I've known Eric McKirdy less than a year. I met him at Ray Wang's CCE event last year (an event I unequivocally recommend you go to). But in that time, I've come to both admire him and even more importantly, like him immensely. He goes by the title of the Global Customer Care Manager overseeing Ask.com’s worldwide Customer Care and Technical Support operations. He does that incredibly well. But more importantly, he's managed to distill what he does well and provide it to audiences and to friends and to whoever is in earshot who is interested. I'm incredibly impressed by the work he's done. As apparently are others since in February 2014, Eric won a Stevie Award for Customer Service Manager of the Year. I can't give him a Stevie — I could only give him a Paulie if I had that award, but what I can give him is a forum for his thinking and thus give you what he knows oh so well — how to think about customer care. It's an almost counterintuitive set of terms, but it is so customer centric it just plain rocks. As do you, Eric. So take it away, sir.
We all know technological advances in communication impact not only the way people communicate with each other, but also how they engage with companies and brands. However, no advancement has disrupted the customer care landscape on the same order of magnitude — or as quickly — as social media. Consumers now have personal promotional platforms at their fingertips, and the powerful ability to broadcast the good, the bad, and the ugly pertaining to their favorite (or least favorite) brands with the click (or the tap) of a finger.
For better or worse, social media has also shone a spotlight on a brand’s approach to customer care — fails, successes, and all. Consumers are able to effectively and easily vent frustrations with customer care reps’ processes — so much so, that many brands look at social platforms like Twitter and Facebook as the true barometer of the health and effectiveness of their customer support systems.
With all of that in mind, customer centric companies like Zappos and Southwest Airlines view the care of customers as almost a core offering in and of itself — not a tack-on function designed to just capture complaints and vitriol, but an end-to-end offering informed by market trends, competitive landscape, data and analytics, and of course, customer feedback.
Make no mistake: Approaching customer care in such a product-centric manner is no small task. It means applying the same rigor and thoughtfulness you would for any concept or idea traveling through the product development process.
Here’s a quick guide to doing it right:
Assess the landscape and market opportunity:
Product discovery and rapid iteration:
As you’re developing your alpha and beta test versions, think about:
The way brands and consumers interact has forever been changed by the web. Customer care organizations today must go beyond manning phones and collecting complaints to truly delivering on whatever promises its brands make — today’s discerning customers will accept no less. Approaching, investing, and benchmarking customer care as a unique offering all on its own will not only result in happier customers, it can actually transform your customers into true brand advocates.