10 Ways to Improve Public Relations With Customer Service
I’ve had plenty of customer service jobs in my life, and I did exactly what my managers wanted me to do. The problem was that I forgot what it was like to be a customer when I was in work mode. I was pesky instead of helpful, I pressured customers instead of giving them space, and I wasn’t patient.
Brands always want you to sell, sell, sell…
But I think they sometimes forget that customers are real people. Brands forget they’re made up of real people too. The cheesy sales training doesn’t prepare an employee for the real world. They’re not trained to listen and be problem solvers. Employees are left confused and disillusioned. They don’t buy into the brand, and they certainly don’t know how to attend to a customer’s needs.
I’ve been a customer in need of help plenty of times, and I admit I’m surprised when I receive great customer service. I’m used to being stared at like I’m stupid or being ignored. When it comes to communicating with a company or brand online, I expect to either get a response in a couple weeks or get no response at all. I tweeted to an airline once thinking I would get a response in minutes. I had read somewhere that the airline was really good at customer service on its social media; however, when I needed help the most while traveling, the airline never got back with me.
I’m also currently in the midst of trying to get in touch with a digital learning provider. I’ve left voice mails because no one ever answers, and I’ve sent two emails. I expected help during the first phone call—someone should’ve answered the phone. I called during business hours after all. I’m not even going to consider contacting them on social media. I’m sure nothing will come of it.
In fact, for most customers in need of help, nothing comes of them reaching out to brands on social media. People expect answers quickly, and in most cases they either don’t get a response or they don’t hear back for days. According to Sprout Social, seven out of eight customer messages go unanswered within 72 hours. Geez.
I shouldn’t have to explain the need for good customer service, but in light of the aforementioned information, it looks like someone needs a refresher.
Have I made you feel guilty yet?
It’s common sense that good customer service is necessary. Treat your customers right and not only will they come back but they’ll also send their friends and family to you too. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in public relations. According to Hubspot, 43 percent of customers encourage friends and family to purchase from a brand that has given good customer service.
Customer service also leads to customer loyalty, an edge over competitors and staying in business. No surprise there. If your customers are your livelihood, then why aren’t they treated better? In a Hubspot study, 60 percent of participants said there would be negative consequences for a company if they didn’t receive Twitter replies in a timely manner.
Now that I have your attention, I’m giving you ten ways to improve your customer service which in turn will make your public relations better.
1. The building block of good customer service is company culture. With the help of change management and internal communication, a brand can ensure its employees have the right attitude about their job and customers. Nurture the culture and instill a sense of pride among employees. They have to realize the company relies on its customers to be successful. Customers and relationships are everything.
2. Have someone or a team dedicated to watching social media accounts and other online feedback sites. This should be their only job in an ideal world. They can be a part of the social media team as a specially trained customer service employee on loan from the customer service department, or members of the social media team can get customer service training. Whichever the case, make sure people are trained in basic public relations concepts and know how to write. Writing mistakes can hurt your brand’s reputation. I’m always impressed when I see a hotel employee responding to positive and negative reviews on Trip Advisor because it helps me make purchase decisions.
3. Encourage customers to give you feedback. Follow up emails and short surveys are good ways to show customers you care about what they have to say whether it’s good or bad. The key is make the surveys simple and short; otherwise, participation will be low. [Side note: I wish I could tell restaurants when their food has given me food poisoning. If I were them, I’d want to know.]
4. Have a robust frequently asked questions page. This is a no-brainer, but the crucial part is filling the page with questions and answers that real people would ask. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at an FAQ page and didn’t see the simplest topic addressed. Perhaps ask your customers to give suggestions for the FAQ page.
5. Use issues to develop blog posts or social media posts. Turn common or uncommon customer service situations into social media posts to help customers in times of need. This will also educate customers as to how your business works too.
6. Respond quickly or manage expectations. We already know people expect instant gratification, but if you’re not able to keep up, be open about it. Add your customer service hours to your website and social media.
7. Respond back in the manner in which the customer first reached out. I really dislike asking a question via Facebook private messages and receiving a response that tells me to call so and so by phone for help. If I wanted to talk to someone, I would’ve made the call in the first place. Maybe I’m just not in the mood to verbalize my needs at the time. The lesson here is to respect your customers’ wishes and time. Don’t make them go through multiple channels to get an answer.
8. Check your general voice mail and email inbox a couple times per day. I pretty much know a voice mail or email I send to a general inbox will disappear into an abyss. I bet no one ever checks these places at a company, or if they do there’s some sort of auto-delete function being used a bit too much. Make it a point to ensure your customer service team checks the general voice mail and email multiple times per day and gets back with people in a timely manner.
9. Don’t pass customers off to others. Make it simple to solve a problem. For instance, if a customer has a question on Twitter, don’t give him or her a phone number to call to a completely different department where he or she will have to rehash the story. Try to do the legwork for the customer and provide the answer on the same platform. If you need extra time to do research, just let the customer know so he or she doesn’t feel ignored or forgotten.
10. Use a social media management tool. For example, Sprout Social, Shoutlet and other types of tools can help manage messages on social media, assign messages to people and keep a trail of how issues were resolved.
To wrap it all up, your customer service, internal communication and public relations departments need to work together and start with a solid foundation to ensure employees understand their role in the business. If you have the right culture in place, employees will naturally give good customer service, and if your customers are happy, they’ll spread the love for your organization through word of mouth, the most powerful form of public relations. Keep your customer service responses timely and helpful, and you’ll see how your public relations and business will naturally flourish.
Connect with Tanya Schusler for more public relations insights to improve your business.