Casengo blog

Facebook’s not all that: email is where it’s at

Is your business using Facebook as a push system? Then we’re sad to report you’re wasting your time. Facebook has been working to reduce the organic reach of businesses since 2012, with Ogilvy pegging organic reach at 2% last February. That means that fans rarely see your company’s post pop up in their news feeds. So have you got something to share with your customers? Send them an email.

This will be even more important in 2015, when a new Facebook algorithm kicks in. According to the experts at global research firm Forrester (who recently published a report on social relationship strategies), Facebook is set to slash organic reach even further. This will sound the death knell for customer interaction: unless your Facebook fans expressly seek you out – for example by coming to your page to ask a question, make a complaint, or offer praise – they simply won’t see your posts.

Bye-bye, Faceboook. Hello again, email!

You might not see this as a problem, because customers will still be able to make contact with you. And naturally you’ll be giving them the same lightning-fast, well-considered service you always do, right? The thing is, even the most altruistic of companies do like to get a little something back at times. And that means being able to communicate with customers when you think of them – not only when they think of you.

Short of running through the streets with a megaphone, what’s an SME to do? Forrester analyst Nate Elliott has the answer, though it might not be what you expected. Facebook was never all that, for companies at least. One of Forrester’s recent surveys showed that US online adults who want to stay in touch with your brand are almost twice as likely to sign up for your emails as to interact with you on Facebook. Emails are far more likely to get your customers’ eyeballs than Facebook posts are. Not only that, but you get to decide what you’re allowed to say in your emails – not Mark Zuckerberg.

Email ain’t goin’ anywhere

Over the past few years, the customer service buzz has emphasised the importance of helping customers on the channels that work for them – and those channels have increasingly been social media ones. We at Casengo would not suggest for a moment that you should turn away from offering customer service on Facebook and Twitter simply because it no longer offers you a way to promote yourself to customers. Far from it – you need to keep providing customer service on your customers’ preferred channels. But be aware that the rumours of email customer service’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. So get back in control: fight the chaos in your inbox and reach your customers better than ever!

Crappy customer service? Be banned from selling!

British energy regulator Ofgem is baring its sizeable teeth. The target of its wrath is ScottishPower, one of the nation’s ‘Big Six’ energy companies. The reason? Poor customer service.

Ofgem expects companies to compete keenly on service. Yet this is clearly not happening. Thanks to the large number of complaints Ofgem has received about ScottishPower (about sending bills notoriously late, for instance), it has decided to take the unusual step of preventing a supplier making an effort to attract new customers.

Unless, that is, ScottishPower can prove that it’s able to cope with the customers it already has. And the proof Ofgem wants is very specific: by the end of this month, ScottishPower must catch up on the backlog of actions on Ombudsman decisions for individual complaints. By the end of the year, the energy company must at least have halved the number of overdue bills. And by the end of January, it must have “significantly” improved the speed at which it answers customer calls.

Ofgem has given ScottishPower a three-month period to get its customer service act together. Otherwise: a stiff ban on sales and marketing activities to prospective customers.

Taking care of existing customers

Basically, the message is: “If you can’t manage to take care of the customers you’ve already got, we’re not going to let you advertise to new ones.” A novel solution to a customer service problem! Customers can only dream of having such powerful regulatory bodies in other industries. If they existed, customer service might be very different.

Take your own industry, for starters… Consider how your own business functions when it comes to customer service. If an imaginary Online Business Regulator came to check things over, what would your report card say? Are you putting more energy into attracting new customers than into looking after your existing ones? If an enquiry from a new customer takes preference over a query or complaint from someone who already spends money at your business, that’s a sign that you’ve got a problem.

It’s highly likely that you already have a detailed marketing plan in place. Now it’s time to put a detailed customer service plan in place too. Make a set of Ofgem-style deadlines to get all your outstanding customer service tasks up to date. Clear the backlog of queries so you can start the new year fresh. When customers want to give you money, you don’t hesitate. So make sure you respond in the same way when they come to you with questions or problems.

It can seem like modern businesses are in love with the thrill of the chase: they put most of their energy into winning you over as a customer. Then once you’re on board, they lose interest. Turn that around – it’s a sure way to make your company stand out.

