Category Archives: Communications

13 Ways to Make Your 1-800 Customer Support Not Suck

Bad Customer ServiceLet’s face it, the purpose of 1-800 customer support lines are to do everything possible to prevent you from getting customer service.  Companies have come to the conclusion (erroneously I think) that somehow talking to customers is a bad thing.  They base this belief on the fact that every time they talk to you, it costs them money. That may have made some sense back in the olden days and I would argue that avoiding conversations with your customers is unwise and potentially risky.  Why do you want to talk to your customers?

  • Customer feedback, when aggregated, can give insight on common problems they face with your product, business, website, etc.  In a sense, each conversation becomes its own focus group study.  Who wouldn’t want feedback from the very people that are buying and using their products and services?  At the very least, it gives the company direction on what issues are most common, what they may need to correct, and in what priority.
  • Message Control: If companies won’t provide the customer an outlet to reach them, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, and the hundred other social networks most certainly will.  By having a simple and convenient way for me to contact you, I might just not tell my social networks how much I hate you. And inversely…
  • My boyish naiveté often gets me in trouble but I have this weird belief that your job as a company doesn’t end after the sale, it begins.  Fostering a positive relationship with your customers not only increases the chance of them doing more business with you, it creates an army of advocates of your company and brand that extend across those same networks they might have vented on.  And believe me advocates work cheap (note: adversaries also work cheap and often with more vigor and venom)

So in the spirit of pretending to give a crap about providing your customers with good (Note: I didn’t even say ‘great’) customer service, here are the Top 12 Pieces of Advice for Companies that use 1-800 Customer Support Lines:

  1. Make your phone tree a phone shrub.  If it takes me more than 30 seconds to get where I want to go, you’re doing it wrong.
  2. Don’t tell me that my call is important & then put me on hold for 17 minutes
  3. If the hold time is 17 minutes, don’t have a 1-800 line. Just send a guy over to punch me in the face, its less painful for me.
  4. If you insist on putting me on hold, tell me how long I’ll be on hold.
  5. When I am on hold, DON’’T hammer me with promotions or ads for your products. And for God’s sake don’t hammer me with Musak  Hammer me with some Metallica. . Hint: Make my wait as entertaining or painless as possible.
  6. If I ask the same question everyone else asks, fix that problem until we don’t ask the question anymore, ok Sparky?  Fix the most common problems and I guaran-effing-tee that we won’t call you as much.
  7. If your Operators name is Maruf and works in the Bangladesh Call Center, tell him not to say his name is “Bobby”. I’m good working with Maruf and your not fooling anyone.
  8. If my call gets dropped for any reason, call me back. Immediately. Sooner if possible.
  9. I should only have to give you my information once.
  10. I know I can find answers to your website, but right now I wanna talk to a person though. Make that simple to do.
  11. If you offer “Do It Yourself” products, make sure you have phone support on weekends.  I mean when do you think most “Do It Yourself” projects are done?????
  12. Don’t grade your operators on how quickly they can get me off the phone, Grade them on my delighted they make me. Trust me this works.
  13. Extend you customer support model beyond the phone. If don’t offer chat or social media support you’re behind the digital curve.  Email/Support Forms? C’mon, we all know that’s the black hole of customer service Hell and if you can’t get back to me with some kind of response within an hour don’t bother with it.

It’s really that easy. We aren’t asking for much. And if you do take care of us, we’ll take care of you.

Your Social Media Sucks…..and That Just Might Be Good Enough

Recently, Mitch Joel (@mitchjoel) & Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) talked about their disappointment and frustration on the state of social media marketing. In The Depressing State of Social Media Marketing”, Mitch said companies were missing the opportunity to create real relationships with their audiences in favor of adding to the noise that exists on social channels. In “The Bare Truth About Social Media Marketing”, a shirtless and rakishly handsome Chris Brogan, lamented that brands are just being too mechanical and “chirping out blather to elicit responses or likes, but with no follow-up, no next steps, no actual business intent. Just… faux interaction.”

The truth is that they are both right.

