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Customer service procedures and social media preparation

You wouldn’t jump into a swimming pool if you didn’t know how to swim. You would take lessons, learn the skill, and try your newly learned abilities while accompanied by your coach or mentor. Consider using social media the same way. You should not just create Twitter and Facebook accounts and not be prepared for the flood of people who will express their opinions both good and bad; you will need to have a plan. The plan includes teaching employees how to deal with customer support on a different and much larger scale, how to talk to people, create content and answer questions. Depending on the size of your business, opening the causeway to more traffic may also demand more employees. Remember train, train, train. Offer role-playing, mentoring and carefully select those employees who can resolve, address and deal with customers in a positive manner.

When dealing in customer service, the importance of call centers and emails make profound impressions, however the interaction is generally private; that is between the customer service representative and the customer. When you enter the world of social media, service or product problems can immediately become public discussions. A company therefore needs to be unified before ever venturing out into the world of Facebook or Twitter  Employees need to know who will be handling customer support, who will be addressing criticism and negative comments and even what kind of rewards will be offered.

Social media awakens a higher demand for transparency, honesty and action. It is not acceptable to ignore the problem or to make excuses because people aren’t going to be happy, and you can be sure that bad news spreads quickly. Employees need to be trained in handling customers and how to address them. Social media is about engaging and connecting to foster positive relationships with customers, and dealing with complaints means addressing them and fixing them. Think of it as the “telephone” game we played in the second grade. If one person hears the bad news of a rain storm on your company picnic, by the time the news gets to the tenth person, the rain has turned into a catastrophic tsunami.

If you know how to turn criticism around to your advantage, social media can even benefit you more. If your company accepts criticism, corrects the problem immediately and apologizes for the inconvenience or delays, customer loyalty can increase. Even if there is someone chastising who is acting unreasonable, the positive changes can bring more customers to the company’s defense and build a more positive relationship. Just make sure those employees who are the social media experts know how to influence customers, are able to deliver the messages in a positive manner, and are positive role models for your company.

photo credit: jekert gwapo

Customer service tips for e-commerce business

Many of us prefer to shop online. There are no crowds; it’s convenient, quick, saves precious fuel, and there are virtually no time limits as to  when we must shop. There’s naturally tons of competition if you’re a business, so finding a way to stand out from the crowd is going to be  a solid determinant of your future success. Taking into consideration and assuming your web site is attractive, easy to navigate and your prices are competitive, customer service practices and that all so sought after personal touch is what can set you apart from the e-commerce crowd.

An e-commerce business must process sales quickly, and make it easy for customers to contact you. If you use a standard acknowledgment of order response, make sure you follow-up with an actual detailed phone call or email. Personalized responses are the best, and I can attest to the positive feelings I had about an online contact lens company sending me an email when I recently had problems filling an order. A representative went above and beyond and managed to find an optometrist in my area to meet my needs. That unexpected response from the customer service agent on an online store made a profound and positive impression on me.

Why not follow-up on customers who don’t make purchases online? Why do some people abandon online shopping carts? If a company sends out a positive email and thanks the customer for visiting the site, there is then an opportunity to gather some customer feedback. Did the shopper have some technical problem completing their offer and therefore just abandoned the shopping  cart? Did the customer get distracted by someone or something and forgot to finish the order? Here’s an opportunity to converse with the customer, find out the problem, and turn the situation into a sale and new loyal customer.

It still is all about the personal touch to help customers and clients feel connected and appreciated by your business. One of the most impressive e-commerce experiences I ever had was a  hand written note in the shipment box I received when I recently ordered some signs for my real estate business. It showed the personal and human connection.

Lastly, I would never discount the customer service opportunities on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. E commerce businesses have the opportunities to engage in dialogue and reach your audience with that personal touch. We may be in the 21st century, but we still want to count as individuals.

photo credit: superdeluxesam

How social media affects customer service

Social media is everywhere. If you’re still in the Stone Age and prefer to think that social media like Twitter or Facebook are only fads, chances are you may be losing business. In today’s world the customer is definitely in control; after all  Twitter attracts 8 million visitors per month and 3 million messages are posted daily.

Just think about a customer who is really dissatisfied with a service or a product from your company, and the commentary shows up on Facebook. It it’s bad, you as a company service representative have a chance to be proactive. We all know that there are some people out there that no matter what you say and do, they are never going to be satisfied, and that is just part of doing business. Now on Facebook, you have the opportunity to publicly work with the person and do all you can to satisfy their complaint. As you share your honesty, willingness to compromise and fairness, other people now see through the negative comments and respect and back you for trying so hard to make everything right to fix the problem. Chances are you will build loyalty and attract new customers.

As for Twitter, when a person is only allowed 140 characters per tweet, it’s still an interesting way to build positive customer service relationships. In this world of micro blogging, you can be very proactive by sharing useful information to customers and prospects. What a good way to connect with new customers and ask and even answer questions about your product and services while sharing new ideas. You have the opportunity to build new fans and show people that you care. Even if you are a large business, you no longer are nameless, and showing potential customers that you are real and want to do a great service for clients helps build your positive reputation.

