Category: Customer service

How Social Media Networking can Benefit your Catering Company

Today, it is rare to come across someone who doesn’t have a Facebook page and now brands big and small are cashing in on the benefits that social networking has to offer. If you have a small business or have recently started your own company, here are three ways that creating an online presence can help you.


Increase your Customer Base

Having an online presence can help you to raise awareness and gain valuable exposure to your target market. Word of mouth is one of the greatest forms of advertising and creating a Facebook page and a Twitter page allows you to get the word out about your catering company and grow your customer base without spending a penny.


Improve Customer Relations

As any business owner knows, great customer service is paramount and by creating an online profile, you are giving your customers an outlet to provide feedback and it is via these social networks that you can find out what is being said about your brand. Many people fear that this will leave the brand vulnerable to negative feedback but many companies use social media to deal with customer complaints quickly and effectively. If a customer has a problem you provide them with advice in seconds rather than having them send an email or contact you via phone. Via these channels, you can connect with your catering clients and build lasting relationships by integrating yourself into something that your customers use every day.


Promote your Services

Social media provides brands with the perfect place to promote new products and services. You can let your customers know about a current offer or a service at the touch of a button and it won’t cost you anything at all. However, it is important to find creative ways to engage your customers as they will soon get bored of a hard sell approach. Facebook allows you to create visually appealing social campaigns that will drive traffic to your website and get people talking about your brand.

About the Author: Remie Lund writes on behalf of Buffets 4 Business. If you are looking for superior catering services, contact BuffetsForBusiness.com for buffet caterers in Reading.


Why Social Media Matters for Customer Service

Over the past decade, the online and social world has rapidly and radically changed how businesses address and communicate with their customers. Social media has accelerated customer reaction times and, critically for PR and marketing professionals, it can also amplify their opinions exponentially.

According to a recent report on Econsultancy, 18 million (36%) of UK consumers have engaged with brands through social media, with this number expected to rise over the coming years. Of those people, 68% believe that social media gave them a more powerful voice when dealing with a brand, and more than two-thirds (65%) thought it was a better way to communicate with a company than a call centre.

Interaction through social media isn’t limited to just the younger generations, either: the same study found that more than a quarter of the 55+ age group have used some aspects of social media at some point, although this is less than half the amount of 18-24 year olds that use it.

With such figures, it’s difficult to believe that in today’s interconnected, socially networked world, some companies are still reluctant to take social media seriously and use it to complement their existing customer service strategies. When more consumers demand and expect customer service through social media channels, it is the companies that refuse or cannot adapt to these new channels that will be left behind.

However, it’s not always easy for brands to respond in the correct way and it can be tricky to integrate social media into existing customer service systems. It’s also difficult to quantify the level of activity a brand should spend responding to – it may be too time consuming to respond to every tweet or Facebook post, for example.

And although social media can benefit a brand’s reputation and outreach, plenty of social media ‘horror stories’ have arisen over the past few years. In some cases, brands have stumbled into the social media waters unprepared, and have had some of the worst PR disasters in recent memory.

A prime example of how not to engage with fans on social media is 2010’s famous Nestlé Facebook backlash, where thousands of angry fans swamped Nestlé’s Facebook page in response to the company’s alleged use of palm oil from deforested areas in Indonesia. Rather than using the backlash as an opportunity to engage with its community, it invited scorn and negative responses by being confrontational on its Facebook wall. Nestlé later admitted in a post on their Facebook wall that they were still learning how to use social media.

Unfortunately, many brands don’t currently integrate customer service into their social strategy, despite the fact that Facebook and Twitter are some of the best devices in which to turn your customers’ negative comments into positive opportunities. Social media allows companies to gain immediate feedback from customers, to rectify mistakes just as quickly as they were made and, in the process, it becomes more likely that there will be some positive tweets or Facebook posts in return. In the long run, customers will feel more positive about brands that use social media well, which helps them to build stronger relationships and raises the possibility of turning those customers into brand advocates.

