My first job was at McDonald’s. Yes, I was issued a pair of brown polyester pants with grease stains from the last guy my size, and did my time flipping burgers and scraping the trap. One of the things I remember about that job was how politeness was part of the culture. When someone removed french fries from the oil, they’d shout ‘Fries are up!’ and at least one person would shout back, ‘Thank you.’ I eventually graduated from the grill to the registers but before I did, I remember training for days not just on which buttons to use on the new computerized register, but how to smile, take orders and make sure customers were completely satisfied.
Evidently, this level of customer service was something that they’d invented in the days of black-and-white television, and that they still expected us to adhere to it. As a 16-year-old punk, of course I thought it was stupid. But I did the job the way they wanted, and lasted all of six months before being canned for giving away food to people from school. What can I say, I was not a cool kid and wanted to be liked. Plus, I was 16 and wasn’t exactly a genius. Anyway, other than this blemish, I toed the company line and provided clients with high quality service with a smile. And I did it well.
But then something happened. Sometime between my go in the military and coming to in New York City a decade later, customer service had died. No one cared whether I was satisfied anymore. No one looked me in the eye and smiled. Calling a company had become a time suck with little chance of resolution. And don’t dare show any emotion on the phone, because that was grounds for a CSR hanging up on you after you’d run the keypad gauntlet.
When I receive quality service today, I notice. You probably do too. Great service makes every experience better. Name a scenario when it doesn’t? Exactly. And going forward, I’m excited for the prospect of responsive, proactive customer service via social media.
I don’t have to tell you what social media is and how it’s a real-time dialogue between people. And yes, companies too – but so far there are no customer service bots that I’m aware of. Though I’m sure listening tools will soon develop enough to shoot out a tweet to someone asking asking for a temporary reciprocal follow in order to initiate a DM conversation with a real CSR to solve a customer’s problems. My point is, social media is people communicating with people. Just like at McDonald’s.
I’m excited for better customer service experiences because of how we share our lives online today. This information is public. Anyone in the world can see it. And our network is actually influenced by it. Influence requires a level of loyalty, so if a guy on the other side of the planet queries a keyword I use in a tweet and sees that I’ve had a good or bad experience with a brand, it’s probably not going to matter all that much to him (unless there’s a well-documented blog post attached, or a slew of other people with the same problem, etc.) However, when someone within this guy’s network has a good or bad experience with something that he’s interested in (thus his query) – this is way different. Huge influence there. If there weren’t even a little respect for the other person in this guy’s network, the guy wouldn’t follow that person – right? We tend to act on word of mouth experiences of people we trust, respect and admire. In other words, our friends. And as far as I’m concerned, I consider the people I follow in social media to be my friends. Maybe I’m just weird. Anyway –
So there are two ways customers or prospects talk and learn about brands in social media: 1) Wide open public information, and 2) network level. Both these ways represent an exchange in influence in some capacity (and some of these users are a lot more influential than others.)
For brands, these public exchanges represent two excellent opportunities: 1) Solving problems quicker for happier customers, and 2) advertising to the rest of the world just how great the brand is.
In a world filled with crap customer service and employees at fast food restaurants who expect you to thank them for coming in and buying their product, quality customer service is something worth remembering. And talking about. And sharing. And promoting.
Maybe it’s time to accept that there’s a whole generation of people who will never provide quality customer service simply because they have no reference point. Maybe it’s time to scrap that generation and start with the next. Maybe social media is the tip of the spear for a customer service revolution where a brand’s commitment to service is driven by real case studies happening in real time in front of real prospects. And maybe this idea seamlessly outflows into the organization’s entire service culture. And maybe respect for customers will return. Because in today’s world, quality customer service is a unique selling proposition. It seems strange. Especially when respect used to be a basic thing.
Have a nice day. Please come back and visit us.