Social media is a form of viral marketing. It’s a quick way to increase awareness of a product or service, so why not use it for customer service?  We’re all familiar with the Geico Gecko and his hybrid English accent promoting the positive customer service attributes of an insurance company. The approach was interesting, entertaining and proactive; an innovative way to spread the awareness of a service and product, and an effective tool to build better relationships with customers and clients.

photo credit: philcampbell

Interview with John Falcone of Sennheiser

I met John Falcone, who is the President and CEO of Sennheiser Electronic Corporation, a month or two ago while I was in San Francisco (thanks to Mike Faith for introducing us!) and after a quick email exchange, John was nice enough to agree to an interview.

In case you aren’t aware, Sennheiser is a major manufacturer of microphones, headphones, and wireless transmission systems. I know about the company because they make my favorite pair of headphones. A bit of background: The company was founded in 1945 in Wedemark, Germany and is still family-owned and the part that John runs is a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary based in Old Lyme, CT that focuses on sales and marketing of Sennheiser products in the United States.

Here’s the interview with John. The style was a bit different than the traditional Q&A style I normally use, so please let me know if you like it or not in the comments.

Our founder, Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, just passed away at age 98 and left a legacy that defines how and why we do things the way we do. His biography is fascinating and gives great insight as to our history and the man who made it all happen.

Before I came to Sennheiser, I was working for Philips in the consumer electronics market. A recruiter contacted me and asked if I was interested in coming to work at Sennheiser. I wasn’t really interested until I had a meeting with Prof. Dr. Joerg Sennheiser, Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser’s son. That meeting made me anxious to join his team, and to become part of a family owned company.

We are a family owned company, and our mission of manufacturing high-quality audio solutions is as strong as it was 65 years ago. The Sennheiser family is committed to staying true to this mission over the years to come. The third generation has just stepped into management roles and will carry this mission into the future. While we are global corporation today, the family spirit and quality values of the brand Sennheiser can be felt all around the world.

Music plays a large role at Sennheiser. Due to our strong involvement in pro audio and the music industry, it’s natural that many employees are also very talented musicians or music aficionados – thus many Sennheiser internal conferences often end with sizable jam sessions after the official part is done. So when our employees talk to our end users- who are often musicians themselves – it soon becomes an authentic peer-to-peer discussion.

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Cultivating customer loyalty

Keeping a customer or client is a lot less expensive and easier than always searching for new ones. In the real estate profession, I have found customer loyalty to be extremely important; they call you when they want to sell, and they call you again when they want to buy. They also recommend you to their friends, family and other co-workers. Hardly a social event goes by that I don’t wind up talking to someone who could use my services, and I count on my loyal clients, customers and “people in the know” to recommend me. Never dismiss the advantages of  “word of mouth.”

There are some definitive marketing strategies to cultivate customer loyalty starting with making yourself or your business unique and appealing as well as relevant. Even though I work through a large company in Florida, clients and customers know me for my reliability, honesty and how I deliver what I promise. I show people through my work that their interests take priority over my own, and when I give my word, I am trustworthy.

To maintain customer loyalty you must know what customers want. Be resourceful, and be one step ahead of your competition. Clients expect you to be an expert in your field. As an example, if I am planning to show a customer six homes, I have already interviewed them to find out exactly what they are looking for – using a prepared list of “wants and desires” which now gives me a clear indication of  their needs. If I have lead time, I will have previewed each of the properties the client has expressed an interest, thus giving myself a head start as to the condition and appearance of the property. It all helps me to build that meaningful relationship with my clients; they feel important because I have taken the time to prepare for their meeting.

Never take it for granted that customers will keep coming back unless you provide the right services and those services satisfy the customer. You need to provide the service and wind up with a positive outcome. In my case of real estate sales, I either have to procure the sale of the home I have listed, or find the customer a home that they deem suitable. Customers only return when they have good outcomes;  otherwise they are out searching until your competition finds them.

Follow your project, service or sale until the very end, and then think outside the box and go beyond. People naturally have that “what have you done for me lately” attitude, so continuing the follow-up will constantly remind your customers that you have been there and will be there in the future.

photo credit: TheTruthAbout

How to use a customer satisfaction survey to evaluate business performance

We all work hard to deliver quality and value to our customers, and feedback can provide some necessary insights into how well our staff is providing customer service and placing the needs of the customers first. Using a simple, quick customer survey can show us how our staff meets commitments, how flexible they are as well as their working knowledge, and surveys are easily adaptable  to a company’s own needs.

I do think that surveys have to be specific to a company and its particular venue. In a face-to-face situation, customer surveys can too easily become popularity contests, so there has to be a lot of consistency in order to define a pattern to determine whether the service representative is actually excelling and on target. Over the internet a company has to collect data consistently to identify new trends.

So how do you do a customer satisfaction survey? My example is general and easily adaptable. The survey takes only a few minutes to complete and offers a reward for customer participation.

