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Customer Service 2.0.. Where’s the service?

October 3, 2009 2 comments

Do you remember the mid 80’s classic TV commercial from Wendy’s, the US fast-food chain, “Where’s the beef”? For more detailed information here is the Wikipedia link to this marketing mastery.

Before I go any further, let me set the boundaries for this blog post. I want to raise my concerns on (A) the basic execution and principles of Customer Service, as well as (B) unmask some of the Social Media strategies & hype that seem to be driving everyone onto the 2.0 bandwagon.

Having spent the first ¾ of my career improving customer service & retention at organizations such as Reuters (now Thomson Reuters), Sun Microsystems & Hewlett Packard, I consider myself credibly qualified to speak on this topic. Being married to the Social Media “wiz”, Maria Sipka, founder & CEO behind the first Social Network Marketplace, Linqia.com, to give power & voice to community groups through their leaders/influencers, and having facilitated various Social Media strategy kick-off sessions around the world in the past 3 years, I’d also consider myself pretty up-to-speed to talk about this topic. Lastly, as a Master Strategic Alignment, Planning & Executing Your Strategy facilitator on assignments around the world, I’ve seen enough to distinguish between authentic strategies (of any kind) & hype.

Let me take you back to Thursday morning as my son & I are about to board an Easyjet flight from Barcelona to London. (1) My time is precious, and so I justified the extra 10 to 16 euro, per head, expenses for Speedy Boarding to ensure I’d have a comfortable enough seat that I could work from during the +2h flight. (2) That the gate changed at the last minute, and that the flight was delayed by approximately 20 minutes, neither surprised nor really inconvenienced me, however, (3) getting put on a bus, being told to stand at the wrong door of that bus to try & beat the mad scramble for “proper seats”, did bother me. (4) Finally walking onto the plane after at least another 30 passengers without Speedy Boarding, asking the steward for his customer complaints registry, and being told to go on-line on their website after I land REALLY bothered me. (5) And having twittered my negative experience before even taking off, linking my broadcast to my LinkedIn & Facebook profile, Easyjet’s social media customer service @easyjetcare outreach over twitter by the time I landed in London temporarily had my hopes raised of seeing my precious euros recovered. (6) Unfortunately, little more than 48h after having landed, and following up on the outreach by @easyjetcare, my hopes are once again dashed by the lack of response. (7) This experience makes it worthwhile for me to invest 30 more minutes and write this post.

In referencing point (4) above, I invite anyone here to go onto www.easyjet.com and tell me how long it takes you to figure out where the customer service area is. I gave up, but here is a tip.. Don’t Make Me Think! Guys (!!!) my time is precious, it’s expensive and that’s why I justified the Speedy Boarding fee in the first place!

So is Easyjet just one more company that has jumped on the Customer Service 2.0 bandwagon to publicize how much they care through their investment in web 2.0 technologies & strategies, but fail to act on their “stated intentions”?

This has me reflect how in recent Social Media strategy kick-off sessions I’ve struggled as clients don’t seem to understand that social media is just a tool, a means to facilitate an experience, and therefore you still have to do the old world basics of “listen first”, and than “act in accordance”. The rest is just hype!

That’s my “moral of the story” for Customer Service, Retention, or whatever you want to call it this week, just three easy steps; (1) STOP, (2) LOOK & LISTEN, and then (3) ACT IN ACCORDANCE. The rest, “strategy”, is just the means by which you go about reaching your desired outcome. Come on, let’s get off our high horse and un-mystify what every consultant from east to west will have you believe in order to justify their fees. A “strategy” is no more, and no less, than “a series of steps, actions or activities, strung together, with the purpose of achieving a previously contemplated outcome”. That’s it! Just like going to the supermarket to get that bottle of milk, string a bunch of activities together, this by now is 2nd nature ONLY because you’ve done it so many times.

What’s my “moral of the story” for Social Media strategies? It’s just a tool! Stop freaking out & forget the hype! Do what you always did successfully, if you can remember that far back, and just do it within a new dynamic. Sure there are different ways of approaching your audience, and any error can be magnified infinitely (and yadda, yadda, yadda), but it’s still the old basic principle of supply & demand. Your audience has a need, you have a solution, and social media empowers, enhances & facilitates the dialogue. Notice I didn’t say “monologue”, which means you have to be courageous enough to have a bi-directional conversation, forcing you to (1) STOP, (2) LOOK & LISTEN, and then (3) ACT IN ACCORDANCE.

So back to the beginning, and to my “friends” @easyjetcare, “where’s the service?” All I want is a refund of my Speedy Boarding fee (x2 for my son & I) which YOU royally stuffed up. I paid for a service that I didn’t get, and so I think that my request is only fair. Stay tuned to see how my return trip to Barcelona goes on Monday evening.

To anyone else out there in cyberspace contemplating customer service, customer retention, or about to spend thousands, if not millions (and I’ve seen them spent on multiple occasions), on social media consultants & technologies, please pay attention to the basics first! (1) STOP, (2) LOOK & LISTEN, and then (3) ACT IN ACCORDANCE.

Thoughts anyone?