The business world is ripe with case studies about companies finding excuses to stay offline, refuse social listening and reject new methods of gathering data. The up-front expense never makes sense to these people until the new outlets affect the business in a negative way, and the effect is usually quite large! The modern customer creates too much content and too many trends within the digital sphere for companies to ignore.Some companies, even knowing this, refuse to upgrade the service to their customer base.
What Do Customers Need?
Companies have a hierarchy of needs in the same way that Maslow created a personal hierarchy of needs for individuals. The highest strata, known as “alignment,” sits at the top of four tiers of support needs.
From Chaos to Control
Companies that use simple methods to communicate with customers (email) and organize data (Excel spreadsheets) may find themselves in chaos when these archaic tools cannot streamline the requests of a larger consumer base. Control occurs when the ability of the company to navigate trends scales with the size of its base. A company will be able to move into a proactive space when it regains control of the conversation.
From Being Reactive to Being Proactive
Many companies are able to initially attract a loyal customer base by streamlining customer queries. However, they spend all of their time doing this with no time to do anything except react. Eventually, reacting will cause a company a backlog of complaints, and customers will eventually leave the company for unsatisfactory support. The company will also usually find itself sprawled across social media in a negative way, causing a loss of business. When companies finally figure out that a single tweet or Facebook post can actually coincide with that entire loss of sales over the quarter, they will usually begin to take a proactive stance to customer service by initiating contact on social media and searching out negative trends before they become a problem.
From Growing Pains to Scaling
Scaling a company brings problems that every business man would love to have. This does not mean that this stage of development is easy. Continuing a larger level of service that was initially only necessary to give to a local area is not a simple thing. Customers expect continued personalization even as a company has less time and manpower to address each customer on an individual basis. Scaling means automating as much of the customer service process as possible. This is the stage when companies begin to organize trends into FAQs for the site, invest in email automation programs and social aggregation subscriptions such as Hootsuite, and maybe even outsource a chat room service to a virtual assistance firm.
From Darkness to Alignment
There are very few companies that have actually reached the pinnacle of this customer support hierarchy of needs. This does not mean that companies cannot get there – Zappos, Apple, Google and Facebook have, at times, found themselves in a position that is completely aligned with their base.
The secret to true alignment is keeping employees happy as well as customers. After all, the full time employees that a business has on staff are the people who engage personally with customers and run the automated systems. Customers are quite unforgiving about bad experiences with individuals, so it definitely behooves a company to train employees to run systems rather than engage personally.
The final step in alignment is to fully trust your employees with the tasks that you have delegated to them. The more responsibility that you give them, the more they will take ownership of the job. The more ownership they have, the better your customer relationships will usually be.