Dear Customer:

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you. We hope you are satisfied with our services/product. Please help us help you more efficiently in the future by taking just a few minutes to tell us about your experience. To show our appreciation, at the end of this short survey, a coupon for a 20% discount is attached to be used towards your next purchase.

Thank you again for using our company, and we appreciate your honest opinions.

Very truly yours,


  1. How long have you been using our services/products?
  2. Which of our products/services have you been using?
  3. How frequently have you purchased our products or used our services?
  4. Would you recommend our company to your friends, family or co-workers?
  5. How likely are you to continue doing business with us in the future or using our services?
  6. Do you have any suggestions how we can improve our services or our products?
  7. Please rate your overall satisfaction of our customer services.

Most experts suggest to offer multiple choice answers when applicable; for instance question numbers 1 through 3.  For question number 2, a list of services or products would be appropriate but always supply a box marked, “other”. When you ask a customer to rate their overall satisfaction, you can use from “very satisfied” to “extremely disappointed”. Make sure you include an area where a customer can comment; that’s a great way to identify and then work on improvements. For number 7, a similar choice of answers might be provided, and an allowable space for a customer/client to suggest improvements.

I also suggest a few questions to assess age group, gender, and demographics, and at the end of the survey, make sure you provide an email address or contact information for a customer who feels they may want to contact someone in your organization. You never know; you could be gaining another loyal customer.

photo credit: guspim

Reward employees for delivering excellent customer service

In our efforts to constantly improve customer service, we need to encourage, train, and reward our support staff. Winning is contagious, and when we acknowledge employees who leave their mark, and we show them that they matter, their success can lead to more success from other staff members making it a snowball effect toward the very positive.

Assuming that our customer service representatives know that the customer is the reason for their work, we must continue to train; whether it be through online seminars, practical workshops, conferences, role-playing, or one on one training. All employees should have the availability of resources to help with self-improvement. When our staff is well-trained and the continuing education becomes part of the company culture, employees can be trusted with decisions that entail thinking out of the box or working within a discretionary budget when needed. Excellent customer service personnel make customer service personal, no matter what the product, remembers customers’ names, remembers handshakes, and always says thank you.

Now how do you keep your customer service staff performing at such high standards? As long as employees are meeting customers’ needs, I believe owners should offer rewards from acknowledging successes and accomplishments at staff meetings where employees are recognized in front of their peers to monetary rewards. For high profit businesses, rewards for outstanding customer service can range from theater tickets, spa treatments, or to a day off with pay. In one company, the president offered a three-day trip to the Grand Bahamas for seven unsolicited positive customer comments about an employee’s exceptional service.

For the small company who still wants to recognize their exceptional employees and cannot afford spa treatments and trips, consider other appreciative ways to compensate someone’s hard work. An owner can write a complimentary review of the employees accomplishment and add it to  their portfolio as an edge for a future promotion or pay raise. You can buy the employee breakfast or take him/her out to lunch. How about some movie passes or extra time off? It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be personal and a sincere way to say thank you for helping your business be successful. After all, empowering your staff to serve in a positive method leads to more business and happier employees.

photo credit: USACE Europe Distric

Meeting your customers needs to own your market

It’s tough out there, and everyone is competing for the same customers. As business owners, we must be constantly vigilant to continue the relationships we have with our current clients and customers, and also find new ways to win over new ones. It’s really not about reinventing the wheel; more so it’s about meeting our customers needs. So what do customers demand? I think in today’s society more scrutiny is placed on trust. We want to make ‘”safe decisions” and we want to do business with a company we can trust. For e-commerce websites, having a history of the company and the business owners’ backgrounds can give customers a sense of familiarity. This is a time where we can Google almost anyone; why not include staff biographies? Including positive reviews and recommendations also go a long way to building trust and confidence.

Price is of course an important factor, and having been in the store today purchasing a new laptop, I can tell you first hand what works. Keep the basic products people need to buy at a very reasonable price.To make money, add-on extras. The same goes with value of products. It’s easy to compare products online now, but what captures a customer’s attention are free services such as free shipping, coupons, two for one deals, etc. You can create incentives like a free consultation which I was given today,and of course always include a  money back guarantee.

Many of us shop online now because it is so convenient. If you are an online business, make the checkout really simple, and make it even easier if someone is a return customer. I purchase my contact lenses online, and the moment I log in, all of my prescriptions for myself and my family are readily available. There is an in-depth explanation of all new products. When my prescription changes, I can easily return any unused product. If I have a question, an email address and a phone number are easily found. There has never been a waiting line on the phone for this company.

And my last suggestion to meeting customers needs is to give back to the community in some positive way. Whether it be your company has gone green to local food and toy drives during holiday seasons, people notice when companies give back. Good citizens inspire trust and confidence. Here in South Florida, we are nervous about the effect of the BP oil catastrophe on our environment. Already local businesses and large companies are assembling task forces of volunteers to patrol the beaches, report any sick wildlife and keep ahead of the impending crisis. This differentiates you from your competition. It’s just not all about money.

photo credit: JSmith Photo

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