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Welcome to the business that never sleeps

“They may have yelled before, but now they have megaphones. Whether they’re bashing or praising your products and your brand, customers are online and louder than ever. And right now, they’re on forums, review sites, Facebook and Twitter, sending out thousands of uncensored opinions—that could have major consequences.
Be everywhere. The longer it takes for a client to find a way to get in touch with you, the higher the likelihood is they will report a negative experience. It’s paramount that you be where your customers are so they can reach you as quickly as possible.
We currently offer seven channels of support for our different tiers of users, which include phone, email, chat, Twitter, Facebook, a community forum and product feedback forum.”

RYAN HOLMES Hootsource (7 May 2013)

As you’ve read on this page many times in recent months, the customer experience game is undergoing tectonic shifts. As the customer gets used to the power offered by modern social media platforms and cheap mobile connectivity, life in customer care will not be the same again. You don’t have to take my word for this; just sit back and watch. But you won’t be sitting for long…

What should a company do in this always-on, always-talking, always-connected environment? Ryan Holmes, the young (and that’s an important clarification) CEO of HootSuite, recently offered some answers. Note first that this man’s company boasts a customer support satisfaction rate of 90 per cent, suggesting he knows what he’s talking about.

See the excerpt shown. One of the key things to aspire to, writes Mr Holmes, is that you have to be everywhere. It is no longer enough to have a good receptionist or two; e-mail responsiveness; a decent website with interactive features; care agents manning phone lines; a Twitter handle and a Facebook page. You have to do all that exceptionally well. And more.

See, the customer is no longer going to follow your instructions. You may find it convenient to ask customers to come to your swish branch to talk to you in person; your customer hates the traffic and won’t come. You might prefer that people contact your call centre; your customer hates waiting on hold and will email you instead. You might gear up your website for transactions; your customer demands a mobile app, or she’s not interested.

That’s the problem. It’s not enough to do any one of those things; you have to do them all because customers, especially young digital natives, don’t want to be restricted in their choice of interface.

You also have to do all those things well. Keeping customers waiting in line, on hold, awaiting a Twitter response? Sorry folks, that won’t fly. Not being around to answer when your customer has a problem and is raising hell? Do that at your peril.

Mr Holmes tells us: “Be available, always. Once your customer finds a channel and reaches out to you, minimize the amount of time they wait to get a response from you. The added challenge here is that social media never sleeps. People on a network like Twitter expect a quick response, not an answer that comes a day later. At HootSuite, a tweet to us will get a response in fewer than 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.”

Others have gone even further and keep several channels open on a 24-7 basis. Twitter, after all, does not close at the weekend.

Now, I accept that we aren’t quite there yet in Africa. The business that never sleeps and cares deeply about customer feedback has yet to be experienced on these shores. But trust me on this one: it won’t be long. The tidal wave of young, demanding, connected customers is racing towards the beach. Don’t let your competitor understand this before you do.

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