Web care Archetypes: The Mobiliser – No Web care

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Dr. Carl Sagan

Even though there are many archetypes, the best archetype is actually the one that isn’t archetype since this kind of companies don’t do any Web care at all. However don’t confuse not doing Web care with not delivering any service.  Since there is a real difference between companies that ignore their customers and the companies that are able to mobilise their customers to their Web care for them. Web care for customers, by customers.

Not doing Web care isn’t just an archetype, creating an ecosystem in which people do the Web care for you might create the best starting point for creating a successful social business. If you can make people care enough about you and your brand that they spend their valuable time on providing answers to the questions of other customers, you create a sustainable and scalable approach for providing service. It is clear that there is huge benefit if you have a customer army available that is helping you in managing your social media channels and give answers on questions. It provides you with a highly scalable solution, since most companies will have more customers than employees.

Why No Web care is the best you can do

Your KPI is not solving complaints, nor is it solving complaints really fast. It is improving the perceived value of your product by your customers and potential customers. Since perceived value is one of the items that determines if a customer is willing to give you money for your product and service. The easiest way to increase perceived value is by letting your customers shine.

Your customers don’t  have a vested interest in your company, are most likely not biased and don’t benefit from other customers buying your product. By putting them in the spotlight, they are the most authentic source that can share your story and by doing so they might be becoming your best sales people. However it is not just putting the spotlight on them, it is by providing them the opportunity that they want shine for you.

It is by doing really well and by increasing your perceived value so much that your customer is thinking that he is almost robbing you since he is not paying enough compared the value he receives. It is by making it really easy for your customer to promote you and your products and services and finally is by encouraging your customer by doing so. Not only by making sure there is no reason for complaints and questions but also by letting your customers know you value them.

The best way to value your customer is by making sure the perceived value of your products and services is higher than the money that your customer pays for. By doing so you are building up credits and in the end your customer is happy to exchange this credit for investing some of his time in recommending you to his friends.

Stop doing web care. Start caring.

Web care Archetypes: The Bot

Situation

If the volume of tweets you have to handle is rather high you might want to automate the handling of it. This is actually the thing Bank of America did and what went completely wrong. As you can read in this article you’ll see that the automation of Bank of America was quite poor and there was not much intelligence in it (or at least it wasn’t a showcase of smart automation).

However automating a certain workflow is rather common, it has become part of our life to automate repeating tasks. Therefore the archetype of the bot might be more common than that we think since not every bot leads to instant failure.

Analysis

It would rather short-sighted to say on a sample size of one that bots are absolute failures in handling messages on social media. We have just seen one big failure and probably if you really want to you can find some more examples of companies that over-automate and under-test their social media automation.  Since that was what happened to Bank of America: too much automation and too little testing. If it had been thoroughly tested these obvious glitches would not have happened.

How to make it better

Automation in social media and for Web care in particular has been always been a sensitive topic. Some might say it removes any for authenticity and that it is a sin to even think about it. However how many authenticity would you really want to have if you are asking for a simple fact based answer (e.g. When does the train to city X leave), probably not too much, you just want to have that answer as soon as possible.

Basically that is what you can now automate really well: factual questions. First all a factual question can only be asked in a limited number of ways, second there is no wrong answer on the factual questions since it is just informing one who asked the question about the facts he is looking for. However before going completely bezerk on automating every factual piece you need to make sure it actually works. Therefore you should start with semi automate it. Let the system come up with suggestions and let the human pushing the button validate this suggesting and post it. This way you can train the system and validate its outcomes. As certain as the system comes to a certain success level you can push it live without any human being the intermediate between the bot and the person who asked the question.

Web care Archetypes: The replier

Situation

Imagine that you have a question and send it out on Twitter and instead of somebody really helping you to get to an answer you would prefer (or at least some kind of answer), you get a reply that is basically a non-reply. It is just somebody ticking all the boxes of having handled the message on Twitter, however it isn’t an answer it is just a message pointing you elsewhere, or it so generic that you can do anything with it.

This type of response only leads to more frustration, however since the replying twitter account is just ticking its boxes there is hardly any real response to this frustration, it will just keep on ticking boxes and follow to process and give boilerplate answers or direct you to places on the Web.