Corporate Friction

With that, I guess I’m surprised that Mitch and Chris are surprised at the state of social media marketing. While it’s easy to look from the outside and say “Why are they doing this?”, “How come they are not doing that?”, “They should be doing a better job about this”. “They don’t get it”. The fact is you’re dealing with organizations, and organization have “friction“, lots and lots of friction. Friction is the thing that prevents companies from achieving the idealistic nirvana that from the outside seems simple, obvious, and necessary.

Some examples of corporate friction?

  • How about Legal Departments that impose draconian limits on what you can say to customers and who can say it. These limitations are borne by real and potential lawsuits that can destroy a company. So processes are put in place to minimize that threat.
  • How about Corporate politics which dictate which silo in the organization “owns” the process. Mitch can say that ‘social media is the horizontal that runs across the organization’ but Corporations are vertical and vertical is how corporation keep track of stuff.
  • How about ingrained processes that limit new approaches because they rub up against the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset.
  • How about Wall Street, that in reality dictates much of how a public company operates. Miss your quarterly projections by a penny and forget about all those great opportunities to forge deep relationships on social networks….because the social media team just got laid off because they can’t prove an ROI.
  • How about the human element of a work force who doesn’t have the motivation/incentive/drive to promote or take on new initiatives. After all, that would be hard work and by the way, “it’s not my job” and “I got other responsibilities to worry about that can get me fired if I don’t tend to them”.
  • How about the fact that rather than trying to build stronger & more personal relationships with customers, companies are still tending to offshore those conversations to call centers in countries most of us can’t find on a map – and building in complicated phone trees to make even those conversations difficult to find. Alternatively, these responsibilities are handed over to agencies who know the mechanics of social interaction but are more interested in contract renewal than understanding the true DNA and culture of a company.
  • If staffed internally, social media marketing is generally being relegated to younger, less seasoned employees who don’t necessarily have the experience to understand where the value in social lies and how to foster AND measure it (NOTE: I know I’m making a broad generalization but there’s some truth in there somewhere).
  • Let’s also consider, that from a corporate perspective, social as a business tool has only really emerged in the past 5 years. By comparison, the commercial Internet has been around for ~15 years and the typical website experience still generally sucks. Hell, Ford has been making cars for 100 years and still can’t figure out how to make a water pump that doesn’t fail when you’re on a desolate road at 2 in the morning 😉 Things don’t work optimally out the gate. They do get better over time however and 5 years is not that much time – even in a digital sense.
  • Read the rest of this entry

    Kristin Stewart: The Greatest Crisis Management Guru of All Time

    Kristen Stewart is a TrampireGranted she is just the smokin’ hot young actress from the Twilight series, but if the acting thing doesn’t work out Kristin Stewart might have a career as the world’s great Crisis Management Consultant.  No really, I’m serious about that.  Witness her recent scandal where she was caught canoodling with the very-married and 20 years her senior, director of the Twilight series, Rupert Sanders.

    Her response to the allegations were straight from the “Here’s how you handle a crisis” playbook.  Let’s take a look:

    On July 17, 2012, the actress was caught by photographers in a series of steamy rendezvous with her Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders, 41 and on July 24th those photos were splashed across the pages of US Weekly.

    On July 25, 2012 Stewart issues the following statement to People Magazine:

    I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I’ve caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I’m so sorry.

    Boom!

    So what did she do right?

    1. She responded quickly.  Rather than let the media or tabloids (are they the same things?) drive the narrative, she immediately responded to the allegations. By owning the story you own the direction it takes.  Typically, companies will adopt the “close your eyes and cover your ears” response and hope it will all go away.  As John Edwards will tell you, it doesn’t always happen that way

    2. She told the truth – Many crisis experts will recite the adage “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Isn’t that right President Nixon? Rather than to the typical knee jerk “The allegations are totally false and I will work aggressively to clear my name” routine, Stewart admitted to the affair and in doing so neutered the story in its tracks.  Is any of this making any sense to you U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner?

