customer service contact pointsI’m kicking myself. There was a cold caller at my door this afternoon looking to offer me free wall insulation. I’m kicking myself because I didn’t catch which business the chap was representing because I wanted to complain about his rude and abrupt nature when I said I wasn’t interested. You see, apart from looking rather disheveled he had the same bad attitude a lot of cold callers have – they just can’t believe you’re not interested in what they’re selling even when it’s free and then they start being argumentative and pushy.

Had I made a note of who he was working for I would have probably jumped on social media and contacted the company that way rather than ringing them or write them a letter (that’s old school complaining, plus in the case of making a call, I also don’t have to sit in a long phone queue).

This is just one example. Actually it isn’t – also today I’ve had to deal with a company who are dragging their heels on fixing a faulty hob; my wife’s had enough of being stuck in a ‘your call is important to us, but we’re busy’ call centre queue, so I jumped on Twitter, found their support account and DM’d them – the result a much more fruitful discussion without the all the waiting on the phone and thankfully some answers.

So, what’s my point?

Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that the internet is changing the way customers are interacting with businesses as well as setting consumer perceptions of organisations and expectations. We can now get something off our chests with almost instant gratification – with a public forum like Twitter, in 140 characters you can have your rant, raise your complaint with the company and tell the world about your problem – all in just one tweet! And just as important: it doesn’t matter whether your company has a complaints policy – it won’t save you from someone wanting to go online and vent!

Businesses now need to be everywhere: they need contact forms and/or email addresses on their websites, they need to respond to emails, tweets, posts to their Facebook pages and so on. They need to interact with disgruntled customers using review sites (e.g. TripAdvisor and product comments and reviews on services like Amazon). They can no longer rely on keeping complaints or service under control and hidden from the masses via phone queues and getting them to write in…

Age of the consumer

That’s right. We’ve entered the age of consumer. This isn’t a technological or digital change but one where consumer behaviours, enabled by digital technology, are changing the way they shop, price up products, read reviews, complain and interact with their favourite brands. And if you’re not there with them, then you’ll get left behind by your competitors who are or you’ll be missing out just what your customers think of you and your products and wonder why no-ones buying from you.

Digital is enabling consumers to be more savvy about you and your products Click To Tweet

Running online customer service

Of course you’ll need to continue to deal with phone calls and letters, but you also need to look out on your social media channels. If you’ve done your research about your target markets then you’ll know where they’re likely to be and which channels you’ll need to target, but the most important thing is actually being there for when a customer needs some help.

So whether your tech support just waits for a Twitter notification or whether they’re on Twitter 24/7 you need in place a policy that addresses how you’ll engage with your customers. If you can set expectations with your customers about how you’ll serve their customer service needs then that’s great, but don’t expect it to be the only way customers ‘talk’ about you, so ideally you need to be everywhere.

This may sound like a tall order that’s expensive and time consuming, but your business has to face the fact that a customer could be anywhere talking about your business or products and if you’re not there defending yourself or helping your customers, the world will see it.

A digital opportunity

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Whilst technology is enabling the consumer voice, it also provides your business with the opportunity to excel in customer service. Because, just as a customer may jump on social media to rant, they’ll also probably jump on social media to say what a great company you are, how great your customer service is and testimonials are worth their weight in gold, something for you to share with others.

So make sure your business embraces digital technology, social media and the Internet – it’s a land of plenty for you and your customers, it would be a shame to miss out.

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