Analysis

The replier is often the outcome of a very hierarchical organisation or an organisation in  public services. Strongly process oriented and highly risk averse. It is all about following the process itself and make sure it is completely compliant, user experience is not important, unless it is factored into the process however that is seldom the case since a poor user experience if often not perceived as a risk.

There is no focus on efficiency, as in getting to a solution in the first interaction, again it is the process dictating the next action and the process is just there to avoid any risks that might occur during the interaction with a customer.

How to make it better

Interaction is not a risk, it is an opportunity. As soon as somebody is reaching out to you it means that they have an interest. Whether it is about information, about an issue they experience or anything else, they take the effort to reach out to you. Don’t slap them with your processes and procedures, though use your processes and procedures as a guidance, not as the only way of working.

Often the risk is overestimated, since how often is an organisation being ‘killed’ due to one poor response on social media, you might get grilled for a day or two at most but after a while everybody forgot about it and gets on with his or her life. If things would have been really bad due to social media United would be bankrupt and Domino’s would have stopped selling pizzas. Given that these two companies still exist, don’t worry too much about the risks, focus on the opportunity.

Therefore don’t be to risk averse, trying to avoid risks by having aforementioned procedures in place might even increase the risk of dissatisfied customers and providing you with bigger issues than you had. Focus on the customer instead, since social media is about the customers, it is not about you.

Web care Archetypes: The Performers

Situation

It doesn’t have to be all too serious on social media, however there might be a thin line between added value and entertainment. The performers are on stage constantly or at least they perceive it this way. Even one on one interactions are carried out as a stage performance with a huge audience. It is fun, snarky or opportunistic. As long as there is a round of applause and attention they are completely OK with doing anything on social media.

O2 might be one of the best examples since they combine their opportunistic worldview (everybody can become a customer) with a highly personalised approach on answering some tweets

Another classic is of course this video by Bodyform as a response to one of their customers.

Analysis

Everybody wants to be a performer, however not everybody is a great performer so there might be a risk that you become the subject of your own joke. Also something to keep into account is that even though people most often like entertainers they do not always trust them with their business. Somebody who is joking all the time how will they handle the client business, will it be treated as just another joke? Therefore balance is important and in this case O2 has this balance between performing, being opportunistic and also doing some more serious service work.

There is always the question on why a performer performs, is it because he likes to entertain people and give them a good time, or is there a more selfish motive and is it the performing wanting your attention so he or she will feel good. If you are only using the questions and complaints of your customers as an excuse to get on stage and grab the attention it is just making fun on somebody else’s expense, which isn’t a very sustainable approach.

How to make it better

Compared to the other archetypes it is hard to define the performer as an archetype that is doing something really wrong. Of course some performers might have their flaws as described above: they might be having fun on their customer’s expense, they might be just focused on getting the spotlight on themselves no matter what and if that means that they also have to do a bit of service than it just has to be done.

Balance is the thing that is important while being a performer, the real performers perform when they have to or want to, not whenever they can. It is striking the ideal balance between business value and performance and the business value of a good performance could be lowered marketing and acquisition costs. Key is to measure the business value of your performance, unless you are selling tickets for your performance than the amount of tickets sold is your business value.

Web care Archetypes: The Dodger

Situation

Most insurance organisation get requests or claims with the expectation that they will just pay the bill. Most often these claims get approved, sometimes it is disapproved. Which is just fine, since there is a certain process in place with certain criteria one should follow. However not everybody always agrees with the disapproval of a certain claim and these people ask the insurer to review the claim once again (most often leading to the same outcome, since the same criteria are used).

However sometimes people do not complain to the insurer in private, but on social media out in the open. In this case there was much havoc on social media, causing the insurer to re-evaluate the decision they made earlier and make a 180 degree turn and all of a sudden approving the treatment. Which was rather peculiar since there was complaint raised earlier in private which had no impact on the decision made earlier by the insurance company.

Analysis

If this is the behaviour you showcase then you train your customer that if they whine more, they get more. It shows that your processes are very random and that you have to appeal. If you appeal you know you might be lucky to have a different outcome than you had before. Also people see that if they move in large groups towards you, you are very likely to change any decisions made in the past into the favour of the opinion of the large group.

