. They want us to show them what we said. Customer service is at the heart of interaction. It's engagement with the customer when they're on the buying journey. Help the customer and engage and nudge them from one step of the journey to the other. Earn the right to be on the journey like a friend."
Gartner and Forrester research predict that by 2020, 80 percent of the buying process will occur without any direct human-to-human interaction. That's because customers are turning to digital channels to self-educate about products and services, and they are waiting later in the buying process to speak directly with a sales person.
However, an April 2013 CMO Council and NetLine survey of B2B decision-makers worldwide found the greatest percentage of respondents (58 percent) said content played a role in purchasing decisions when it helped them find new solutions to problems. Plus, eConsultancy showed 83 percent of consumers require some degree of customer support while making an online purchase. The bottom line: you need to know your customer and be there when they need help on their journey.
Seize the Social Opportunity
Also a New York Times bestselling author, Hyken believes we confuse customer service with customer experience: the new marketing online and in person. He said marketing isn't telling anymore. It's doing and proving, and earning the right to do business with the consumer.
"At Discover, our tagline is, 'We treat you like you treat you,' but I've always said the core of the TV commercial is saying, 'Trust us.' Show beats tell every time. Social is the only channel where you can demonstrate or publicly show this," Gingiss said. "But you actually have to be good at customer service to be on social. If not, social will destroy you. People who tweet something positive to a brand actually expect a response more than those who tweet something negative."
A Search Engine Land article shared "about 49 percent of local consumers are more likely to use a local business having read a positive review online." Therefore, you must interact with happy and unhappy customers to get more positive reviews and ROI. Positive reviews influence other customer decisions, too, such as 90 percent of consumers online trust recommendations from people that they know, with 70 percent trusting the opinions posted online by unknown users.
"The way I think about marketing is that it's not Mad Men any more," Anderson said. "It's about supporting the customer through the entire buying cycle. Inspire them how to use your goods. That's marketing. Provide a fantastic purchase experience. That's marketing. A customer has an issue or question. That's marketing. We're with the customer the whole way, not just in the store. The whole organization has to get involved to be with the customer through their entire journey. Social media isn't just the responsibility of the 'social team.'"
According to an Edison study, 42 percent of consumers expect a response on social media within an hour. Unfortunately, a typical business hears from only 4 percent of its dissatisfied customers, while 96 percent don't voice their complaints and 91 percent will never come back. If these facts and statistics don't prove we need to make customer service a key initiative, perhaps others will.
"Responding to positive feedback is fun, engaging, and builds community," said Gingiss. "On the negative side, it's equally important to address the core issue, be empathetic, say you're sorry, and fix it."
He suggested, when appropriate, to also mirror how they ask for help. For instance, a Tweet from a prospective Discover card customer who was tired of receiving mailers from the company tweeted, "Please get the hint, I don't want a Discover card." The quick, witty response, "Wow, we must really want you as a customer," turned the angry tweeter into a customer.
Talk Table Stakes
"So what's the implication for customer service and marketing?" Hansen asked the panel trio.
"It's interesting how many companies do customer service so poorly," Gingiss said. "It should be the table stakes. Customer service can very easily become a differentiator among many competitors."
No matter what is your industry, the table stakes are no longer simply the tools you need to be capable in your business. Customer experience is just as important. But are all channels equal in the need to respond?
"Customer service isn't just for B2C," said Anderson. "Word of mouth is powerful. Table stakes have gotten much broader. It's not only call centers and the telephone. Social is for real. The issue for business is all channels are equal in terms of the need to respond. Take it seriously when the customer is coming at you at every possible direction. Make customer service good in the first place, and then add the social layer. It's the easiest place to prove ROI. It's a wakeup call to businesses."
Hyken added that it's true for B2B and B2C. "There is always going to be a competitor. It's rare there's not someone else doing it, too. Customer service gives the right to bid and shape bids. If the supplier is B2B, it de-commoditizes itself. I'm a buyer of services and tools as someone who manages social tools, for example. We talk more about customer service relationships with partners. Are they there for us? How do they support us? Although it's hard to talk about it on social, we see it manifest through word of mouth, which is more important for B2B. Service is table stakes. Service provides the right to re-market."
If you wanted a question answered in two to three hours, wouldn't you wait for the question to get there in two to three hours? "When you don't reply to people on social, it's like unplugging the phone," Gingiss said. "Would your organization ever do that? We call it First Tweet Resolution. We want to provide service to customers on the channel of their choice."
Determine Damage Control
But how can you turn a critic into an advocate? When do you respond to negative comments publicly or solve them offline? When do you get involved or stand back? The audience asked these questions as the panel progressed.
"Invite the customer to email if it will be easier to solve through that channel," Anderson said. "Never force them to change channels. Always try to solve the issue where it started. There are some people in the world that you can never make happy. Vegetarians will never be happy with Whole Foods because we sell meat. So be respectful, but at one point disengage."
Make Customer Service a Culture
"Customer service is not a department, it's a culture," Hyken said. "There are six Ds to creating a customer-centric culture: Define it. Disseminate it. Deploy it. Demonstrate it. Defend it. Delight in it."
Anderson said it's how you change from doing what it takes to doing what is right. She also offered creative staffing ideas if you have only one person running and monitoring your social channels. One solution is to ask employees from other departments or locations to sign up for a social media shift. This not only offers backup but also helps everyone in your business understand social.
"Hire the right people," Gingiss said. "Social is a great place for really good customer service people to show off their personality. Ask 10 people the same question and you don't get the same answer."
Case in point: even if it's not part of the script, allow employees to show their personality. While a smiley face icon is often used in email at the end of a message, you can express your care for the customer with a heart icon, or <3.
Customer service is not only the new marketing. It's also the heart of marketing. Without human-to-human engagement, you're just another [insert brand, industry, service, or product here]. Authentic communication is everyone's job. Help us spread the love by tweeting from here.