Lane Becker: How to Inspire WOM with Customer Service — live from Word of Mouth Supergenius

10:15 — Kurt Vanderah introduces Get Satisfaction‘s Lane Becker.

10:15 — Lane: We started with the seemingly crazy idea that everyone hates customer service. Customers hate getting stuck in phone trees, companies treat it as a cost, and representatives on the phone don’t like being stuck and dehumanized. Idea: What if we applied social media to customer service. Would it make customers more loyal to a product? The last 4 years have proven this works well.

10:17 — Lane: So you have these customers and you want them to love you, buy from you, and tell their friends about you. You also have a community of people.

10:18 — Lane: Recognize that there are many places your customers may want to interact – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or elsewhere. Recognize that you should not only have disparate communities; you should also have one place you own where your customers can participate and co-manage with you.

10:19 — Lane: 3 Things to Remember: First, customer service isn’t customer avoidance. Outsourced customer service equals avoidance. Customer service has been the annoying thing your customers want after they’ve given you money. Focusing on time-per-call means having an incentive to get rid of customers, which minimizes your interaction with customers.

10:20 — Lane: Some companies have a noticeable schism — marketing trying to maximize the interaction with customers, and customer service trying to minimize the interaction.

10:21 Lane: There’s an interesting relationship between metrics and customers. We live in a friction free world, and at the end of the day, customers will tell you they have a problem.

10:22 — Lane: Second idea: Customer Service IS marketing. Customer service impacts product ideas, testing, launch, promotion, etc.

10:23 — Lane: Third idea: Public is different and better than private. The experience of a phone call is different than having public conversations, and this can be beneficial to your business. But there are tips and tricks to this.

10:23 — Lane: Every business needs a lobby. Like a hotel, there are semi-private areas, but there is also a public aspect. Lobbies create a friendly environment. Get satisfaction by giving customers a lobby. You need a concierge. Act helpful.  Do you need something –advice on where to go, who to find?

10:25 — Lane: Six Essential Steps

1. Know your special purpose.  For example, Zappos’ core values. Also Timbuk2 bike messenger bag company. They know where they came from. Breed trust. Use each interaction to install trust and show the relationship they have with you.

2. Set ground rules: You can actually tell your customers what they can do. We all need to learn to do this better. Not just about saying “I’m sorry” all the time. See the Flickr Community guidelines — “Don’t be creepy. You know that guy. Don’t be that guy.” Get Satisfaction has a company customer pact. Visit and look at it.

3. Set clear expectations: Be consistent in your response. Don’t be arbitrary. Build community on that. Evolve your policy as your community grows. Communicate that policy clearly to customers. This is part of the process that engenders trust. Respond quickly, but only if there’s not malice in your heart. Don’t be mean to people.

4. Cast a wide net. Weave conversation throughout your site, not just on the community page. Putting community behind a tab on the site is limiting. Conversation could happen on every page of your site. Facebook, for example, reaches back to your entire site if you let it. Tide — the entire site contains community-generated stain management tips. Also, it shouldn’t just be about the customer service people — the knowledge exists across your entire organization. You need to bring forward the intelligence and selectively, when needed. Example: Whole Foods — actual decision makers answer the people’s questions.

5. Create productive outcomes: Turn the frown upside down for customers. Lane shows an example of an unhappy, passionate customer mad at Comcast. Frank Eliason answered directly and tried to apologize. The idea of “what is productive” – should be productive for everyone. Learn to say your sorry in a good way. Relax and reframe the issue. Look past the anger and answer the question.

6. Make it personal: discourage anonymity — people who are anonymous can just be angry. Use a real name and voice. This changes the tone and impacts the level of conversation. It’s about being human. You need to be human as a company and help your customer be human as well. Bring the humanity into the sterile environment of the Internet.


Q: Jim Fitzpatrick: I don’t want to beat up Comcast, but from a customer standpoint, I lived in San Francisco and moved 3 times. Each time I got an apology for the terrible service. Don’t just apologize, have the service.

A: Lane: I feel that way about AT&T. Just venting is cool but not productive. I asked Frank from Comcast, “how did you convince your bosses to let you do this?”  Bosses: “How much worse could it get?”

Q: Trish from Mabel’s Labels: We love community but we have it as a tab on our site. Because we’re a direct seller, we need to keep pages clean. I’ve seen examples like Tide – but who else keeps community on page?

A: Lane: There are a lot of places where companies have community. For example, the contact us or about us page — why not have a discussion there? You’ll have a really different conversation with a customer if it starts at a contact us page or a community page.

Q: Josh from charity:water – We have a huge site and I handle much customer service. How do you aggregate complaints?

A: Lane: Externally or internally?

Q: To pass complaints to higher ups.

A: Lane: We automate this process with dashboards and metrics. We also have an internal wiki. Product managers, community managers, and engineers share ideas in the wiki. Make sure you’re part of the process and contributing.

Q: Howard Greenstein, WOW community: If we were to ask people to use real names, we might face a backlash.

A: Lane: WOW is a fantasy world. The whole product is selling fantasy. Why insist people use real names? Real names are usually incredibly valuable in the customer experience, unless the whole point is to sell fantasy.

Love this live coverage? It’s all thanks to the hard work of the very talented Howard Greenstein.

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  1. Live coverage recap from yesterday's Word of Mouth Supergenius - July 21, 2010

    […] How to Inspire WOM with Customer Service — with Get Satisfaction’s Lane Becker […]

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