So basically everything you had in place as a process has become useless since you turn as a leaf as soon as big groups are moving towards you and now that people know that, they will do it more often. Resulting in that you recall decisions even more often or even change your process in something you didn’t want it to be, just for the sake of avoiding having an angry mob as your main audience.

In short: it is just a matter of time before you go bankrupt since people will be pushing the boundaries on every decision you have made in the past.

How to make it better.

It is not about treating your (potential) customer as king, it is about having a clear vision / view on what you do and what you don’t do and to be able to be 100% transparent on this. The main reason you created this business was not to become the popular kid in the class; insurers never are the popular ones, since you pay them a lot of money for nothing most of the time, since most often the anticipated risk just doesn’t happen. You created this business to help others in the time they need it most.

If you start using your customers as your number one guidance, meaning that you ignore your vision you had upfront, you might be getting an issue. Since most likely your customer would like to see that, in case your are an insurer, you pay more claims for their friends. Though they rather prefer not to have a tenfold increase in fees to make this happens. Either you are the bad guy if you cannot be transparent on this.

Therefore be transparent. Show what you want to do with your company, show how you are doing it and why you are doing it this way. However remember that it is your company and that even though there are many smart people outside your company you can ignore them if they do not fit the vision you have had with your company. If you treat your customer as king, you might end up as peon. The worst thing that might happen when being stubborn and transparent is that you might end up with the customers you deserve.

Web care Archetypes: The Fashionistas

Situation

Some of the archetypes I would like to start with a personal story and this is one of them:

Every time I want to check in online for certain flights on my iPhone it fails. My next action is to tweet the airline whose app is failing me with the message that I cannot check in. They always ask me to send them a DM with some details of my flight. After that they ask me what chair I would like to have and after that, everything is done and I am ready to go out and fly.

This has happened now like four or five times and the app has had many updates in the mean time, though none of the updates solved the issue that I, and based on the messages on Twitter, many others have. However they still seem to be very happy to help me with the same issue over and over and every time when I asked when the issue will be fixed there is some vague answer. Not only does it cost me more of my time since checking in via Twitter is not very efficient, somebody from the airline is also spending some minutes on doing something that should be handled by the passenger himself.

Analysis

Web care is more a goal on itself than a mean to accomplish something in this case. Fashionistas in Web care just do stuff because it makes them looks good on the short term, not because it serves the business on the longer term. This specific company I am talking about is very proud of the fact that they have 60 people working full time around the clock seven days a week making sure every question asked on social media is answered within the hour.

When we translate this ‘accomplishment’ into a real business issue: there are so many questions raised by their customers that they spend 3 million euro (at least) on answering them, not on fixing the root cause of the questions so they won’t occur again. Their Web care team is actually the duct tape to hide their poor service with regards to information or functionality int he first place and they keep on focusing on how shiny the duct tape is instead of a focus on solving a real business issue.

How to make it better

The most simple improvement Fashionistas such as this organisation could make is to do an analysis on what the questions are that they are already answering and take follow up actions on these types of questions. Since answering questions really fast might seem to be very good, solving the real issue is even better. Using the questions produced by customers you exactly know what things needs your attention first and where your focus should be.

Also if there is a customer with a repeating question time over time, this might be an impeding issue as well. So they should not only measure the intensity of certain topics, but also the intensity of topics per customer. Since overall trends might show a business issue, however a customer that have to reach out to you over and over might end up in a loyalty crisis.

The second improvement that they should do is to connect the Web care activities to real business goals. Answering questions within an hour doesn’t help the business, increasing customer satisfaction might help you business, reducing questions while at the same time increasing customer satisfaction might even be a better goal. Don’t end up using vanity metrics, use you real business metrics.

Web care Archetypes: The Firefighter

Situation

Some of the archetypes I would like to start with a personal story and this is one of them:

There was a service disruption of our TV signal. Since we are getting used to using Twitter as a service channel (sometimes the only way to get some decent service), my wife decided to sent out a tweet to our provider of our TV signal. Since my neighbour has a triple play subscription with the same provider (since he not only lacked a TV signal, but wasn’t able to call and didn’t had an internet connection) he too send out a tweet.

