The proliferation of multiple service channels is making customer service harder for companies to manage. The task is even more daunting when each channel has its own distinctive personality.
Not all of these personalities are good.
I recently wrote about a service experience at American Airlines where my suitcase was delayed. Every person I encountered was friendly, but they were all very different. It wasn’t just a product of the employees’ individual personalities. Each service channel seemed to have its own vibe:
Baggage Counter. These folks have seen it all. Nice, but curt.
800 Number. The call center agents were friendly but perfunctory.
Twitter. The American Airlines twitter personality is light, engaging, and helpful.
Customers will take your channels’ personalities into account when deciding how to contact your company. For many organizations, this may be one more way you are training your customers to complain via Twitter.
What causes these multiple personalities?
One culprit is channel ownership. A 2012 study by Ragan found that only 19 percent of companies had their customer service department manage or co-manage their social media channels.
Who does manage social media? The list of top five departments is very revealing:
- Marketing – 70%
- PR – 69%
- Corporate Communications – 49%
- Advertising – 26%
- Customer Service – 19%
See a trend? The data suggests that most companies still operate under a philosophy that social media drives sales but customer service is a cost center.
Many companies also look at traditional one-to-one customer service channels as being very different from one-to-many. This isn’t totally unreasonable. That call where your employee was a total jerk to your customer was only recorded for quality and training purposes and not for broadcasting over the internet.
Of course, this short sighted approach misses a very important detail. People still have the ability to share their version of the story via with their own online networks. Want proof? Check out the Twitter hash tag #comcastsucks.
The fix to this problem is changing the corporate philosophy to firmly realize that customer service drives sales. Those one-to-one interactions are all preserving sales and creating future ones.
Another reason service channels can have multiple personalities is nobody has taken the time to define what outstanding customer service looks like for our organization. A recent survey I conducted revealed that only 62 percent of companies had created their own definition of outstanding service.
It's no wonder each channel does it's own thing without a single owner or a unifying definition to guide them.
Small business gets this right more often
Unifying service channel personalities is one area where small businesses have a huge leg up over larger organizations. The smaller scale makes it easier for one person, often the owner, to infuse his or her personality into each channel. In many cases, the owner is also primarily responsible for each channel.
Antica Trattoria is my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. Their food is outstanding and their service is warm and personal. They also have consistent personalities across all of their channels.
Chef and owner Francesco Basile personally manages their social channels. He runs their Facebook page and responds to reviewers on Yelp. If you dine there, you are likely to meet him while he's mingling with guests. Basile’s hands-on approach translates to a consistent feeling no matter how you interact with the restaurant.
How can larger companies emulate this? By doing the same things they do to scale up other parts of their business from small to large.
- Codify it so your organization’s implicit understandings become explicit.
- Measure it we can gain a clear picture of how well we’re doing.
- Manage it so we can ensure we’re heading in the right direction.
Not coincidentally, these three steps match the first three steps an organization must take to create a customer-focused culture.