Everyone is in customer service. All of us have the responsibility to help customers. In large companies, though, it can become a struggle to find a real live person to help with a problem.
Jeffrey Hayzlett, chief marketing officer at Kodak, talked at the 140 Conference in New York about how large companies are using Twitter to put customers in touch with a real live person to get them help with their products. Corporate management may ask, what's the return on investment on Twitter? Hayzlett replies, well, what's the ROI on ignoring customers?
In the Twitter and Brands: Lessons Learned and Learning panel, one of the panelists pointed out that every brand that lands on Twitter finds a huge customer service need to be fulfilled.
Which leads to my question, why not just make it easy in the first place? Make it easy for customers to find a real person. Even better, make it easy to use your products. Eliminate problems before they happen. This is where small companies have an advantage. We have fewer layers of people and processes. We answer our phones ourselves. We take customer calls all the time.
There are still a couple of lessons for us to learn from this discussion.
1. Make your products and services easier and easier for customers. Every time there is a problem from a customer, take the NTSB approach. Joel Spolsky explained it in "Seven steps to remarkable customer service." Dissect each problem the way the National Transportation Safety Board dissects each plane crash. Find and eliminate the source of the problem. Fix your code. Add more instructions. Redesign a problem point. Make it all easier.
2. Give your customers lots of ways to reach you. You can use Twitter to help your customers—or use any other online tool. It's a matter of letting people use their preferred method of communication.
Becky McCray is a small-town entrepreneur, the co-owner of a liquor store and cattle ranch. She write about small business and rural issues at Small Biz Survival, based on her own successes and failures. As a consultant, she helps small businesses and small-town governments get things funded and get things done. Becky is also a noted speaker on small-business issues. She blogs at Small Biz Survival.