Black Friday: price versus service

Black Friday (November 28) is coming up! Is your customer service team ready for the busiest online shopping day of the year? Traditionally, the day after US Thanksgiving has been a day for massive discounts in retail outlets. In recent years the trend has spread online and around the world.

Are you thinking of taking part? It’s tempting to focus just on turning over lots of stock, but the support you provide to first-time customers on those days will make a lasting impression.

Black Friday: come for the prices, stay for the service

Time after time, surveys have shown that potential buyers rate customer service as being more important than price. I’m not going to pretend that price isn’t important on Black Friday – nobody’s going to come running to buy from you just because you promise good customer service. But once you’ve snagged customers with your low prices, you have a much better chance of keeping them by backing up those great prices with stellar customer service.

My personal experience backs this up – on one occasion, trawling the net for the cheapest printer ink prices, I came across 123inkt.nl. I figured I had nothing to lose by giving them a go. My order arrived the next day and soon afterwards I received personal follow-up. Turns out I’m not the only one who’s been impressed by the great customer service. I couldn’t really tell you where I bought my ink in the past; I just shopped around for the lowest prices. Once you feel like a valued customer, you’ll remember the business and keep on returning.

Quality service remains long after price is forgotten

Of course, the opposite also holds true – you could attract customers with your low prices and subsequently make such a bad impression on them that they vow never to buy from you again. While the adrenaline rush from clicking ‘purchase’ on that great Black Friday bargain is fleeting, dealing with issues caused by potentially defective or not-as-ordered items can take weeks. And that’s the part that the customer will remember.

Prices are transparent, but poor service is hard to spot before clicking that purchase button. That’s why it’s important to be clear about your service standards up front – and then stick to them. Otherwise your customers may well end up being very unsatisfied indeed, and sharing their dissatisfaction with their friends. Experts say that unhappy customers tell up to twice as many people about their experience as happy ones do. And if they write an online review about your company’s bad service on top of that, you could find yourself losing a lot more on Black Friday or Cyber Monday than what lowering your prices will cost you.

So remember: the online retail craziness is more than just an opportunity to increase turnover. It’s a chance to win over new customers for the longer term. It’s important to plan your online offering carefully, but be sure to take some time to work on your customer service strategy for Black Friday. With the right approach, you’ll be reaping the benefits all year round.

Don’t just deliver fast customer service – be effective

With recent studies suggesting that 21% of customer complaints never receive a response at all, it’s understandable that speedy customer service representatives feel they’re doing a great job. The clock starts ticking as soon as a complaint comes in. But there is such a thing as being too fast. Sometimes it’s worth making the effort to stop and think before pressing ‘send’ on that reply.

While companies hopefully don’t – and should never try to – mess up deliberately, the fact remains that they sometimes get things wrong. And when that happens, they have a great opportunity to have a personal interaction with someone who has shown an interest in their brand. Seriously, this is marketing gold.

An apology and a refund? Not necessarily the best customer service

Take this experience I had last week. I bought a tin of a luxury hot chocolate product, with little chocolate figurines that melt into the drink as you stir it in. Problem was: there were no figurines. I made the drink anyway, and it was pretty uninspiring, considering the most important ingredient was missing. I paid a lot of money for a rather boring tin of hot chocolate mix! So I wrote to the manufacturer to explain what had happened and ask if they could help. I received a reply just ten minutes after the start of the next business day – they weren’t wasting any time. I got an apology, and a refund.

Cool, right? Not really. This was an enormous missed opportunity. I reached out to these guys, expressing an interest in trying their product, having bought it already. Then when the product turned out to be faulty, I was interested enough to follow through with the company. They ‘made it right’ – I’m no longer out of pocket and I suppose that from the company’s point of view, they’ve done the right thing.

But I still, despite all my interest, haven’t tried their product (only a faulty and not very nice version). I now have two choices: I can purchase it again, or I can forget about it. And the sad fact is, I’m not going to purchase it again. Despite the company’s assurances that I was just unlucky and there were no problems with the rest of the batch my purchase came from (assuming that they really did test them at lightning speed before emailing me that morning), I’m hesitant to try my luck again. Apart from anything else, if I end up with another figurine-free tin they’re probably not going to believe me if I complain, right? And my experience of their product so far is that 100% of the time I have tried it, it’s been faulty.