    3. Her statement was brief and to the point. Rather than write a soliloquy explaining herself she stuck with a simple, matter of fact admission. No excuses. No detailed explanation. This is in contrast to the epic Tiger Woods’ explanation of his sordid affairs which almost needed commercial break s it was so long.

    4. She apologized – There was no finger pointing, no scapegoating, just a simple admission and apology. She didn’t even name her canoodling partner. Is this making any sense Time magazine writer, Washington Post columnist, and CNN host Fareed Zakaria?

    5. She was sincere – Her statement is an obvious heartfelt apology.  This wasn’t something run through her publicists or legal team and it shows. Any of this sinking in Rush Limbaugh?

    Of course, her perfect response to the allegation put her “team” into panic mode as they worked to downplay and even deny the affair, which only served to bring focus back on the rumors when Stewart had effectively squashed the story.  This brings us to another rule of crisis management:

    6. Manage the crisis through a clear and consistent message – preferably through a designated spokesperson. In this case Stewart was that spokesperson.  By contradicting her statement they have only reignited the scandal and begged the media to wonder what really happened. Way to go overzealous publicist people.

    Has she taking her lumps? Of course she has and so will you. But she minimized the damage by following a perfectly executed crisis management plan. And if losing that douchebag Robert Pattinson is part of the punishment then I would say she’s already way ahead!

    So say what you will about Kristen Stewart’s acting chops, but if you’re ever in need of a good Crisis Communication Consultant give the Trampire a call because she probably handled her crisis better than you’ll handle yours.

    LinkedIn and When “Free” is not “Free”

    I drank a fucking boatload of Jack Daniel’s. To the point where they sent me a deed for one square foot of land in Tennessee so that I could officially be a Tennessee squire. I offered to do an ad for them after that, and I got a very nice letter back saying, “Bill, we love you, but this shit sells itself.  – Bill Maher

    A couple days ago I got an email from LinkedIn offering a ‘Free Month of LinkedIn Premium’.  Hmm, I thought, LinkedIn is really the shit when is come to getting found by employers.  I can honestly say that absolutely every opportunity brought to me in the last couple years has come through LinkedIn.  More interestingly, in every occasion, it was the actual employer, not a headhunter that contacted me.

    <SIDENOTE: This is bad news if you’re a headhunter or monster.com)

    All of this exposure came through a regular LinkedIn profile and without any active outreach on my part.  I’m actually quite content where I’m at.  So before I get on my rant about LinkedIn, first let me say this: If you don’t have a complete profile set-up on LinkedIn, stop reading this now and go do it.

    Now!

    I’m Serious.

    I’ll stop typing until you get back…

    See wasn’t that easy?

    Ok, here’s the rant I promised and if you listen close there’s a lesson here for all Marketers.

    So I got this email from LinkedIn…

     

    Notice the call to action…

    Free is sometimes not free

    Wow! Personalized and everything! It’s like they said “Dean we know you like us and we like you too. And since we like each other so much we’re gonna do you a favor.”  So with the bait set, I started thinking that as good a LinkedIn has been, maybe I could get even more from it with LinkedIn Premium.  I knew there were other paid versions of LinkedIn, but hadn’t thought too much about it until this email arrived.  Bravo LinkedIn Email team.  I’ll bite and give you a click-through.  Nothing to lose right?

    So what do I see next?

    LinkedIn Premium Options

    Ok, this is good; it’s clearly spelling out the differences between the various levels of LinkedIn accounts.  I can clearly see what I have, and what I’m missing out on.  I’m still in your web LinkedIn!  Great job so far.  Let’s get that “Free” trial….

    There's no such thing as a free lunch

    Wait…what the f#&K is this??? It’s like, a checkout page, with like, credit card info and shit.  I thought this was free?  I mean it said “free” all over the place?  When does “free” mean “give us your credit card info?”  The answer of course is “free” means give us your credit card when it’s not an offer to try a solution more so than an offer to test your memory.

    It’s at that point I notice the subtle reminder…

    Linkedin Fine Print

    Well LinkedIn, this is where I jump off.  Geez and you were so close.

    I wish us Marketing folks would quit it with these shady tricks (that’s all they are – tricks).  You see,

    “Free” is “Free”.

