Do you respond by telling them nothing at all? Do you respond by telling them that they don’t know what they’re talking about? There are some dos and don’ts when responding to customers, but you’ll want to make sure that your entire organization is prepared to be customer service activists. Don’t get caught with your pants down when an angry customer rants on Yelp about your horrible customer service and their terrible experience.
Begin documenting your overall customer service strategy, infrastructure, channels, scripts, procedures, and training guides. Your customer service team should be just as equipped as any other department in your organization. This team is one of your biggest retention and customer loyalty building tools, and is far too often ignored or forgotten about.
Create a customer-centered strategy
In order for your company to thrive at customer service you AND the CEO will need to be the champions of it. If the leader of the organization is not 100% behind it, then no one else will be.
If your CEO’s strategy is based on making more money so they can buy more booze, cars, clothes, trips to the strip club- or worse yet, to gain more power for the sake of power, then you’ve got a lot more problems than your company’s customer service. Please have this person visit a counselor or a life coach if you can and start looking for a different company to work with.
Some key positions and teams you might want to consider hiring: Chief Experience Officer, Call Center Managers, Social Media Managers, General Customer Service Managers, Customer Service Representatives (phone, in-person, online), and Social Community Managers.
These team members should work closely with your marketing department and store managers. The customer service team, the marketing department, and your front line managers and employees should ALL be trained on customer service.
If you don’t have a marketing department and can’t afford a proper customer service team, then please hire one of the many agencies that provides customer service or social community solutions. I know what some of you may be thinking, “I don’t need to hire anyone else, we’ve got our web guy!” Please do NOT ask your IT guy, your web guy, or any other guy who is technically savvy to handle the thousands of customer service related comments online or offline.
Good customer service shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be one of the pillars of your organizational structure and strategy. It’s vital to your success. Create change in the workplace. A culture of change and improvement is vital to your organization when initiating an overhaul of your customer service.
Give your team the right tools
For your team to be successful, you’ve got to give them the right tools. Consider getting a tool like Zendesk, Freshdesk, Salesforce, or Zoho Support for your customer service representatives to assist customers online. Some of these systems allow for Yelp and other review site integration. Be sure that your marketing team hasn’t left social community managers without listening tools.
Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Radian6, Adobe Social, Tweetdeck, and others are all great tools to start listening and responding with. Some of the tools that will help you take inventory and begin reporting include services such as Reputation.com, ReviewPush, Review Trackers, and Fishbowl (for restaurants). You can also manually go in to each review site and social media channel and start sifting through the comments. I recommend that your team does a combination of both.
Take social relationship inventory
Your team will need to begin producing reports on ratings and averages across all channels using one of the tools I mentioned above. You or one of your team members will need to get a sense of the current state your companies or stores are in, and then set goals for improvement.
Setting a goal of increasing half a star on Yelp is a lofty goal, however it is not impossible. If your store managers and employees and your CEO are not living your customer service strategy, no amount of “I’m sorry about that, sir/madam, we hope you’ll visit us again soon” is ever, ever, ever going to matter.
Create Google Alerts if you need to with your store or company names and related products and brands. Start sending out reports. Your community or customer service managers will need to start sending reports that include that week’s customer comments, your responses, and recommended action items.
The Chief Customer Officer should compile these into a report once a month, add it to an annual spreadsheet as well, and pull ALL data into internal databases if the company has that capability and time. If your company doesn’t, then don’t worry about maintaining your own databases. Let the service you’ve hired do it for you. You and your team are going to respond to each of the comments (no matter how long ago the customer posted it).
Better late than never
It’s true. Better late than never. If you are barely launching your customer service department, don’t feel like all of your previous customer feedback are lost causes. Respond to them. Whether they left a Yelp review 10 years ago or last week. Just respond. This may take a while, but it is imperative to your company’s future success.
You may win back some of those customers and may remind some that you’re still around. This should be your team’s primary focus in the first few weeks or months of launching the department. This also entirely depends on the number of comments on your channels and the size of your team.
I will preach this until the end, that even if it takes a year or more to respond to all of them, that it is worth it. If it is taking your team multiple years then, I would argue that your customer service team is not large enough to handle the volume of customer feedback that your company receives. Once you are up to your current day’s comments and feedback, ensure that you have all hands on deck to listen. Your social community managers should be listening through their social media management tools (not free ones, most likely) by searching for #yourbusiness, Google Alerts, and through other feedback systems.
The good, the bad, and the ugly: How to respond
There are numerous ways to respond to customers, and each response should be tailored to each customer’s unique situation or comment. If your team is using general responses that don’t really address what the customer is saying, then there is something fundamentally wrong with the way you are training them, the tools your giving them, the infrastructure, or the culture your company has.
Ensure your customer service manual has important guidelines like listening, letting the customer know you understand their frustration or emotions, and then offering alternatives and solutions to rectify any problems. Your training guides should have multiple examples of how to respond to the best comments, the neutral comments, and the worst ones.
I like using the 5 star system. Take examples of what you’d like to see when responding to each star rating (so five in this case). If you take some type of action like sending them a gift card, free coupon, setting up a reservation, gifting a product, subscription, or some other item to some of your customers when responding privately, then ensure your script has options for those as well.
Script Outline Example:
5 Stars with action
5 Stars without action
4 Stars with action
4 Stars without action
3 Stars with action
3 Stars without action
2 Stars with action
2 Stars without action
1 Star with action
1 Star without action
So an example for a 2 Star rating with and without an action would be something like this:
Johnny, Thanks for coming by (business name), and thanks for your feedback! We appreciate when customers like you take the time to let us know how we are doing. So sorry to hear that you did not get (specific product) that we had run out of. We know how frustrating that can be especially while you were already late to a meeting (or other specific description). We have contacted our vendors and are ensuring that we will have (specific product) fully stocked the next time you stop by. We’d also like to offer you (specific product) on us. Please accept our offer and just let us know your last name, and provide an ID when you arrive and you’ll get (specific product) free of charge. Thanks for your continued patronage, and we hope to hear from you soon!
Well, what if you don’t want to give anything away, and what if you don’t want to say “sorry”?
Johnny, Thanks for coming by our (business name), and thanks for your feedback! We appreciate when customers like you take the time to let us know how we are doing. We understand that you weren’t able to get (specific product) that we had run out of, and we know how frustrating that can be especially while you were already late to a meeting (or other specific description). We have contacted our vendors and are ensuring that we will have (specific product) fully stocked the next time you stop by. Again, thank you for reaching out and for your continued patronage!
Spend time developing what your message will be, and customize it to suit your business and customers. Please be sure to subscribe to my blog for the latest marketing insights. Now go forth and start building your customer service strategy and be sure to listen and respond appropriately while you’re online. You wouldn’t want something like this to happen to your business: