Brand loyalty in the age of universal access

Spoken | August 9, 2016

This post on preparing for the economic upturn popped up in the Google Alert for “customer service,” and my first reaction was positive: what a great idea to look to the future and prepare for a positive upswing instead of more gloom and doom.

And so it is, but I do have a quick bone to pick before agreeing with Gershenson outright: once more, an expert comes forth and warns skittish business owners that in the age of social media, your disgruntled customers might be out to get you: 

Not everything with social networking is positive. All it takes is one
disgruntled customer to post a video on Facebook. The video could knock your
company and you might lose business.

First of all, creating a catchy video interesting enough to go viral takes a tremendous amount of work. It’s more likely that a disgruntled customer will Twitter something negative about your company. (And that Tweet is very easy to respond to and turn around.) Remember, Dave Carroll fought with United for nearly a year before creating the infamous United Breaks Guitars video, now with over eight million views. So before we go too terribly alarmist, in order for a customer to make a video about your company’s awful customer service, your service must be consistently awful and endemic to the organization. Very few consumers will bother to go to the trouble to make a video if you get their latte wrong once.

Second, despite what high-priced “gurus” may tell you, not every video or blog post does go viral. Most videos receive views by the customer’s friends and through a few searches, but it takes something special, something that hits a cultural nerve, for a video to go viral and “knock your company” enough that you would lose business.

Brand loyalty Brand loyalty in the age of universal access

Social media bone-pickings aside, however, Gershenson has a point. It’s true that 68% of consumers have reported changing brands because of ONE poor customer service experience. That would make poor customer service the number one reason for a lack of customer loyalty. More than price. More than quality. More than what the ads say or what brand the neighbor has.

Fickle? Perhaps. But is your brand giving your customers a reason, a really great reason, not to be fickle?

Gershenson suggests giving the customer more freedom by giving choices, such as a two-tiered pricing system in which one tier provides direct access to customer service. That’s a great first step. But why not turn all that great universal access that social media can provide into your very own brand loyalty think tank? Use the channels available to:

  • Find out how your customers prefer their service. Do a survey. Do they prefer web chat? Web FAQ? Phone service? Email? For which tasks? Web chat for easy, routine tasks and phone service for complicated issues? Or vice versa?
  • Find out what “customer service” means to your customers. What’s more important–a quick response? A response via their preferred medium? A “real person”? Twenty-four hour access that fits their schedule? Knowing the when and where of customer service can help you determine where to allot resources.
  • Find out what defines a “great” customer experience versus an “average” versus a “bad” one. Again, is it speed? Accuracy? First-call resolution? Friendliness? Availability? Sometimes, customers just want to get in, get the answer, and get out, without all the fluff. For other tasks, they might expect personal attention. Know the difference.

Listen to the anecdotes as well. Gershenson does have a point with respect to social media–your customers might be singing your praises or complaining about your service in any one of a number of venues, and there is no excuse for not tracking mentions of your brand in order to determine a strategy for interacting with those customers where they are. So take advantage of the conversations already going on in those channels to ask questions, listen and get information to adapt your customer service strategy based on what your customers actually want and need.

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