The key is to know your audience, understand that there are rapid response expectations on social media channels, and to keep in mind the inherent public nature of these platforms that will directly impact your brand. Customers who have received good customer service through social media channels are much more likely to buy from that brand again, which all points to the simple fact that companies that fail to actively engage with customers through social media do so at their peril.

About the Author: Will Vicary is a digital marketing specialist whose interests include CRM solutions and online customer experience, as well as online lead generation. He is specifically interested in CRM insurance and cloud technology.


 

5 Tips For Using Twitter For Customer Service

Twitter is about more than just gaining a huge following. It’s also a great way to engage with your customers and turn them into satisfied advocates of your brand with less effort and in less time than traditional customer services.

Having finally realized that Twitter is a cluster of customer complaints, questions, and concerns, more and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon every day. For most organizations, the trick is understanding how to use Twitter in the most effective and efficient methods for their particular customers.

The following are several tips to help you successfully handle customer service issues.

1. Track your brand

First, to use your business’s Twitter account for customer service purposes, identify the Twitter users in need of your help. These customers may not be following you or even talking directly to you, so you’ll need to check out more than just the regular feed. Track the conversation around your brand by creating a few saved searches for words and phrases customers are likely to use on Twitter when talking about you.

Simply search for your company or product name using the box at the top of your Twitter page to create a saved search. Once the search results are up, click on the Save this search button to easily repeat this search later.

2. Respond with haste

Look through your saved searches twice a day for customers who are upset or in need of help. Make sure the tweets are recent to avoid contacting customers after they have already solved the problem and avoid upsetting them again.

Once you’ve identified a customer who needs your help, send them a quick reply offering information or assistance. If it’s possible to solve the problem over Twitter, then feel free to do so.

An @Reply will make it easy for customers to see what you’re doing and you can send an @Reply to anyone. If the customer seems especially upset or if their problem is in any way sensitive, try to move the conversation to direct messages, as quickly as possible. The goal is to provide help faster than users can receive it from the traditional channels.

3. Be honest

It’s not uncommon for companies to embarrass themselves on Twitter by attempting to turn a bad customer experience into an opportunity for free public relations. The truth is this is far more likely to backfire on you than it is to help build your company’s image.

Remember that Twitter was modeled on conversations, so try to talk with customers instead of at them. The reputation you’ll gain from helping customers and being honest with them is the best PR you can buy on social networks.

4. Separate accounts

Use a separate Twitter account than the one you use for the primary business profile for the purposes of customer service. Keep in mind that most issues can be isolated to individual problems and don’t affect the majority of your customers. Don’t clutter your main Twitter timeline with individual customer service tweets.

Try using social media management tools to organize your Twitter customer service account. Monitor keywords, including your brand and business name, and reply only to tweets where customer service support would be helpful or appropriate.

When the conversation extends beyond individual problems, it may be better handled by another department. Create a process so that all types of issues are handled appropriately and in a timely manner.

5. Offline conversation

Twitter is best used for simple customer service questions. Furthermore, many customer service questions and answers are very personal in nature. Identify which types of questions, issues, and concerns should be taken offline immediately and create appropriately worded responses that your Twitter team can use when this occurs.

You can take conversations offline through direct messages, email, or telephone. When a person needs to be directed to a different employee or department, make sure a process is in place to hand off these types of inquiries, so they don’t fall through the cracks.

Make sure you benchmark companies to see how they use Twitter for customer service. There is so much you can learn simply from listening and watching.

 
About the Author: Yo Noguchi is an experienced freelancer, guest blogger, and frequent contributor to a blog hosted by Benchmark Email, one of the world’s global provider of email marketing services.

 

 

How to Lose a Good Customer or How to Create a Lifelong Customer

I was in the bank Saturday morning, waiting in line behind the cutest 4-year-old and his mommy I’ve seen in a long while. It was a long line, and Junior was getting restless.

