I was in an endless loop of telephone branching logic last week, uncertain whether to Press 2 for this, 3 for that, 4 or 5 or…. Then I forgot what Press 2 was for and got into another branch of logic and dead ends. I finally did what I often do: I tried #0, then *0 – and got a live person who tried to connect me with the proper department. She couldn’t explain what my correct choice should have been, but did transfer me and wait until the call was picked up.
This got me to thinking about the same company’s web presence and “Social Media” efforts. They are spending a lot of time, and tying up a lot of resources, setting up communities. Communities are all the rage. One simply must set one up! Listen to the voice of the customer! For most companies it is more about following the crowd, and the crowd wants you to know that you can natter away 24/7 on their site.
Meanwhile, in the voice response, and call distribution, and email response part of the customer service experience, organizations are unable to provide that experience of immediacy. Wait, search, try, fail, repeat, try, fail, repeat.
How long before your customers catch on that your social networking effort is bogus? Until they figure out that weaknesses in your customer service experience point to your true colors?
Here is a great exercise for your social networking / community sites: have someone suggest that they set up a map of your phone system so frustrated customers can navigate your phone system. Think about it: why enlist highly-paid personnel, or use sophisticated software to unravel the roots of your telephone routing issues when you can use the power of the community to map your system, rate the system, comment on what, exactly, is wrong from their perspective, and then rate you for your efforts? The fact is, when you enlist them in the effort, you acknowledge that it is not simple and you empower them to make a difference. And you can rate your effort from your customers’ eyes.
Social networks can have some real power even without solving a problem: the act of opening up to customers and acknowledging areas of challenge is important. Sometimes the best way to earn trust is to show your flaws.