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Focus on Customer Service Podcast
3 minutes | Sep 27, 2021
Introducing: The Experience Maker
Hello again, loyal FOCS listeners! I wanted to share the news of my brand-new book, The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can't Wait To Share. If you loved this podcast, then this book is for you! Listen to this special 3-minute episode for more details and the opportunity to get 3 free bonuses with your book purchase.
8 minutes | Oct 2, 2017
Say Goodbye to Focus on Customer Service and Hello to Experience This!
After two years and more than 50 episodes, the first known podcast dedicated solely to customer service in social media is saying goodbye. The Focus on Customer Service Podcast officially ends its run today as a new podcast about customer experience is also launched. Sponsored from its inception by Social Media Today after its late founder, Robin Carey, took a chance on two guys named Dan with no podcasting experience, FOCS featured interviews with top brands making waves in social media by engaging with customers – answering complaints, questions, and compliments. What made the podcast unique was that its hosts were also social care practitioners at large brands, and many of the brands featured were recommended by listeners for their great service. The podcast spawned a book, Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media (available on Amazon), which details learnings and best practices from more than four dozen interviews with brand leaders. INTRODUCING: THE EXPERIENCE THIS! SHOW As one podcast ends, another one begins. A new show, called Experience This!, has hosts Joey Coleman and Dan Gingiss trying to create a remarkable customer experience out of… listening to a customer experience podcast. There are no guest interviews, no singular topics, and no boring commercials. Instead, Experience This! features a rotating set of fast-paced segments that touch on real customer experiences with real takeaways that can make any company better. Segments include “CX Press,” where the hosts read and explain the latest customer experience articles “so you don’t have to”; “This Just Happened,” which details real-life experiences that leave a lasting impression; “Required Remarkable,” which features required parts of the experience that could be boring (think legal disclaimers and flight safety videos) but are instead fun and memorable, and “I Love It!/I Can’t Stand It!” where the hosts look at all of the positive and negative aspects of a particular industry’s experience, gaining input from listeners’ own experiences along the way. Even the sponsor message is the unskippable “Check Out This Number,” sharing a critical customer experience statistic that every practitioner should know. Experience This! can be found on iTunes and other favorite podcast apps, and show notes are at www.experiencethisshow.com.
40 minutes | May 29, 2017
Episode 51 - Why the First 100 Days of a Customer Relationship Is Critical (Joey Coleman)
Imagine you make a large purchase after working with a salesperson. Maybe it’s a new car or windows for the house. The salesperson makes lots of promises that the “account manager” or customer service representative can’t keep. Sound familiar? It did to Joey Coleman, a customer experience expert and keynote speaker who learned that in virtually every industry, between 20% and 70% of new customers will leave a business in the first 100 days. That’s a lot of unkept promises. “Basically, companies are hemorrhaging,” he says. “They’re spending all this time, effort, and money acquiring new customers, but not spending a fraction of that time, effort, or money keeping those customers.” “Getting customers is important, but keeping customers is even more important,” he adds. Coleman took time out of his busy schedule to talk with me for Episode 51 of the Focus on Customer Service podcast. His passion and enthusiasm for the customer is contagious, which resulted in a lively discussion.
47 minutes | May 1, 2017
Episode 50 - Dan Gingiss on his new book Winning at Social Customer Care
The Focus on Customer Service podcast celebrates its 50th episode with co-host Dan Moriarty returning to talk about his new role at the Chicago Bulls, and interviewing co-host Dan Gingiss about his new book, Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media (available on Amazon).
33 minutes | Apr 6, 2017
Episode 49 - The Customer Was Front and Center at Social Media Marketing World
Although “marketing” is its name, the annual Social Media Marketing World conference in San Diego had much to say about social customer care. In addition to the official Customer Service track consisting of six sessions, many marketing speakers spoke about the importance of customer experience and customer service. Episode 49 of the Focus on Customer Service podcast offers up a first-hand account of the customer taking center stage at #SMMW17, including highlights from a dozen speakers.
23 minutes | Feb 12, 2017
Episode 48 - How Zappos Became Famous for Customer Service
Take a moment and think about the two or three very best companies in the world at customer service – the ones that are cited over and over again by speakers and authors as being truly unique. These are the companies where customer service is so engrained in the culture, that when social media burst onto the scene they immediately seized the opportunity to show the world their competitive advantage rather than fearing what could happen if customer service were practiced in public. Chances are that your list includes this week's guest!
