When it comes down to it, the most effective tool any client service representative has in his or her arsenal is an apology. We live in a culture of finger pointing and excuses that make a simple “I am so sorry” a refreshing and genuine way to conduct business. But what happens when the problem is not our fault?

A new study called The State of Social Customer Service 2012 was recently released by NM Incite, a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey & Company. It highlights the importance of organizations providing social media users with prompt customer service through the social media the customers prefer to use, mostly Facebook and Twitter.

Many large organizations have a complaint system in addition to a customer service organization. It is designed to handle the situations where the customer is dissatisfied with the service he received and wants to take the problem to a higher level of management. The complaint department’s responsibility is to listen carefully to the customer’s service complaint, to resolve it or explain why it cannot be resolved in a way that leaves the customer ‘less dissatisfied’. A closed complaint does not mean the customer is satisfied,even if the customer’s request was granted. Here’s an example.

I recently experienced a frustrating interaction with a Customer Service department that was rendered ineffective because it depended on feedback from staff it could not control. My luggage was lost somewhere during a 2 connection flight on 2 different airlines. The worldwide tracking tool was supposed to provide me and the customer service department regular updates on the status of my delayed bag. While the bag did finally show up (damaged) the tracking tool was not updated as it should have been leading to severe anxiety on my part (the customer) and multiple calls to a customer service organization (unproductive use of the call center). There are important lessons to be learned from this failed process.

American Express conducted a Global Study called the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer. The Global Customer Service Barometer Study is conducted in 11 countries and explores public attitudes towards customer service. 10 key findings are reviewed along with the impact of consumers who use Social Media versus those who do not. .

Mistakes that Make you Look Dumb

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Customer Satisfaction is often measured between an organization and its direct customers. But sometimes the situations that are the most embarrassing are those that involve other organizations, yours and a customer. When there is a system or process that is supposed to work using outside firms and there is a failure, both organizations look dumb. Sometimes a third party needs to get involved to embarrass the organizations to work together. Two examples are covered.

Live Chat is an optional offering for customer service organizations. According to a recent study in Business News Daily, Live Chat for Online Shoppers Comes of Age, one in five shoppers actually prefer live chat over other methods of communication. It is estimated that over 75% of on line shoppers will have participated in an online chat with a retailer by next year. This post covers 12 Best Practices when offering Chat customer service.

As businesses evolve, some get stronger and some weaker. It is not usual to see the stronger buy out or merge with the weaker organizations. Often the focus is on the financial aspects of the merger, and keeping customers from both organizations loyal. But all parts of an organization need to work on integration. Customer service is no exception.

In an earlier blog post titled: Warning, Is your Sales Force blindsided by Customer Service I talked about the need for customer service to keep sales informed about potential customer escalations and that might negatively impact the sales team. Here is a real life example of a system that was in place when I retired from IBM Canada.

In a large organization, the sales team on an account may not know about issues the customer is having. Customer personnel may be calling the service organization with their problems. In many cases the front line staff in support handle the problems from the customers in an efficient and effective way and the sales team need not know. But what if the customer is not happy with the resolutions being offered. The sales team may be preparing a new proposal for the customer or have a presentation planned with the customer. If the sales team doesn’t know there are hot issues, they may walk into a firestorm at the customer’s office and be ill prepared to handle it.

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