    “Free” is not surcharges, hidden fees, shipping & handling, fine print.

    “Free” is “Free”.

    “Free” is not “Free*”

    * Discount applies to the promotional period only. Your card will start being charged when the promotional period has ended.

    “Free” is “Free”

    “Free” is not “Hey we’ll let you try it but not before you give us your credit card info so we can unscrupulously charge you in 30 days because by then you’ve forgotten about even signing up for the trial and our research department said that while 38% of you will be pissed off and call us to bitch and complain causing some bad PR that we’ll smooth over with a slick social media camnpaign, 62% of you won’t even notice the charge and it will be a revenue windfall for us which is important cuz we’re a public company and need to grow revenue so our shareholders will be happy.”

     ###

    As a Marketer I want to offer a good product at a fair price with great service and support.  As a consumer I want the same things.  As a Marketer if I have to employ “tricks” to sell my product, it means that my product can’t stand on its own.  As a Marketer, it also means that I’m lazy and resorting the same bag of tricks that I detest as a consumer.

    Let’s be better than that.  Let’s promote our products and services the way we would want them promoted to us.  Let’s forget that 3 pt. font exists and stop it with the fine print.  Let’s stop thinking about fooling the customer and think about how to provide value to the customer.

    In the end, LinkedIn, a service I love, missed an opportunity to give me a taste of LinkedIn Premium with no-strings attached.  They could have given me the upgrade “truly free” for 30 days, shown me value, and then pitched me.   Instead, they gambled, asked for credit card info and hoped I’d forget the ticking clock of the trial and somehow not notice the recurring charges.  And that hurts my heart.

    Message:

    To LinkedIn: Your product is better than that, you don’t need to resort to “Trick Marketing”

    To Marketers: If you need to resort to “Trick Marketing” to sell your product, try instead to make your product so good it doesn’t need tricks.  Or as wise old Jack Daniels might say: “Make the shit sell itself”.

    Communication and the Art of Not Communicating

    Men don’t care what’s on TV. They only care what else is on TV. – Jerry Seinfeld

    Recently Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) tweeted a photo from the stage of his panel at SXSWi. His intent was to show the throng of people who had showed up for his early morning panel. I’d like to discuss how attending a 9:30 a.m. panel classifies one as a “morning bird”, but that post is for another day. What struck me about his picture is the fact that not one, let me repeat that, “NOT ONE” of the people pictured in his audience is in a conversation with their neighbor. Seriously, look. Everyone’s attention is focused on whatever is happening on their mobile device. Here we are at SXSWi – the “i” stands for “Interactive” by the way – and there isn’t one person “interacting”. An entire conference focused on how to engage with people, communicate your message, develop your digital listening skills, and we have an audience doing none of that…

    Communication?

    I’ll admit that I am being hypocritical here, and I am as fused to my phone as anyone. Hell, I’m not even paying attention to myself as I write this because I’m more curious as to what’s going on in my Facebook news stream. But this photo is stunning to me. When did we become so adept and aware of the importance of communication yet completely lose the ability to communicate?

    Everywhere I go, I see the scene in Jeremiah’s audience playing out. In airports, malls, family gatherings, and most frighteningly, behind the wheel of cars!!! We have become so consumed with consuming the world within our mobile devices that we no longer notice the real world go on around us.

    Technology allows us to do magical things that we couldn’t have dreamt about even 10 years ago. And that is a good thing. But it has also made us slaves to those things. Paraphrasing Seinfeld, we don’t want to know what’s going on around us; we want to know what’s else is going on.

    I got an idea. Let’s take some time everyday and look for opportunities to engage with the people around us, you know, like in the olden days before iphones, when we really communicated with each other. Next time you’re in the audience at an event, waiting for Jeremiah (or whomever) to tell you how important it is to communicate with your audience…communicate with your audience – those people around you – ya, that guy sitting right next to you. Stop tweeting, stop checking in, stop posting, stop texting, and stop browsing because that guy right next to you has a fascinating story to share, and so do you.

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