31 minutes | Jan 18, 2017
Episode 47 - How eBay Brings The Shopping Experience to Social Media
eBay, the online marketplace, is in a unique position: It sells billions of dollars of merchandise each year, but none of it is their own. So when customers reach out on social media, they are either buyers or sellers on the platform, and eBay stands in the middle. “We can't be too biased on the buyer side and we can't be too heavy on the seller side,” says Dallen McKee, Global Social Media Customer Care Team Leader at eBay. “We have to create a good experience for both.” Here are the key moments in the episode and where to find them: 1:36 Dallen shares eBay’s core philosophy toward social customer care 4:40 How eBay gains product insights from social media listening 8:36 How customer feedback has become ingrained into eBay’s culture 12:56 Balancing the need of eBay’s buyers and sellers in social media 17:26 Dallen describes the new eBay ShopBot on Facebook Messenger 18:25 How eBay decides which platforms to be on from a social care perspective 22:13 The sales pitch to executives about increasing customer service volume in social media 27:21 Dallen’s top learnings from working in social customer care
18 minutes | Jan 4, 2017
Episode 46 - How Dell's Community Forum Aids in Social Media Customer Service
At Dell, social media has been around much longer than Facebook or Twitter. The popular Dell Community Forum was borne out of the original Dell.com website, so its community is well established. It’s a user-to-user forum where anyone – including Dell employees and other customers – can answer a user’s question. “Facebook and Twitter are typically folks that are having issues at the moment that just want to be heard,” says Amy Bivin, manager of community outreach for Dell. In contrast, the Forum often features more complex or esoteric questions, sometimes from owners of older legacy systems. Bivin took some time out recently to discuss Dell’s integrated social support model on the Focus on Customer Service Podcast.
42 minutes | Dec 14, 2016
Episode 45 - A Customer Service Expert on How Social Media Has Changed The Game (Shep Hyken)
To understand how some people just have an innate sense for great customer service, you need only look back at Shep Hyken’s job during college. Before Shep became a world-renown customer service expert and best-selling author, he worked at a gas station... Today, Hyken consults with many companies and teaches them how to employ this same mindset to what is becoming the ultimate competitive advantage... Hyken graciously talked with me for Episode 45 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast. Here are some of the key moments of the interview and where to find them: 1:17 How Shep’s childhood shaped his customer service expertise today 6:38 The cost of doing business and the cost of not doing customer service well 7:45 Managing customer expectations 12:06 Are all companies in the customer service and customer experience business? 14:57 Examples of great experiences that don’t cost a lot of money 18:30 How has social media impacted customer service overall? 20:41 Customer surveys and what it means to deliver “10” service 24:46 Why companies should respond to every single comment on social media 29:05 How companies can build relationships with customers in digital channels and raise expectations for everyone else 37:35 Where is social media customer service going next?
26 minutes | Nov 29, 2016
Episode 44 - How Fitbit Keeps Its Customers Moving in Social Media and Online Communities
Fitbit, a global leader in wearable fitness technology, has made it easier and more fun for millions of people to live a healthier life. And they’ve done it by focusing on the experience. “Customer experience is really paramount to everything we do here,” says Allison Leahy, the director of community at Fitbit, adding that in the online space, “Fitbit is trying to be everywhere you are and more”. The company employs a bilateral approach to online customer care, focusing separately on social media and communities, though both groups report up through the same department. Leahy joined me for Episode 44 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast, sharing Fitbit’s best practices for being successful in both social care and online community management. Here are some of the key highlights of the episode and where to find them: 0:38 Allison talks about her background and Fitbit’s social media philosophy 3:45 How social care and community care operate together 6:50 How Fitbit uses customer listening to improve its products and services 12:07 How the Fitbit social media and community service teams are organized 16:09 How digital customer service integrates into traditional customer service 18:13 Allison shares some memorable customer experiences 22:50 What Allison has learned along the way and her advice to others
25 minutes | Nov 8, 2016
Episode 43 - How Intuit's QuickBooks Meets Its Small Business Customers Anywhere
Intuit, long known for its community help forums for TurboTax, noticed that its small business clients were seeking help in a new place. “There was a lot of conversation happening on non-owned channels,” says Mark Obee, Group Manager of Social and Community Care for Intuit on the QuickBooks brand. “The accountants were out there having those conversations without us.” Non-owned channels included private Facebook and LinkedIn groups, which caused a dilemma for a big company like Intuit. Obee knew that these sorts of groups were private for a reason – they didn’t want big brands infiltrating with unwanted marketing messages. Here are some key points of the episode and where to find them: 0:52 A quick look at Intuit’s products and Mark’s background 2:53 Mark discusses the QuickBooks “Social Evangelism” Program 5:04 How the brand gains the trust of a private group 7:18 Intuit’s culture of community-based solutions and how it’s evolved 9:48 How communities affect customer service staffing needs 11:11 Comparing owned communities, private groups, and social media channels 15:07 Dan talks about re-using help content 16:25 How direct messaging is playing into the QuickBooks customer service strategy 19:35 Mark shares a memorable interaction with a customer 21:44 Mark’s key learnings from his time working in social care Intuit and QuickBooks were chosen for the podcast because of readers and listeners like you suggesting great brands who are changing the game in social media customer service. Please send a tweet to @dgingiss using hashtag #FOCS and we will try to get your favorite brand on a future episode! Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud.