Seven hours later when I arrived home nor my wife nor our neighbour had received a reply, while in other situations they would have received a reply. So I decided to send out a tweet and within minutes I got a reply back from them, with just the message they we working really hard.

The next morning I contacted them again and asked if they could provide me a deadline when there work would be finished and when they could inform me about a refund. When I asked my neighbour what he would do with the money of the refund, he told me they hadn’t reach out to him and he didn’t hear anything about any refund. In the end he didn’t got a refund. It was like the provider just forget that my neighbor was paying five times more than I am for my subscription. However I was just of the few, more influential, customers that tweeted and got a refund.

Analysis

A spark neglected makes a mighty fire.  

Robert Herrick

When things are getting busy, you need to focus, that is the thing this provider probably did: focus on the people that could create damage on the short run. Given that I am more influential than my wife or my neighbour (at least on vanity metrics such as Klout, Kred and Peerindex), they might give me a higher priority. However they forgot about certain other important things. First of all my wife is journalist, I would say that is one demographic you want to maintain a good friendship with. Second of all is that my neighbour has the premium package and is paying way more for his subscription than we do. Third of all is that I told them in the past that if I had any opportunity to switch that I would so. It is not like giving me a refund would make me stay for any longer than I should have to.

Basically they made a decision on too little variables to just reach out to me. Both my neighbour and my wife noticed that they were ignored while they saw that I got a reply within minutes. It provides a whole different meaning to the word customer experience.

How to make it better

The key change that has to be made in this case is to know your customers better and make sure you treat everybody as equal as you can, or as important as they really are for you. In this case there was a disturbance of service in a couple of streets, people who live in streets together tend to talk with each other. Not taking that specific piece of geographic information into account is making it yourself very difficult, since conversations happen not only online.

In this case the focus is on the wrong people: importance is more than a Klout score. A small analysis just on names showed that me and my neighbour were both complaining, and since we are neighbours we are likely to be in touch with each other. Basically there is a need for better information and perhaps even a bit of workflow automation so decisions are made on data instead of on gut feeling and some arbitrary numbers.

It is important to have the context available, instead of just having a single tweet and a single number. N=1 is a sample size that is too small.

Web care Archetypes: The Schizophrenic

Situation

Some of the archetypes I would like to start with a personal story and this is one of them:

We ordered a solarium at a post order company. All went fine until one of the lamps broke down. Those things can happen so we contacted the customer service of this company and they told us they would fix this quickly. After two weeks, which we don’t consider as ‘quickly’, we decided to contact them again. Again the promise was that the service department would contact us almost immediate to make an appointment to fix it.

After a few days we decided to send out a tweet which triggered a very fast response and the Web care department called us. They discovered that they had the wrong phone number in their systems and changed it and after that it seems fine. However the service department, which was in a different silo so it seems, didn’t got an update on the new phone number and still tried to dial the old number. In the end, after some more tweets back and forth it was fixed, though the speed on how things were moving forward depended on which department we were talking with.

Analysis

This is the typical example of a company in which the Web care team has a bigger mandate than the traditional service desk. Or at least the Web care team can go the extra mile instead of a typical call centre that tries to make you hang up the phone after 1 minute and 27 seconds, since then they could do 40 calls per hour which is so great for their productivity. This also results that you not only hang up the phone, but also hang up on the company.

However the call centre in this case might not be performing below average in their market, the Web care team creates the perception that this call centre is just a poor performing piece of legacy that is always out performed by the fresh and the new: the Web care team. Just because they are allowed to do so much better.

Even though this establishes the much desired switching of channels by the consumer, since serving somebody via social media is often cheaper than serving somebody via a call centre, this is not a sustainable approach to make sure the switch on long term. The only reason your customer switches is because they are being mistreated in one channel and treated like kings in another channel. Not everybody will make the switch, since not everybody is willing to go for a second try on a different channel.