“Mommy, I have to go.”

“Go where, honey?” (mommy was distracted)

“I have to pee, mommy.”

“In a few minutes, sweetie, we’re almost done”.

“Mommy I can’t wait, I reaaaaallllyyyy have to pee pee.”

“Honey you’re going to have to wait. They don’t have a bathroom here.”

“I can’t wait mommy, I need to pee RIGHT NOW.”

Junior really had to pee. He couldn’t wait. You know how it is. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Just ask any new mother, post childbirth give or take 3 years. There is no gray area, and it’s no different for a 4-year-old who’s just getting it down in the first place.

I, of course not minding my own business, and not wanting to be used as a fire hydrant (I was wearing red… who knew how he’d been potty trained) sidled up to the mom and quietly said, “I’ll wait on line with him if you want to go up and ask if you can use their restroom.”

After being sized up and down, the mom nodded gratefully and left Junior with me holding my hand with one hand and his whatsis in the other, and proceeded to jump up and down. I noted that he was starting to turn red.

About 10 seconds later the mom was back in line, shaking her head. No luck.

“They said it’s not for public use.”

“Really?” I asked. “Did you point out your little guy jumping up and down and holding his whatsis?”

“Yup. The teller repeated herself twice — the restroom’s not for public use.”

If you’ve been reading my blogs for awhile you won’t think it’s odd that I now tried to take matters into my own hands. ‘No’ is not my friend.

“I’ll be right back.” The woman looked at me gratefully if not somewhat quizzically.

“Thanks… good luck!”

I sidled up to the teller bank and asked quietly if there was a manager I could have a moment with. There was. In my nicest, most demure yet firm voice I asked the bank manager for mercy. I pointed out the little guy who was now beginning to hyperventilate and explained that the 4-year-old didn’t understand public vs. private restroom, and if they didn’t agree to let him use the restroom they were about to have a bigger mess than they’d planned on in line at their bank on Saturday morning at 11:45 when all anyone wanted to do was get through their business and go home… ”if you know what I mean.”

It was as though I’d mentioned the pleasant temperature outdoors. I was looked through benignly and with a definite internal eye roll (I know, I have a teenager; they’re subtle but definitely visible), told that there was nothing to be done. If they went a few doors down the Burger King had a public restroom.

Can I just say that there are a few times in our lives when justice is served in such a sweet and organic way that the skies seem to open up and the angels sing. This was one of those moments. Just as I was getting the eyeroll, the heavens opened up alright. And it was sweet. So satisfyingly sweet if not a bit messy.  The heavens opened up 3 customers back in line at the _______ Bank of _________, and yet another natural disaster plagued our shores.

Mom was mortified, the line moaned and parted like the Red Sea, pun intended, and Junior had his moment, all over the commercially cleaned carpets — a teensy twinge of fear in his eyes but thankfully no tears, just relief.

The rest is glorious history.

What’s the take away here? Customer Service, of course. Going the extra mile… of course. Humanity, anyone?

In a case like this, what harm beyond the bending of a rule would have come in allowing this little guy and his mom into the employee restroom to take care of ther business. Rules schmules! There are times when rules are meant to be broken, or just a little bent. Had the conversation instead been one of “it’s normally for employees but I see that your little guy is about to burst, so come on with me”… shown graciousness… and caring… that manager would have, instead of giving the bank some really bad PR and losing a customer, earned big points in the “we aim to please” department, possibly cementing a relationship and creating a life long customer. Instead, as I helped the freaked out mother out the door as she held her drenched guy out in front of her with outstretched arms, she wasted no time in telling me how that was the last straw with said bank, and that next week she was switching to a ‘kinder and friendlier’ bank down the street. Apparently there had been some prior issues, but this badly executed and oh so avoidable experience was the straw that broke the camel’s back for her.