39 minutes | Oct 25, 2016
Episode 42 - Solving Problems for Both Customers and Companies
As a young entrepreneur, Davy Kestens didn’t quite know what to do when Volkswagen called and was interested in becoming his first big customer. “When you’re a one-man show, you try to do everything you can to not come across as a one-man show,” Kestens recalls. That “failed miserably of course,” he adds. Kestens, the founder and CEO of customer service platform Sparkcentral, now leads a 100-person company based in Silicon Valley and his native Belgium. Sparkcentral seeks to “optimize the customer service experience and customer engagement workflows over social media and mobile messaging channels,” says Kestens. Today, as social care has migrated from the Marketing department to Customer Service (“75% of our customers live in the contact center,” Kestens reports) the focus is more operational – and that means convincing executives that putting resources behind a comparatively small customer service channel is a good idea. “Even though the volumes are fairly low, there’s [something] to be said about the ROI in regards to saving money, preventing people from actually calling and using the more expensive communication channels within your contact center,” says Kestens, adding that social media usually represents “less than 2%” of all customer service. “Companies are starting to realize that it’s a leading indicator of a much larger problem or a much larger opportunity.” So what does he tell the C-level executives that he meets? “It’s not about social care. It’s not about Twitter. It’s not about Facebook. Stop thinking about those channels as a new problem to solve… [these are] merely the most prominent examples of how the expectations and the behavior of the modern consumer has changed.” Kestens explains that customers have flocked to social media to circumvent an archaic telephone customer service model that “has been broken for the last few decades”. “Social was the first wave of that,” he says. “Now the whole mobile messaging explosion worldwide is the second wave of that. But it’s not going to stop there. It’s really about the way consumers communicate has shifted, and their expectations that come along with that.” They key for companies, he adds, is “to reduce the amount of effort that customers have to put in to get issues resolved”. With the proliferation of messaging apps around the world, Sparkcentral’s goal is “to enable brands to talk to customers across any channel because really it’s not about the channel, it’s about the customer,” Kestens says. Messaging bots, which have received a lot of media attention recently, run the risk of becoming a “modern IVR” [Interactive Voice Response system, also known as the phone system that never seems to recognize pleas for help from a live agent] if companies don’t build them correctly. “Consumers are using these communication channels to talk to a human being,” Kestens warns, “so you shouldn’t be doing the exact opposite with bots.” Kestens met with me and Dan Moriarty for Episode 42 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast to discuss the 5-year evolution of social customer care and the technology that is attempting to help brands keep pace. Here are some key moments of the podcast and where to find them: 1:17 Background on Sparkcentral and Davy’s career 7:00 How a young entrepreneur handled his first major client 9:36 The evolution from marketing to customer service owning social customer care 13:30 How Sparkcentral convinces call centers to purchase a platform for social media when the volume is so much lower than other customer service channels 20:02 Davy’s perspective on the ongoing shift into private messaging for customer service 27:16 How messaging bots will affect the customer experience 33:06 What keeps an entrepreneur up at night? 35:07 What Davy knows now that he wishes he had known when he started the company
25 minutes | Oct 5, 2016
Episode 41 - The TSA is Proving that Government Can Be Great at Customer Service
Can a federal government agency be good at customer service? The Transportation Security Administration – better known by its acronym, TSA – is setting out to change perceptions and make traveling easier by answering all sorts of questions on social media. The agency, which screens 2.2 million passengers and their luggage daily, while also protecting train stations and ports, launched the AskTSA Twitter handle last September with little fanfare. “The audience was there,” says Jennifer Plozai, Director of External Communications. “We didn’t promote it…Right when we launched, we had passengers sending us good questions on Day 1, and it’s just grown from there.” The most common questions include permitted and prohibited items, what types of ID are accepted, the popular TSA Pre✓® program, and people traveling with disabilities or medical conditions. TSA’s goal, says Plozai, is to “provide guidance, clarify our policies, answer questions, [and] resolve issues.” “This was a win-win for TSA to be able to launch a customer care account and help passengers be less frustrated with the process and have an better overall travel experience,” Plozai says. Since the TSA is one of the first government agencies to establish a customer service handle on social media – the United States Postal Service was another – Plozai had to learn from other sources, most notably airlines and airports. She and her team spent just four months from internal approval to launch, creating an answer database and establishing