By HootSuite CEO, Ryan Holmes
They may have yelled before, but now they have megaphones. Whether they’re bashing or praising your products and your brand, customers are online and louder than ever. And right now, they’re on forums, review sites, Facebook and Twitter, sending out thousands of uncensored opinions—that could have major consequences. Take for example last year, when one unhappy client ended up spurring a massive PR catastrophe for retail chain David’s Bridal. Her single Facebook post (describing a lousy experience at her local David’s outlet), received an astonishing 125,140 likes and 11,000 comments and led to thousands more complaints being posted on the company’s Facebook page—along with a mass call for boycotting the brand altogether.
It’s no surprise customer support departments are scrambling to adjust. But what can they do to prevent catastrophes and thrive in this volatile online climate?
It’s not easy, but I’m proud that my company, HootSuite (with over six million users), currently boasts a 90% customer support satisfaction rate—a figure that exceeds industry standards. Interestingly, a huge secret to our success is our own product. Our customer support department (and all of my employees across all departments) use the HootSuite social media management tool to easily monitor social media channels from one place and engage people more effectively.
Here are seven guiding principles we use to provide the best we can for our valued clients:
1. Be everywhere. The longer it takes for a client to find a way to get in touch with you, the higher the likelihood is they will report a negative experience. It’s paramount that you be where your customers are so they can reach you as quickly as possible.
2. Be proactive. DON’T just stand back and let the feedback come to you. Social media empowers you to be more active in your customer outreach. We’re constantly listening to online conversations about our product so we can spot and respond to positive and negative feedback as quickly as possible.
How do we do this, with a small global support team and 5 million users? By using our social media management tool to track all of our social media channels from one interface and engage people faster and more effectively.
For example, recently one of our users wrote a blog post expressing his issues with our product and then tweeted it out. Since we actively monitor our Twitter streams, our community department found his tweets and immediately alerted our support team, who tracked the original post down, reached out to the customer, and offered a solution to him. He was so pleased he added an amendment to his blog.
3. Be available, always. Remember the last time you were in a rush at the supermarket? Nothing is more frustrating than having to wait in a long checkout line. Once your customer finds a channel and reaches out to you, minimize the amount of time they wait to get a response from you.
The added challenge here is that social media never sleeps. People on a network like Twitter expect a quick response, not an answer that comes a day later. At HootSuite, a tweet to us will get a response in fewer than 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. (The majority of our feedback comes to us between Monday-Friday.) This is made possible by using our dashboard to monitor multiple social media streams at once.
And as our product expands globally, we’re exploring new ways to adjust better to diverse users’ needs.
4. Treat every single customer like they are your biggest. Here’s a revealing stat: 20% of our highest level Enterprise clientele were once non-paying free users. This is because they trust and depend on our product, and (hopefully) also because they appreciate that we valued them even before they paid us a cent.
When you’re aiming for long-term success, you need to treat every single user as if they’re your most important – even the free ones.
5. Know your product, inside out. There are no cookie-cutter solutions in great customer support. In order to truly help your clients, you need to understand what their unique goals are, then provide unique solutions. Our customer success mantra is: There is always a solution . . . sometimes you just have to find a creative way to get there.
But you can’t find those creative ways unless you know the product inside out.
So no matter how senior they are, our customer support team members use our products daily and participate in mandatory weekly product training sessions to make sure their knowledge is always up to date.
6. See every complaint as a golden opportunity. With 5 million users, we can’t just pick up the phone and call everyone who’s willing to talk to us. So when a customer reaches out to us (even negatively) we always see it as an opportunity to engage with them.
Also, these encounters give us the chance to learn more about our customers and products so we can get better at providing for them.
To top it off, members of our customer support team simply love talking to people, so it’s exciting for them to connect one-on-one. Responding to customer complaints isn’t always easy, but seeing the glass half-full can make a big difference.
7. Strive for moments of AWESOME. What is a moment of awesome? It’s when a customer has an experience that exceeds their expectations. It could be having your question answered on Twitter just seconds after you tweet it. Or maybe it’s hearing back from a support rep, weeks after your problem has been fixed, just as a friendly follow-up. We’ve seen small thoughtful actions make big differences.
This post was originally published on the LinkedIn Influencer blog, a new resource that brings together regular insights from hundreds of thought-leaders around the globe. To find out how you can follow world leaders, educators, industry experts and others (including HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes), read this post: “How to Follow Richard Branson, Barack Obama and…Ryan Holmes on LinkedIn.”
Want to learn more about using HootSuite for your business? Visit the HootSuite Enterprise site, and ask us for a demo.