We all have choices these days — many, many choices — in where we choose to do business. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because this is the deal in today’s frenzied world of choices: It’s the business that goes the extra mile that wins your business. A bank is a bank is a bank. Rates are pretty much even no matter where you go, and all have similar services with not many differentiators. What’s the difference in where you choose to place your money? Customer service. Being treated really well, and as though you matter.

To that end, I was sitting in the waiting area at Firestone in Brookfield this morning getting my emissions tested, when a guy walked in and needed to have service done that would require him to leave his car there for the day. I overheard him ask the technician if he could get a ride home.

Guy behind counter: “Where do you live?”

Customer: “New Fairfield.”

Guy behind counter: “Sure. We’ll have someone out to give you a ride home in just a few minutes. Have a seat.”

New Fairfield… a good 15 miles away.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

About the Author: Suzen Pettit blogs at http://omaginarium.com/blog/, a site that guides small businesses through the maze of technology to help them grow their online presence with successful SEO.

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How Can You Manage Your Online Reputation?

In your personal life, you take pride in having a good reputation as a friend, family member, and even professional. Managing your reputation can be a simple process when you are referring to personal situations. You simply need to have morals and treat others how you would want to be treated. In business, managing your reputation may be a bit more difficult.  You will deal with customers who have unrealistic expectations and competitors who want to damage your business name.  Your online reputation can either make you or break you.  Learn how to manage your reputation online and how to generate more customers and expand your business.

Know What Is Being Said About Your Organization

You cannot manage your online reputation if you have no clue what is being said about your company on the web. You cannot just search your company name and expect to find all of the comments that consumers and competitors leave. You would have to scour through pages and pages of search results and then take time read what these customers have said. If you want to make the task a bit easier, you can use Google’s very effective tool Me on the Web. This tool allows you to set up alerts so you will be notified whenever your company is mentioned on the web. Simply create a Google account, visit the Dashboard and know as soon as any information on your company is published.

Start Searching For Your Company On Social Media Website

You might be surprised at just how many people might be trying to damage your company’s reputation.  One scorn customer can do a lot of damage. It is becoming increasingly popular for people and competitors to create phony social media sites with business names to misuse the brand.  Because this is becoming so popular, social media site operators are willing to close the accounts that are illegally created.  They will not do this unless you contact them first. Make sure to search for your name on these platforms and see if you find a profile you did not create.

Talk To Your Customers On Social Media

If you do have your own social media account, make sure you put the account to use.  More and more consumers are communicating with companies through social media.  They will follow the company, ask questions about products, and even purchase products through the site. If a customer is not happy, they might leave a comment on your profile.  Make sure to respond to any issues and try to resolve them so other customers see that you do care about customer satisfaction.

You cannot simply ignore the fact that bad things about being said about your company on the Internet.  Customers take what they hear on the Internet very seriously.  They will review comments, feedback, and complaints and decide which company is best based on what they find.  Make sure you manage your online reputation and you cannot just save your business, you can expand your business as well.

About the Author:

Jean is an online entrepreneur and writer who helps online merchants improve their internet reputation through savvy social networking and daily online monitoring. She has written and published various articles on the subject and has consulted for various businesses, especially on the topic of the management of online reputation disasters.

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7 Ways To Deliver Superior Customer Service

As with most other industries, the commerce industry had to adapt to the infiltration of the internet. As computers became more and more popular and e-commerce sites pop up like mushrooms after the rain, a new model of marketing and selling became available.

With e-stores and web sites, comparing prices became a non-issue. Long trips to other stores to find a competitive price were no longer needed as your competitors are but a click away.

So if you can’t compete on price, what can you do to thrive?

Customer Service Is More Than About Care

 

The answer: customer service. Why?

Because it’s one of the last “edge” you can pursue over your competitors. As a small business, you can give each customer the attention they will never get dealing with corporations.

While CEOs view customer service as a “cost”, you view them as an investment. And when they find ways to cut the cost down, you’ll be looking for ways to invest strategically.