a social media policy. “There wasn’t one that we could find already existing in government,” Plozai says of the policy. “We needed a very well-defined policy for managing this program.” She has since shared the policy and best practices with other government agencies. TSA’s staffing model for social customer service is unique – and corporations should take note. The team uses a rotating group of TSA employees on “detail assignments” – that is, this isn’t their permanent job. The result is a unique mix of “very diverse backgrounds”, including airport officers, trainers, federal air marshals, and global strategists. “They all bring different expertise to our team and are able to help customers in a better way,” says Plozai. Each employee completes a four-week training program which focuses on social media, customer service, and combining the two. Plozai says the agency also uses social media to “have the pulse of the traveling public” and “to identify trends in operational issues by hearing the concerns of the public and being able to address those.” Results so far, she says, have exceeded expectations. “Interacting with the passengers in real time, whether it’s before, during, or after their travel experience, the appreciation that we’re there to listen… we’re just really pleased with the program and how it’s gone so far,” she says. Plozai met with me and Dan Moriarty for Episode 41 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast. Key moments in the episode are below: 1:03 A brief overview of the TSA and Jennifer’s background 2:17 The recent launch of the Ask TSA program 4:35 How TSA was able to obtain leadership buy-in to start their social customer service program 7:26 Jennifer describes the process of setting up a pilot program 9:43 The types of questions that TSA sees in social media 14:16 The TSA’s expansion into Facebook Messenger 15:25 How recent negative press affected the questions TSA received on social media 19:55 Jennifer shares a memorable customer interaction 21:14 What Jennifer wishes she had known when she started Ask TSA 22:42 What the future looks like for TSA in social media Additional episodes of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud. If you have experienced great customer service from a brand on social media, please let us know in the comments below or tweet me at @dgingiss.
21 minutes | Sep 19, 2016
Episode 40 - How Topgolf Tees Up Its Live Experience Through Social Media
Topgolf, the golf and entertainment venue “for all ages, all skill levels, all year round,” has built its brand by integrating social media into the live experience. “We’re very lucky that our brand has such a natively social element to it,” says Director of Communications Adrienne Chance. “We see a lot of social media activity without having to push for that.” The rapidly expanding company – it currently lists 26 locations on its website but Chance says 10 more are being added per year – promises a fun and challenging game for amateurs and pros alike. “You don’t have to be a good golfer to be good at Topgolf,” says Chance. The setup involves golf balls with microchips that track accuracy and distance, and special targets throughout the course that award points. Unique to the experience is that social media is built in. Each venue has a “social wall” on which live tweets are streamed, encouraging patrons to tweet and see their post on a big TV screen. In-house DJ’s seek song requests by tweet, social contests can allow lucky patrons to skip the line, and the company has seen successful engagement with Snapchat filters even though it doesn’t currently have a corporate Snapchat account. Topgolf’s goal, says Chance, is to “merge the online and offline audiences”. Of course, the company also practices traditional social customer care, “constantly responding to guest questions” and proactively engaging with Topgolf references that are not aimed directly at the brand. Interestingly, posts are answered at the local level by “marketing managers” who are responsible for all marketing of the venue – social and non-social – plus customer service. Another refreshing difference is that Topgolf almost exclusively looks at qualitative measures of success on social media. “We’ve measured our success by the type of engagements we’re getting per post, what’s the number of engagements per post, [and] the quality of interactions that we’re having,” says Chance. Chance took time away from her golf game to chat with me and Dan Moriarty for Episode 40 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast. Highlights of the episode and where to find them are below: 0:38 What is Topgolf? 3:00 How Topgolf merges the offline and online experience 7:07 Which social media channels are most important to Topgolf? 8:50 Exploring Topgolf’s decentralized social model, in which each location has its own accounts 11:35 The role of the “marketing manager” as both multi-channel marketer and customer service agent 13:25 Answering social media questions about Topgolf’s expansion plans 14:48 Topgolf’s focus on qualitative social media metrics 17:38 Adrienne shares a particularly memorable interaction with a customer If you’ve seen other brands successfully integrate the offline and online experience, or if you’ve experienced great customer service from a brand on social media, we want to hear about it! Please tweet using hashtag #FOCS and we will invite that brand to a future podcast episode. Subscribe to the Focus on Customer Service Podcast on Soundcloud, iTunes, and Stitcher.
