Rohit Bhargava is SVP of global digital strategy at Ogilvy, an award-winning marketing blogger and the best-selling author of Personality Not Included, a book about creating a more human brand. His is currently writing his second book called Likeonomics on how to be more believable.
When an irate traveler tweeted about how he had arrived late to The Four Seasons in Palo Alto and been “bumped” to an inferior room, the hotel saw it immediately and responded, promising to make it up to him. Turns out, the customer spends about 60 nights a year in Palo Alto for work, and promised in his next tweet to spend many of those nights at The Four Seasons.
The brand has had several similar stories posted online by delighted customers, and they are exactly the kind of successes that justify the investment in social media for customer service (which, in turn, drives sales).
Oct. 27 was the first day of the Social Media for Customer Care Summit in New York, a gathering of some of the largest brands in the world focused on how social service can be leveraged more effectively. Nearly every brand was struggling with the same three big questions, which became discussion topics and hashtags in their own right:
- How can customer care better integrate with other functions across a company, like marketing? #integration
- How can an organization take the efforts of one or two pioneering individuals and employ it brand-wide? #scaling
- How can social media be used to mitigate negative posts or a brand crisis? #crisis
Throughout the day, there were many strong ideas and lessons offered on these topic. Here are just a few of the highlights.
1. Don’t allow any one team to own social media. (KLM)
In April 2010, Dutch airline KLM was thrown into the jaws of social media head first thanks to the Icelandic ash cloud that covered Europe and grounded flights across the continent for nearly a week. Moving quickly, KLM earned credit by creating a rebooking tool for Facebook within 24 hours and created a “multi-functional” team across customer service, marketing, PR and operations. For the world’s largest airline, this forced integration was just what they needed to build a highly sophisticated view that social media belongs belongs everywhere across the company. When they recently launched 24/7 support on Twitter and Facebook, they did it through a highly engaging “Live Replies” campaign in which they responded to tweets with a small army of staff in an airplane hanger holding up signs.
2. Go through the experience to really get it. (Telus)
Canadian telecom brand Telus shared an important lesson about walking in someone else’s shoes. For them, it meant bringing executives into the real “down and dirty” conversations that customers were having with service reps on social media channels. As Carol Borghesi, senior vice president of the brand’s Customer First initiative candidly shared, Telus was rated high on the Canadian list of companies with the “worst customer service.” Social media is a key component of how they plan to be the first telecom in Canada to make it off that notorious list.
3. Help your customer service people feel like rock stars. (Zappos)
Of course, no conference about customer service would be complete without a great Zappos story, and Scott Klein and Marlene Kanagusuku from its customer loyalty team certainly delivered. A key thread in their presentation was how every employee is required to take four weeks of customer service training, and they are planning to cash in for the holiday season by bringing everyone from across the company in to man the phones and work with customers directly during that busiest time.
4. Get top-level buy-in through stories and data. (Citi)
Frank Eliason became something of a rock star within the world of social customer care thanks to his work founding the @comcastcares Twitter account and helping to change that brand’s corporate culture. Now he’s got a unique point of view on how and why social media for customer service is a failure, and how brands can fix it. One of his main points was that you need to combine data with real powerful stories in order to actually make a change. As he shared, “I’ve never met a CEO who wanted to create a bad customer experience.” Amen.
5. Find your ROI formula to justify your own existence. (Xbox)
Everyone has his own secret strategy for how to answer the big ROI question. But McKenzie Eakin, LIVE community programs manager for Xbox pulled back the curtain on her relatively simple formula:
Unique customers engaged with Xbox on Twitter x The percent of people who say they would have called instead of tweeting x Average cost per call = $$ saved in call center costs.
It’s not a perfect methodology, but it’s all about finding the right lens through which to view data your company cares about.
6. Consider and leverage employees’ personal passions. (Best Buy)
No discussion of scaling a social media for customer service effort would be complete without delving into the amazing work of Best Buy and its Twelpforce. All 180,000 of their employees are encouraged to use social media tools (a staggering number) and they have many training programs and content creation initiatives (like an in-house production studio). One important key — they let employees share their personal passions for technology and intersect those with their jobs. More companies should find a way to do this.
7. Don’t freak out. (Four Seasons)
Earlier in the post, I started with a great customer service example from The Four Seasons hotels. While this tip itself was not something that Andrew Gillespie, Four Seasons’s manager of guest services, shared from the stage, it was an important reminder. Not every piece of negativity from a customer is bad news. Many times, it’s an opportunity to confound expectations, deliver something unexpected and completely turn that experience around.
8. Respond with empathy, but defend your brand. (Comcast)
Kip Wetzel didn’t have an easy job when he became the new voice of the @comcastcares Twitter handle. At the conference, he talked about striking the right tone, how a human quality like empathy can be translated into 140 characters, and how engaging on social media doesn’t mean you need to let go of defending your brand. Be real and genuine and detailed, but also share the truth.
9. Don’t feed the trolls. (Samsung)
In one of the final sessions of the day, Carla Saavedra from Samsung shared the important reminder that not everyone is worth engaging online. Some people are looking to pick a fight, get free stuff, or just get some attention on Twitter. Ignore those trolls and have a real strategic or customer-centric reason for responding to content online. This relates closely to the scaling topic because you can’t scale without prioritizing your responses.