Effective customer service to win over a customer for life

For the cost of a sample sachet (or even a whole tin, if they had really wanted to wow me) plus postage, the hot chocolate company could have given me the opportunity to try the product without taking any further risks. If I’d liked it – and it gets fabulous reviews, I have to say – their customer service would have won over a customer for life. But they just let the opportunity go. Better not tell their marketing team.

Sure, it’s important to send speedy responses to customer queries. It’s a good way to demonstrate that your customers are important to you. In any case, younger generations have grown up with instant everything in many arenas of their lives, so you can’t leave them waiting too long. But don’t mistake fast service for effective service. Effective service does two things: it makes things right for the customer, and it furthers the interests of your business by aiming to retain the customer. And who knows, you might even manage to turn them into a brand ambassador, too.

Customer service: the missing link on e-commerce blogs

How does one tempt new customers and get them to spend money? How can one create a brand image for one’s business? It’s no wonder the most frequent topics in e-commerce blogs are Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing, and Content Marketing. Three topics that every e-commerce entrepreneur wants to live and breathe. The pillars of e-commerce!

But what if we told you there was a missing link, a fourth pillar with even more power and influence over customer acquisition and average basket values. I’ll give you a clue: it’s centered around the people that make your world go round. Customer service, the dark horse of marketing, is a force not to be reckoned with. Marketers put most of their time and money into acquiring new customers through more ‘traditional’ methods, while tending to overlook the importance and potential of retaining and satisfying their existing customers.

Take a look at the numbers: - Customers are 70% more likely to do business with you again if their complaint is resolved

Shockingly, less than 5% of content in the top five e-commerce blogs was about customer service. Shopify.com, a well-known player in the e-commerce world, have posted only three articles regarding customer service since December 2012.

If successful sites like shopify.com aren’t writing about customer service, why am I? All businesses have the same core ways to drive sales: repeat sales, customer acquisition, and a word of mouth.

Zappos is world-famous for its customer service. Here are 3 ways how this is helping them to drive sales:

1. Repeat sales

Humans instinctively resist change, so if a customer is happy with your product or service, they're likely to keep coming back. According to Bain & Company, it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. That means if you’re not putting in the hard yards to keep your existing customers happy, it’s going to cost you to find a replacement.

How do you ensure your customers stay with you? Traditionally, email marketing is how businesses like to do this. Some people (like myself) can find such emails intrusive, and more often than not it’s likely to deter me from purchasing from that business. However, when I like a business, it's a different story. People can like a company due to their marketing, but also because they had an amazing personal experience with customer service.

2. Customer acquisition

Using Adwords or display advertising is a great way to poach first-time customers, but it’s also a costly endeavor. Wouldn’t it be great if customers were directed to your page by these ads, saw how good your products and services are, and then added your URL to their favorites? That’s the best case scenario. They might just remember the name of your website, or something special that caught their eye. What’s important here: give them something to remember you by! So go for great customer service, which will separate yourself from other businesses. Offer something more than just your product. Give your business that human touch that customers love.

3. Word of mouth

This is essentially where it is most important for you to treat your customers well. 67% of people spend money after getting recommendations from their friends on online communities like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve also seen that in the mobile phone market, positive and negative recommendations from person to person canincrease or decrease a company’s market share by 10-20 per cent over a 2 year period.

Although the ‘word of mouth’ effect may seem somewhat out of your control, particularly when an unhappy customer vents on social media, don’t underestimate the value of damage control. As we explained in our previous article, complaints are a great opportunity to turn angry customers into fans. Always respond to complaints no matter what, and be patient and understanding. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! Turning your customers into brand ambassadors by providing them with great customer service can reduce costs and increase conversions. A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.

So although customer service may seem like that annoying task your business is forced to deal with, take a second look and you’ll realise what an influential marketing tool it can be. The rise of e-commerce has meant increased competition, and a greater need to differentiate your products and/or services. Let your customer service be your star attraction.