Thursday, 20 May 2010

Real Case: Perils of Small Business BEING Online

Now we all understand the importance of customer service and the importance of customer service training for staff. Customer service is usually one of the tenets of a strong brand and it has the power to set the brand apart from its competitors. I have had my fair share of excellent customer service and horrendous customer service here in Trinidad and Tobago. One bad example was when a waitress used the F-bomb to vent her frustration when SHE messed up my friend's order and she felt she needed to tell me I was F-ing confused. I did not bother to order anything after that. I did go to the manager and tell him about the encounter and his response, or lack thereof was alarming to say the least. In fact I think he was drunk.

Now yesterday I shared my opinion on why small businesses should be online. But while we do create a website or a Page or a Twitter channel, we cannot forget that how we interact with our online communities also constitues as customer service. Social media channels such as company Twitter pages and Facebook Pages allow brands to not only promote their brand, but they also use it as a conduit to deliver assistance to their customers.

In larger organisations, the communications and promotion either lies with a marketing or communications team or individual as the case may be, who usually have the skills to properly manage feedback and concerns. In the small business scenario, this is not always the case and it may be the owner or an employee. Here is an example of a social media admin gone wrong.

While service browsing recently, I came upon a Facebook Page for one fitness provider, where the customers were miffed about an unexpected and immediate price increase for membership. This was the first response from "management". I am posting it as I found it.
well we didnt even no until the day it was raised, but come on its only by $50.00 come on. its still a good rate and plus all d classes r for free, where else u gettin dat?...please, ok. where u gettin dat? yes we shld of let eveyone know in advance...but it has been done already
Shock does not begin to explain it. Of course subsequent customer responses were not conciliatory. The second response, from the second admin was:
I understand your dismay with the sudden change of membership rates. I apologise for this.  We take note of your suggestion for more notification and will bear this in mind for future operational/organizational changes that will affect our members. The rates for the first quarter were an introductory rate as is customary for all new goods and services in a developed and competitive market. However, you will notice that with the increase in rates, we have also increased the number and availabilty of classes, the increase in the floor space as well as the continuing increase of equipment and machinery. So while you may not benefit from class participation, there is and will be more and a wider variety of equiment available for your use. Again I do apologise for any issues that may have arose due the change of rates, but we do hope you continue to support (company name)
1. Customer service goes beyond frontline staff. It applies to everyone, in every department, across all functions and via all media, be it in a physical setting or virtually. Clearly the second response was a more measured and professional response, balancing the apology for the price increase with the benefits which the increase brought with it. I can appreciate that response more than the combative, not to mention, linguistically challenged reply up top. The danger they faced was that customers could have taken this poor customer service to the masses with the click of a mouse.

2. I am becoming more and more convinced that some organisations still view social media as "something else we can do" and not as a real, and powerful marketing tool. I swear, between this and some of the other local social media sites I have observed, it's almost as if they just asked the office boy if he had a Facebook acocunt and told him run with it. Social media just cannot be taken for granted and if you're going to be using it for your small business, then don't short change yourself.
  • Learn about the tools.
  • Invest in training your staff to use them effetcively and in a way that builds, not destroys your brand
  • Value the tools and what they can do for your business.
It is vital to hire, train, and monitor customer service employees. Each must understand what the brand is about, why their interactions with consumers are important, and what is expected of them - Augie Ray

And if your brand is now on the social media path, the same applies and is more important than ever!


Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments and questions!

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More