Friday, April 20, 2012

The Curious Case of the Online Whinger

The social media has turned us all into a commentator, a critic, a passionate advocate of the good, the bad and the ugly. Customers today, are just scaring the living daylights out of companies. Not sure when they are going to strike, companies cannot choose to be Frankenstein and allow the hoards to overcome them. Complaining and letting the world know what went wrong with your service provider has become a matter of duty today. And in this environment, culling out the complaint from the tantrum creates a unique dilemma, the kind of dilemma you cannot choose to ignore.

Social media forums like Facebook, Twitter and review forums have enabled crowds to converge upon a brand and rip it apart or give it a new lease of life. In an age where response and monitoring mechanisms are evolving constantly, brands do not have a choice but act in the now. Real time. Sifting the tantrums from genuine complaints becomes imperative because even with the vast tools at a company’s disposal, they still cannot possibly address every concern. Attacking the genuine ones with decisiveness and tact, and dealing with tantrums with kid gloves becomes key. Failing which, social media could very easily become a resource draining platform in more ways than one.

Over 1000 complaints turn up every hour across online public forums and social media sites. Right from service delivery to a service executive’s behavior is weighed up and attacked today. The customer is completely justified in venting, but an unresponsive company is not justified in being aloof. Companies need to take this opportunity they have been given by their customers to start owning a forum that has in more ways than one, been created by them. Ignore at your own peril.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Customer SPOC

Companies today profess their love for customer service with gusto unlike anything before. They stand under the metaphorical balconies of customers proclaiming their devotion to them and how they would always stand by them in their times of trouble. The U-turn after that though, is again something customers like many broken lovers have come to expect. Customers and companies enter a marriage the moment a customer decides to pick your product off the shelf instead of another. So why don’t companies really get serious about this? Why don’t they show some unwavering commitment? Why don’t they just get themselves a Chief Customer Officer?

The role exists in B2B and B2C firms as diverse as Allstate, Dunkin' Brands, USAA, Philips Electronics, FedEx, the Cleveland Clinic, and SAP. All companies greatly committed to delivering good service. So why hasn't this concept found its way into more management teams across companies? The reasons are many and diverse. Ranging from not finding the right people to not enabling them with adequate power to affect change to not being easily accessible to customers.  Companies serious about customer service can use such a person in management to help outline a strategy right from the top which will in turn tie in with the company objectives. Commitment to customer service needs to start from the top, quite literally. The top management must be ready to be decisive when it comes to executing their customer service strategy and adding a CCO to that mix and at that level of decision making can be the greatest show of faith.

CCOs can be the next coup de grace in a market dominated by lofty promises and earth shattering failures in service. A CCO should ensure accessibility and accountability for customers. She should be the point of escalation when things go out of hand. Communication lines to her should be available to every customer and her openness and accessibility in time will define the commitment the company has towards customer service. The knowledge that she belongs to the management will further help in instilling faith in customers that they truly have access to the decision makers. This is the kind of faith that makes a brand, the kind that promises to stand by their customer in sickness and health.