40 minutes | Sep 6, 2016
Episode 39 - Why Social Media Shouldn't Be Separate From Other Teams (Wells Fargo)
Although it’s one of America’s oldest companies, Wells Fargo has become one of the industry’s most forward-looking thinkers when it comes to social media and customer service. That’s thanks in part to Kimarie Matthews, Senior Vice President of Social Care and Capabilities, who has been building out Wells Fargo’s social care program since its first Twitter handle launched in 2009. “I really craved working on something that’s meaningful and important,” Matthews says. Wells Fargo, a banking institution with more than 80 different lines of business, has been around since the days of the Pony Express – more than 160 years – and currently serves more than 1 in 3 U.S. households. The complexity level is high, which is what makes Matthews’ work so important. “We want to be where our customers need us, in the ways that they need us,” she says. “Having a coordinated enterprise approach in social media was a real priority.” That coordinated approach encompasses both the marketing and customer service facets of social media. On the service side, questions are triaged to the right person to “get the answer back in an efficient manner”. But on the marketing side, Wells Fargo is taking a unique approach. “We’re now folding the social marketing functions back into the traditional marketing functions so they’re not separate,” Matthews says, adding that the same trend is likely to occur on the service side eventually. “The future is not that social is separate. It’s really that there are a lot of different digital text-based tools, like chat and SMS and social, and they really need to be treated together and holistically.” One key reason for an omni-channel customer service view is that “customers sometimes want to move between channels,” Matthews says. “We need to be able to enable these agents to start in one channel and then move with the customer to the other channel….There needs to be a lot more fluidity in terms of how we use these different channels.” As with many large companies, Wells Fargo is seeing increased customer usage of Facebook Messenger for customer service inquiries. One big benefit of this new channel? “We’ve seen a big decline in customers going to our public Facebook page with a customer service question,” Matthews says. Wells Fargo is also experimenting with chat bots on Facebook Messenger, not to replace human customer service but for proactive alerts such as low balance notifications or for simple service questions like finding the nearest ATM. Matthews was kind enough to sit down with me and Dan Moriarty to discuss her pioneering career in social customer care and look toward the future of what customer service might look like in the coming months and years. Here are some highlights of Episode 39 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast and where to find them. 0:57 Kimarie’s background 2:55 A bit about Wells Fargo 4:00 A look back at 2009 and the dawn of social customer care 6:21 Choosing the right technology for both marketing and customer service 8:59 How Wells Fargo’s organization integrates social media marketing and service 13:08 Developing an omni-channel view of the customer 15:33 What types of characteristics does Wells Fargo look for in hiring social care agents? 19:42 How Wells Fargo is approaching private messaging as an emerging customer service channel 23:00 Preparing for a future with chat bots 26:31 Kimarie describes how a chat bot engagement might work 32:30 Recalling a memorable interaction with a customer 35:53 What Kimarie has learned after 7 years in social care that she wishes she knew at the beginning
26 minutes | Aug 23, 2016
Episode 38 - Asia's iflix Offers Low-cost Video Streaming with Top-notch Service
Unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows to any device for a monthly fee – sound familiar? Up until recently, this service that Americans take for granted wasn’t available in many countries throughout Asia. Enter iflix, a Malaysian-based video-on-demand startup that aims to “bring the world’s best content to emerging markets at a price that everyone can afford,” according to Philippines Country Manager Sherwin Dela Cruz. That affordable price, by the way, is just $3 a month for content from 150 sources that ranges from the most popular television shows in the U.S. to local Asian favorites. Dela Cruz, a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur”, and Jeremiah Carcellar (pronounced “Car-seh-yar”), iflix’s communicatons manager, oversee customer service operations in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The company is looking to expand its offering to Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Middle East and Africa by year-end. Operating on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, iflix uses three guiding principles in its approach to social customer care: Effectiveness (actually addressing the customer’s concern), Creativity, and a Personal Touch. “We really try and practice as much as possible to have that personal touch, human-to-human conversation,” says Carcellar. He says the company handles about 3,000 posts a week in the Philippines alone, representing about 50% of all customer service inquiries. The brand demonstrates a friendly demeanor online, often employing emoji and retweets of compliments to “make sure that customers are left with a better impression of our company.” “If we can get to the point where we’re part of their everyday conversation, [where] we