Three Changes in Customer Care you need to Know

Using online and social media

Businesses are beginning to realise that whether they like it or not, their customers are expecting to dialogue with them about their br ands and services, wherever and whenever they choose.

Whilst care centres managed the relationship with customers in the past and often at arm’s length from the business, today’s customers are dem anding more: more responses, more rapidly, more completely, on more channels. In answer to these dem ands, some companies have developed the position of community manager. Many more however, believe that they can continue business as usual, using their care centre personnel to respond to social media “when they are not on the phone”.

For this reason, I thought it would be useful to consider a number of points for those of you that have yet to decide how best to h andle the situation:

1. Talking vs. writing

Care centre staff are extremely good at listening and in many cases they respond by just reading predefined scripts. If they are challenged with a possible health or legal concern, they know to pass the call onto properly qualified experts who will then reply and talk to the caller directly.

In social media however, response is expected almost by return; according to Mari Smith, people expect it within the hour! In the case of sensitive issues, it would therefore be logical to reply immediately saying that an expert would respond in due time with a detailed answer to the customer’s comments. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm to respond to customers, some companies end up replying inappropriately.

Whilst this was not usually an issue in call centres, since generally only the company was recording the call, responding over the net means that the reply is available for all to see, even when deleted from the site on which the conversation had originally taken place, as Nestlé learned only too well in early 2010. (See here for more on that story)

The people you hire to answer social platform questions and comments need flexibility to respond as a human being, not a scripted employee, but more importantly also detailed training on how to respond. These responses could directly impact company image and reputation, and so should not be treated lightly.

2. Pack invitations

A few years ago, many global companies looked for ways to save money in production costs and the multi-country packs became the norm. This meant that the instructions, ingredients etc. that were detailed on the pack needed to be shown in multiple languages.

The font sizes used were necessarily much smaller and the text became almost illegible. Many organisations then solved this problem by adding pictures to explain how the product was to be used or cooked, which was fine. However, for contact details this was not possible, so businesses had to choose between providing all contact options – telephone, website, email, mail – making the font extremely small, or at best a compromise between the two. Some even removed the contact information altogether, which I would definitely not recommend.

If  – or should I say because? – you want to connect with your customers, then you need to make it easy for them. If you can’t place all contact options on pack, then at least provide a 1-800 number and website address in a clearly visible way.

3. Double opt-in no longer enough!

If the European Commission has its way, double opt-in, which means asking consumers if they want to be contacted and then checking again that they, themselves had indeed asked to be put on a br and or company list, will no longer be sufficient.

In this week’s Marketing Week, it was suggested that The European Commission was about to propose that companies would have to tell consumers “clearly, underst andably and transparently” how their data would be processed and used by them. There is still a lot of trust in the web, especially amongst younger users, perhaps frighteningly so to some of my own “older” generation. However, this does suggest that companies will have to have a clear plan on what they will do with the information they gather.

Now this is not such a bad idea in itself, since I know many organisations that gather Gigabytes of data and do nothing with it for a long time, and then complain it is invalid or out-of-date when they get around to trying to use it. By the sound of it the days of this freedom are soon over.

Therefore, since changes will surely come, and sooner rather than later, to protect customers from online abuse of their information, why not start to really plan what data you need, and why and how you are going to use it? In this way customers will remain open to providing it and we all benefit, since they will be getting appropriately targeted information. Reviewing these changes in customer care practices it is clear that adaptation of most current processes is badly needed and yet so many companies are still slow to see the need to do this. As I said, things are about to change, whether you like it or not!

Do you have a question or challenge about improving the processes of your care centers? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

What changes are you planning in your connections with your customers? Please share your ideas here.

For more information on connecting to your customers, please check out our website:

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