Again this is you losing clients by having a very schizophrenic approach towards service: cheap in the call centre and royal in the Web care channel.  The bitter taste of poor quality lingers long after the sweet taste of low price is forgotten. Having a great Web care is seldom really great on the long run in this case.

How to make it better

Fire your Web care department and integrate it with your existing service department / call centre. There is no need to differentiate these two, especially not in a way that ends up in a service schizophrenia. Make sure that all your service and care activities are aligned and have similar KPIs. If one group of people needs to solve issues within 2 minutes and the other group of people just have to make sure it is being solved, you create different experiences and your customers will notice. Don’t glorify the service department, since basically all they do is correcting failures that occurred in an earlier process and bother the customer, however empower them so they can work with the rest of the organisation to make sure those failures won’t happen again.

Call centres traditionally strive to a 100% utilisation of their people. From that perspective it might even make more sense to integrate Web care with the traditional service department. Since if there are no calls and utilisation might drop below this very much desired 100% you can handle the digital channel to boos the utilisation and vice versa.

It is wrong to use different teams for different channels, I just assume you never have a had a fax-team in your organisation. Your customer is reaching out to you because of something that they didn’t expect to happen. They don’t reach out to you because you are using a certain channel. Therefore make sure the experience is always brilliant, since you might not always get a second chance.

Web care Archetypes: The Lone Wolf

Situation

Some of the archetypes I would like to start with a personal story and this is one of them:

We ordered some birthday stuff for my son online at a German football club since he absolutely loves soccer. However after ordering it there was no communication, besides after 4 days an email that things were really busy now and things might be delayed (imagine telling your customer: thanks for your money, now wait for it when we feel like shipping).

After four weeks of no communication we tried a first message on Twitter to their main account. Still deafening silence. After that a second tweet, still no response, then a third tweet reaching out to the social media manager of this club. Finally a response (not s a solution though) and he provided us with the details of somebody who could help us. After a week of more silence all of a sudden the package arrived. Just a bit too late for this birthday, though our son decided anyways to not be a fan of this club, since he prefers a club that cares.

Analysis

If you are not responding to your customers, literally in this case your fans, you have a bigger issue than just Web care not done right. Since fans are the type of customers that tend to give you recurring revenues and by creating a poor first experience you make sure the next time they won’t bother at all and won’t spend their money on you. The only reason this case seems to be solved is because of an individual that cares enough to go into the organisation to try to solve things.

In this specific case it was his job to do something with social media, however I guess service was not part of his job description. In many other cases it is somebody who is just passionate about the job he does and thinks that everybody that interacts with the products and services of his company should have a great experience. Those people go beyond their job description and make deep impact for the organisation often outside regular working hours. However it isn’t scalable and sustainable so it won’t work on the long-term or with high volume.

It might be clear that this approach (by lack of a better word) of Web care doesn’t help companies in turning Web care into a profit centre. Even worse the result of this way of working gives people a reason not to buy anything from you, because you don’t seem to care after the transaction. Also when you have just one lone wolf (or just a couple) you are running the risk that people are burning up, since they are doing so much stuff besides their day job , that you have to wonder if this is still healthy for them. This unstructured approach turns people away and creates burnouts. Neither of these two items are things you like to happen.

How to make it better

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

It is plain and simple: make sure your service works. This soccer club is lucky to have a guy who is so involved to invest time in solving issues caused by others who don’t even care to reply to an email. He is probably one of the unsung heroes, however given that he is just alone he will scale poorly in the end and burn up.

This organisation needs to scale up and make sure there more people just like him and that they become pro active, instead of reactive. By becoming pro active you solve issues sooner in the process, providing the organisations and people with more time for other things, such as the proverbial ‘sharpening the axe’. Cherish the Lone wolfs, though more important let them build a pack of wolfs to make it scale. Often the Lone wolf himself is so busy he forgets to do that, so help him with this.

As soon as you have a group of Lone Wolfs most of your Web care issues are over and you’ll scale rather nicely while even providing a human face to service, instead of just showing a logo that blast out replies. By doing so, you are once again able to make a real connection with people reaching out to you via social media and by having such a connection you can increase loyalty which in itself could increase revenue in the long run. However the most important thing is that you really start caring about other people, instead of just firefighting.