end up talking to them because we’re a part of their life, then in that sense we’ve achieved something and we end up building a trusting relationship which can go a long way,” adds Carcellar. As with many brands, speed of response is critical. “This is the world we’re living in now,” says Dela Cruz. “Everybody’s expecting an answer almost immediately.” Carcellar adds that iflix’s customers are showing lots of appreciation for the startup’s efforts in social media. “People really respond positively to the genuine effort and attention you give them,” he says, explaining that even when they experience issues with the service, the company has earned “the benefit of the doubt”. With the company expanding rapidly into new countries which require additional language capabilities, Dela Cruz and Carcellar are trying to duplicate their success. With their relentless focus on the customer, they are confident they will succeed. “The heart of the whole company is the customer,” says Dela Cruz. “If that voice goes unheard, then we’ve lost that customer.” The Focus on Customer Service Podcast featured iflix in its most recent episode. Here are the highlights of Episode 38 and where to find them: 1:15 The lowdown on iflix 4:20 What iflix is doing in the social customer care space 8:37 How iflix decided to make the investment in social customer care 11:43 What types of questions iflix sees in social media 12:45 The most popular video content in Asia 15:08 How iflix handles inquiries from multiple countries and multiple languages 16:36 The role of Instagram in social customer care 18:11 How social media integrates with other customer service channels 19:28 The future of social customer care for iflix 21:45 Sharing a memorable interaction with a customer 23:01 What the iflix team has learned in its first year of social customer care
27 minutes | Aug 10, 2016
Episode 37 - How USAA Serves the Men and Women in Uniform
When you consult almost any list of top companies for customer service, USAA’s name will be front and center. The financial services company founded by and for military veterans and their families has a fiercely loyal customer base, in large part due to the exceptional service they are provided in every channel. So when Richelle Caroll, the Director of Social Servicing for USAA – also an Air Force veteran and 23-year employee – was tasked with starting a social customer service practice, she knew she had big boots to fill. “USAA takes a lot of pride in being leaders in the industry for customer service, so delivering an exceptional and personalized member experience is key to being successful,” says Caroll. “We wanted to make sure that our members got to engage with us in the channel of choice.” The 22-person social customer service team started early last year with the goals of providing exceptional service, “making it simple,” and ensuring members can reach them wherever they are in the world at any time of day or night. Like much of the rest of the company, it’s staffed by many veterans and military spouses – making it easier to relate with customers. “We really want our employees here to have a better understanding of what our membership goes through day in and day out, some of the challenges they experience, so we can relate and provide a better member experience,” says Caroll. “We take a lot of pride in things like honesty, loyalty, integrity, service” – just like the military, she adds. USAA’s social customer service agents are highly-skilled individuals with extensive product knowledge and usually a long tenure at the company. The team works closely with other departments such as PR, marketing, strategy, governance, and the line of business product teams to ensure a positive experience and to identify and fix customer pain points. “One of the secret benefits of operating in the social media space is it really provides us with the opportunity to bubble up those things that our members are talking about or concerned about, and provide better experiences or even products and solutions,” Caroll says. Since social media is often “the quickest way to engage” for active military members who are traveling all over the world, customer service on the channel should be “at parity” with other channels and never a “channel of last resort”, she adds. In fact, customer satisfaction in social media is evaluated in the same way as it is with other channels. What really separates USAA from its peers is the deep connection to its members. Service – and especially military service – is “entrenched in our daily lives,” says Caroll, and more than once she referred to it as an “obligation”. “Our members have sacrificed a lot for our country. Having the ability to empathize with them, making sure we’re meeting them where they’re at, is one of the key components of entering into social the way that we did.” Richelle joined me for Episode 37 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast. Highlights of the episode and where to find them are below: 1:02 Richelle’s military background 2:23 A quick overview of USAA 3:05 What is USAA’s customer service philosophy ? 4:25 Does USAA have an advantage by focusing only on military families? 7:07 How the company started its social customer service practice 9:43 The social care team and how it works with other areas of the business 12:40 Is social media the customer service channel of last resort? 14:19 Operating in a regulated industry 17:22 What has changed in the last year of social customer service 18:57 Metrics that are key to success 22:22 Richelle shares a favorite member interaction in social media 24:59 Richelle’s one piece of advice for starting in social customer service
