Customer serviceGoogle+ is a new social media initiative started by Google and somewhat in competition with Facebook. While Google+ isn’t rolled out everywhere, (I don’t think there are many users in Canada at the time of this writing), due to its popularity,  there are some studies of the new features assessments of how they could be used or impact Customer Service.

Christopher Elliott in a Bnet article titled Google+ Could Revolutionize Customer Service tells about several new features and how they could be used. Here are some quotes from his article as I am unable to access Google+ to research it myself at the time of writing of this article.

Circles is a feature that allows you to group your online connections so you can share information with only that group. It will allow you to create a group of like-minded users instead of broadcasting everything to the same group of friends or followers, like you would on Facebook or Twitter.

Creating a “circle” is far easier than setting up a group in Facebook. Within seconds, a disenchanted customer could rally a group of friends to protest bad service – or gather a cluster of fans to support a new product. Think of it as having all the grassroots organizing efficiency of a Washington lobbyist, minus the expensive retainer.

Hangouts is a set of communications tools that allows real-time chat, including instant messaging and groups of up to 10 people by video. This appears to be incorporating some of the features of Google’s now-defunct Wave service, which was years ahead of its time.

I think that while Hangouts could be an excellent platform for resolving disputes between several parties, it will be used primarily by customers who are leveraging social media for better service. Combined with Circles, it could give consumers unprecedented organizing power to pressure intransigent companies into doing the right thing.

Instant Upload does exactly what it says. Once a picture is taken, it’s in the cloud. Companies used to be able to negotiate with a customer who photographed evidence of bad service, like a moldy hotel shower curtain or a fly in the soup, but no more. Once the picture is taken, it’s as good as shared.

Businesses have always relied on a technology-induced delay to dissuade would-be photosharers (or, God forbid, YouTube posters) from uploading images of their questionable products to the Internet. With that lag time gone, they’ll have to get it right the first time.

Huddle takes many of these features, like Hangouts and Circles, and takes them mobile while also adding other location-based services like Google Latitude. Again, this adds a sense of immediacy to the customer service equation. If a group of well-organized customers can find each other while they’re still in the store, then it gives the term “flash mob” a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?

I have high hopes for Google+. Facebook and Twitter had an almost immediate and profound effect on how customer service was delivered. This could do the same.

Early technology adopters benefited the most, because they were able to leverage social media before corporate America had a chance to respond. But this time, something tells me companies will be paying close attention to the way Google+ is deployed and how customers interact with it.”

What does this mean for Businesses, Organizations and Non Profits?

1. A new platform that must be learned (what features could affect the organization).

2. New listening processes need to be put in place.

3. The need to respond, when needed, to ‘instant crowds’

4. The need to assess how this will be integrated into existing customer service processes.

5. The need to ‘get it right the first time’ when releasing new  products or a process to ensure customers know this is a ‘beta’ release to get reaction.  Marketing messages need to be carefully crafted.

There is some speculation that Google+ will not catch on like Facebook. Facebook may add some similar features. But once the functionality is available in one place, it will surely be added in others.

What is your reaction to Google+. Are you seeing any impacts in your customer service departments?

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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