And even in customer-service-centric industries, few people really master it. This is because customer service is an art. With that said, there ARE a few best practices for you to get started.

Here are 7 of them.

7 Ways To Deliver Superior Customer Service

 

1. Encourage everyone in the organization to take an active role and come up with solutions to customer service problems. Create an atmosphere where people can express their ideas without being ridiculed or embarrassed in front of their peers because remember, the best ideas to improve your customer service will probably come from the bottom.

2. Never use a script. When is the last time you hear a representative read off a script and love it? Never. You probably wanted to scream at him/her. And don’t think people can’t tell either.

Instead, train your employees in human relationships and empathy. For example, repeat the problems customers told you because repetition has been shown to make people feel understood.

Or try putting their issues on priority. The point is to go above and beyond of what is expected of you.

3. You have to pay your customer service well, but never incentivize them for “resolving issues”. Incentivizing, studies have shown, is great for monotonous task, and customer service is anything but that.

Instead, try alternatives such as recognition and personal thanks. The best representatives love what they do – and those who do it for the money won’t be able to deliver at the level you want.

4. Your customer’s expectation changes with time. Learn to adjust. What was good enough years ago, and since copied by your competitors, might not be unique enough. For example, recorded messages were once cutting edge. Today, they are just plain annoying.

Use customer surveys to see what your customers think. Better yet, ask your representatives for suggestions.

5. Check to see what the norm in your field is, and go one step further. Try to build a reputation of someone who keeps his word and his promises. It doesn’t mean you have to agree to every whim of a customer.

A great example of this is Zappos. I’m sure you’ve heard of their legendary customer service. The norm in any industry is for customer service to “resolve issues”. Zappos took it one step further: they send birthday cards during birthdays, or condolences when a customer suffers from a tragedy.

They even answer questions unrelated to them: like telling the caller where to find pizzas at 2am.

6. Develop a culture where finger pointing comes last. The first thing you have to do is make it right with the customer. Offer a compensation for the bad experience. The second thing is to examine the system: do you need to tweak it for other representatives won’t commit the same mistake?

7. Respect and appreciate your complaining customers. They can show you where your organization is lacking. Remember, if a client complains, there’s a good chance you’ll still have his business. Those who aren’t happy and don’t complain take their business somewhere else.

At the end of the day, customer service is the face of your company. Put your best people on the front. Service is the currency that keeps your company going. Invest in it.

About the Author: Andrianes Pinantoan is part of the team behind Open Colleges, an online courses provider with a great range of business management courses. When not working, he can be found with a camera on hand. You can follow him at Google+.

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7 Essential Qualities for Customer Relationship Personnel

There is no doubt that the CRM executives need to be responsive, reliable and respectful to help provide customer satisfaction. This according to the Harvard Business Review leads to retention, related sales and referrals for the company. To get to these benefits the company needs to train the CRM staff in specific areas.

Interpersonal Skills

Ability to deal with people politely and empathy towards them are traits desirable in all human beings, but in the case of Customer Relationship Management executives this could well be the gospel truth. If your staff is unable to establish good interpersonal relationships with your customers you are not going to get their business.

Communication

While most of the duties of a customer care executive can be conducted through automated software there are other undertakings which cannot be. For these activities the customer may use the phone or walk in physically to the company premises. If the customer has taken so much trouble to come in to the company he will have a sizable problem to solve. That is where communication skills of the CRM staff will be put to the test.

Handling Stress

No one likes to deal with rude people who want to bite your head off but customer relationship can often involve just that. It can be highly stressful trying to calm down irate customers on a daily basis. There is no excuse for rude behavior on the part of the company staff even if the customer is being discourteous.

Active Listening

One of the reasons why customers don’t feel comfortable dealing with the company on the phone is the number of recorded messages that they need to filter through. When you have a problem to report you do not want to spend five minutes shuttling through different voice recorded menus. That is why it is important for the CRM staff to listen to the customer and respond intelligently to the problem that they hear.