33 minutes | Jul 26, 2016
Episode 36 - A Social Customer Care Veteran Shares The Secrets to Success
As social customer care is still in its nascent period, it’s not easy to find someone who’s been doing it for even five years. Well, after interviewing Joshua March on the technology side for the last Focus on Customer Service podcast episode, we’ve found a second person, Delfin Vassallo, on the brand side. Delfin (pronounced Del-feen), a 20-year marketing veteran, started in social media seven years ago and in social care five years ago. He helped build the successful social care programs in Europe at Barclays Bank, Nokia, and Microsoft. Delfin recalls spending an incredible amount of time trying to convince management that social customer service was a thing five years ago. “Our customers are on Facebook, [they] are on Twitter,” he would say. “We have to be there. We must be there.” And Delfin has been there, working with three major companies to start and grow their social customer care practice. At Nokia, he ended up managing 67 Facebook pages and more than 40 Twitter handles. A major focus has been on proving the ROI of delivering customer service via social media. At first he convinced executives that despite a plethora of early complaints, the company was “going to save some money by broadcasting all this information” because “there are many other customers watching.” But in time he developed calculations to determine the “cost per issue” as a measure of comparison to a traditional call center. At one company, he found that Twitter’s cost per issue, in Euros, was half the cost of the telephone. Online customer communities delivered even better cost savings – a fraction of the cost of Twitter. What’s changed in the 5 years since “social customer service” entered the lexicon? “Understanding at the executive level has increased so it’s easier to sell in,” says Delfin. “The awareness of social care is even bigger [and] the technology has advanced a lot.” Delfin joined me and Dan Moriarty from his current home in Finland to discuss his vast knowledge of all things social media. Here are some key points in Episode 36 and where to find them: 1:03 Delfin’s professional background 2:32 Delfin discusses launching a social care program in regulated industry 6:16 Convincing management that social care is a good idea even with many complaints 9:37 Calculating an ROI on social customer service 12:37 How to handle agent workload before a program gets to scale 17:15 What has changed in the 5 years that Delfin has been involved in social customer service 19:33 Delfin discusses balancing the many technology options available today 23:38 Integrating social customer service with a company’s CRM system 27:10 Delfin recalls a memorable customer interaction In the next Focus on Customer Service episode, we will return to highlighting a single brand with an award-winning financial services company. If you’ve had a great experience with a brand on social media, we want to hear about it! Please use the comments or tweet using #FOCS and we will try to get that brand on a future episode. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundhound.
41 minutes | Jul 13, 2016
Episode 35 - Bridging the Gap Between Social Media and Customer Service
When Joshua March built an app for the new Facebook Application Platform in 2007, “social customer service was not a phrase,” he says. But March, now CEO & Co-Founder of Conversocial, saw an early opportunity. “I thought this was a really exciting opportunity for brands to engage with customers in a way they never had before.” Conversocial, a digital customer care platform, aims at “bridging the gap between the rapidly shifting worlds of social media and… the discipline of a large-scale customer service platform,” according to March. As someone who lives and breathes social customer service every day, March prides himself on being an early adopter of new technology. And while many companies are just starting to pay attention to messaging apps, March has been working for months with brands like Hyatt, Sprint, and Alaska Air to pilot customer service for Facebook Messenger. He calls messaging apps “the future of customer service... they’re really exciting in lots of ways.” Advantages of Messaging Apps for Brands March cites two big advantages that messaging apps bring to brands that “traditional” social media channels do not: 1) Private vs. Public: “One of the big hesitations that a lot of companies have had in promoting social as a primary customer service channel has been the very public aspect of it… The great thing about [messaging apps] is that you can have a ‘Message Us’ button and really promote this as a one-on-one, private channel.” 