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Businesses Bamboozled By Online Service Strategies

Article date: Fri, 29 Jul 2011 11:04 GMT

Ross Keeping and Sam Gregory, UKFast Customer Service round tableThe growth of the internet has brought with it a wealth of new opportunities for customers to vent their opinions of the firms they deal with. The popularity of social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, and customer review sites such as TripAdvisor has forced businesses to extend their customer service strategies to cater for the feedback they receive online. But many are struggling with the transition and are finding it difficult to cater for a more empowered customer. A panel of experts in customer service gathered at a round table event held by hosting firm UKFast to discuss how companies should manage their customer strategies and strike the right balance between online and offline techniques. Sam Gregory, director of B2B operations at Tangerine PR, said: "What I think is very interesting is how businesses are coping with the advent of digital. Traditional customer service teams are seeing their role changing a lot. They are having to become communications experts in a way because they are being bombarded with messages coming through from customers that are positive and negative. "I've worked with some very big brands in the past to develop digital and social media strategies to help channel negative comments through a particular platform such as Twitter. In many cases, the customer service teams are really struggling to know how to handle this. It's a complete step change for them, they are used to a much slower environment." Ross Keeping, UKFast's head of customer service described social media as a "customer service branch that we can't ignore" but warned companies not to sacrifice traditional methods of gaining customer feedback. He said: "The principals of good, old-fashioned client communication still hold firm. We just have to apply them to more environments - in person, over the phone, through social networks and other sites." Asked whether it was more difficult to implement an effective customer service strategy in large organisations, the panellists agreed that the focus on keeping clients happy has to come from the top. Lynne Mills from the Institute of Customer Service said: "The Institute believes everyone in the organisation is responsible for customer service, whether they are serving the customer directly or not. But accountability lies with the CEO of the organisation. Customer service is a cultural thing and without that accountability at the top it's difficult for good customer service to be in the DNA of an organisation." Luis Franco, director of international business operations at Survey Monkey, offered his advice on how to approach clients for feedback. "Follow three rules," he said. "Don't survey the hell out of people. Keep it simple and short - seven minutes is maximum survey time - and make sure the question has terminology that is understood by everyone, no acronyms and no sector jargon." Top tips on delivering outstanding customer service: - Your employees are your biggest asset, involve them all and get company-wide buy in for your customer service focus - Training and development in customer service offers a good return on investment - Make your customers aware that you are acting on their responses instead of aimlessly sending out surveys. Customer feedback shouldn't be an exercise in self congratulation - Don't be scared of receiving feedback through social media. Dealing with complaints in a public arena inspires confidence and trust amongst your customers - Turn complainants into advocates by rectifying any problems they have.
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