Team Work

This one should be obvious but sometimes a single link in the chain kept out of the loop can cause more damage than imagined. If you are dealing with a customer, have all his relevant details at hand and fed into a centralized system. This will ensure that the customer is never left in the lurch just because you forgot to brief a team mate about what needs to be done.

Problem Solving and Complaints Handling

This is quite literally the crux of the matter. All the chatter that the customer generates is related to his problem. The way the CRM staff functions to solve the problem right from the time the first complaint is registered with them can make a huge difference to the reputation of the company.

Product and Organization Knowledge

A CRM executive cannot solve the problems of the customers who come to him unless he has an innate understanding of the product that the company is selling and a general know-how of the organization. For this reason proper training of the executive in terms of what the company sells and how is essential to his productivity.

About the Author: Sarika Periwal writes for karmacrm.com, a CRM for small businesses and individuals. It is a web based CRM software that can help you streamline all your sales leads and contact data and thus increase customer retention and repeat sales.

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Bad Service Blues: A Global Perspective [INFOGRAPHIC]

Recently the management consulting firm Accenture performed a global study that focused on shifts in consumer and brand relationships around the world based on the perception of customer service. What can service providers glean from these assessments and how can they move the customer experience in a positive direction?

Ditching Brands Because of Their Terrible Service

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Infographic: Bad Service Blues: A Global Perspective

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Choosing a Virtual Receptionist Service: 5 Tips for Dazzling Call Answering


As growing businesses make the transition from small to medium-sized, many are finding that hiring a virtual receptionist service not only helps free up time for other projects, but it adds a whole new level of professionalism and customer service. A virtual receptionist is an off-site company that fields all of your phone calls and directs them to the appropriate channel.

Depending on the virtual receptionist service you choose, your call answering may be highly customizable. Some virtual receptionist services are even able to sound like they are in your office, just like an in-house receptionist. To get the most bang for your buck, consider these five preferences when setting up service:

1. Start with a great greeting

Typically, you’re able to personalize what your virtual receptionists will say when greeting callers. Try beginning with “Thank you for calling” or “Good Morning/Afternoon” and follow with your company name. Sprinkle in a “How may I help you?” or “How may I direct your call?” for good measure. The whole greeting should set a welcoming tone for the call: “Thank you for calling ABC Company. How may I help you?”

Bonus: If “Good Morning” sounds good to you, confirm with your service that no matter what time zone the virtual receptionists are in, they will answer with your time zone in mind.

2. Request helpful information from callers

Virtual receptionists can often gather certain information when taking a message or before transferring a call to you. Would knowing what company someone’s calling from or what the call is regarding make your life easier?

3. Pick your messaging preference

Each individual in the company may also be able to customize his or her own messaging procedure. Would you prefer written messages or voicemails? Or would you like the virtual receptionist to offer a choice between the two?

For example, salespeople may prefer to have the receptionist take down a short intake form from their callers (first and last name, how they heard about you, an email address, what services they’re interested in, etc.). That way, they’re able to make an informed return call, and the potential client has a chance to engage with the company.

4. Distinguish between types of calls

Just as you can set specifications for what information to collect before a call is transferred or when a message is taken, virtual receptionist services can also personalize call instructions based on the type of call. For instance, the virtual receptionist may only try your desk line for current clients but try your cell as well for new clients.

5. Ask about FYI messages

Your virtual receptionist service may be able to send you an email every time a caller is connected to voicemail or declines to leave a message. That way, you’ll know that they called whether or not a message is taken, and you can impress clients with a proactive offer of help!

With advanced software and savvy virtual receptionists on your side, there are lots of different ways to set up your phone answering. By customizing your call answering, you’ll be able to enhance your business’s image while increasing your productivity. There’s a great big virtual receptionist world out there – don’t be afraid to ask for what you want!

About the Author: Elizabeth Robinson writes for Ruby Receptionists, a live virtual receptionist service that provides call answering for businesses nationwide.

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