2) Persistency: “Messaging is a persistent conversation between you and a brand. You can have a real-time chat with an agent, then you can go away and come back a day later and see the history… That’s really exciting because that starts to have an impact on consumer behavior.” In their beta testing with Conversocial, Sprint saw a decrease in public complaints on Facebook as messages on Messenger increased. As a result, Sprint now lists its social customer care options – including the “Message Us” button – above the phone number on its website. March is expecting 50+ more clients to launch live chat via Messenger this year and “thousands” overall. Are the Bots Really Going to Take Over? March also had a lot to say about Facebook’s recent introduction of the “Bots for Messenger” Platform. He says that bots will be useful for certain types of transactions and “can help contact centers become more efficient by making things easier for agents.” But, he cautions, “we are not at the stage yet where you could have a really comprehensive chat bot for customer service.” One challenge that bots will face, he says, is that messaging is already less expensive and a better customer experience than on the phone, so moving to a bot runs the risk of worsening that experience and creating additional phone calls. “A lot of people turn to social because they’re fed up with the ‘computer says no’ attitude or big, complex IVRs [Interactive Voice Response systems on the telephone], or the bad experience they’re getting through these other channels and they want to connect with brands in a more human, engaging way,” March says. “And that’s really, really important that brands don’t forget that.” Here are some key moments in Episode 35 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast and where to find them: 1:45 A background on Conversocial 3:00 Conversocial’s (very) early entry into social customer service 7:00 The intersection of Marketing and Customer Service 11:23 The emergence of messaging platforms for service 15:21 What does the rise in messaging apps mean for companies? 22:57 Are messaging bots going to take over customer service? 30:55 Public vs. private customer service 34:43 What’s the future of peer-to-peer support? 40:00 What will be different in social customer service in one year? To hear more Focus on Customer Service, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or SoundCloud.
24 minutes | Jun 21, 2016
Episode 34 - Even Pets Need Great Customer Service (1-800-PetMeds)
With the seemingly endless popularity of puppy and kitten pictures, videos, and memes on the internet, it would seem that the social media script for America’s largest pet pharmacy could basically write itself. But while the customers of 1-800-PET-MEDS do like to post lots of photos of their pets, the company itself is serious about its business and about providing exceptional customer service. “We’re a really fortunate brand in that we get a lot of people who love the content that we share,” says Vanessa Penagos, content and inbound marketing director at 1-800-PET-MEDS. But “we definitely don’t go out of our way to [post puppy and kitten pictures] just because we can.” With more than 8 million customers, 1-800-PET-MEDS operates in a regulated industry in much the same way as traditional pharmacies do. So while they can help customers with their orders, there are certain topics that are off-limits. “We certainly want to be helpful, but we can’t just be giving out medical advice,” Penagos says. Still, the company differentiates itself with its friendly interactions and personal touches – like including a free dog or cat treat with every order (which results in a lot of social media praise) or remembering a pet’s name in a future interaction after a customer has mentioned it or posted it with a photo on the company’s Facebook page. A smooth customer service interaction is important because pet owners are particularly emotional about their animals. “We strive for fast, easy, helpful service” that is “100% consistent” across channels, says Penagos. Most customer engagement and customer service inquiries come on Facebook, though Instagram and Twitter are also popular channels. Customer service agents are trained to “put themselves in the customer’s shoes” so the emotional aspect is expected. “A lot of times customers just want to be heard” when it comes to complaints, Penagos says, recounting a time when a customer ended up deleting a negative post after the brand responded because the customer hadn’t expected a response. As part of its customer service promise, the company offers a 100% money-back guarantee with “no questions asked” on non-prescription items such as treats and toys. All returns are donated to animal shelters, likely resulting in even more photos of happy puppies and kittens. Vanessa joined me and Dan Moriarty for Episode 34 of the Focus on Customer Service podcast, sharing her experience as a marketer, SEO expert, and social care leader. Here are some of the key points in the interview and where to find them: 1:15 The background on 1-800-PET-MEDS 1:55 The company’s approach to social customer care 3:45 How the social media team is organized 4:32 The intersection of social media and SEO 7:05 The kinds of social media posts that 1-800-PET-MEDS sees from its emotionally-invested customers 8:49 Why 1-800-PET-MEDS maintains a “pharmacy first” approach even in the midst of lots of puppy and kitten pictures 10:20 Managing marketing and customer service in a regulated industry 15:58 Which social media channels are biggest for a pet-related company? 16:43 The potential role of Facebook Messenger for customer service 17:45 How 1-800-PET-MEDS engages with animal shelters 18:48 How a social CRM might prove helpful in social care 19:39 Vanessa shares a memorable customer interaction 21:20 The one thing that Vanessa knows now that she wishes she knew when she started in social care If you’ve had a great customer service experience with a brand on social media, please tweet us using hashtag #FOCS so we can invite that brand on a future episode. Subscribe to the Focus on Customer Service Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.
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