My second job ever, and the one I did the longest in high school and college, was working at a grocery store. I loved it (FYI – my first job was washing dishes at a nursing home – not a favorite). Over time I ended up learning how to do most of the tasks at the store – from stocking shelves and sacking groceries to running the cash register and working in departments like meat and produce.
Every now and then, when checking out from my local grocery store or in any retail experience, I find myself missing that type of work. Whether it was helping someone find a product or pushing groceries out to someone’s car (this is Iowa – we do that here), it always put a spring in my step and a smile on my face.
You could say this is one of the inevitable downsides of our digital revolution at work. Like many of you, I spend most of my day sitting in front of monitors. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have a meeting or I can see people and some of that spark returns. Tools like Skype and Google+ Hangouts have also helped.
Too often we get lost in the macro economics of business, focusing on big-picture strategies and growth. These retail interactions are also valuable as they represent the building blocks of creating relationships with our customers.
That’s why we needn’t lose hope when we’re standing wistfully at the checkout line. It’s still possible to infuse our marketing with that service mindset. Here’s how …
Content That Helps
As all good marketers learned from Content Rules, good content should “share or solve, not shill.” Perhaps the biggest way you can be of service online is to create content that helps your community solve their problems and answers their questions. If you’re stumped on what this might look like, consider the questions your brand gets offline. Start a list of questions that your customers ask you and start creating blogs, FAQs, videos, and podcasts that address these issues.
Social Media That Serves
Recently, when working through a social media strategy with a client, we discussed the various social media business objectives for the organization, one of which was customer service. However, as we mapped through how this would be built out, it occurred to us that customer service was more of a horizontal objective that cut across all other objectives like brand building and lead generation.
You see, each social media conversation is an opportunity to demonstrate your brand’s own service leadership. If it helps, imagine yourself “behind the counter” helping your community members. Did you answer their question fully? Like real-world interactions you may find value in reminding your social media team to converse/engage with their eyebrows up and a smile on their face to encourage even more positivity.
Don’t Forget Lagniappe
Speaking of answering a question fully, don’t forget the retail concept of lagniappe or giving your customer “a little something extra.” You can do this online as well. If someone has a question, you could answer it basically but you could also add a little something extra by pointing them to a few helpful links or perhaps giving them a free trial to your premium services that address their issue. Langiappe isn’t just for local merchants. You can embrace this online as well.
The biggest challenge in delivering awesome customer service online is that most of our interactions are conducted via the written (or typed) word, where it’s challenging to communicate tone such as humor, levity, and positivity — the hallmark of good customer service behavior. This is why establishing a solid brand voice is critical. In doing this, don’t forget to make sure your brand still sounds like a human.
Establishing a brand voice that’s light, happy, and helpful will help you reap more positive service benefits than a brand that is stodgy, formal, and unapproachable. Another part of being human is remembering to drop the facade and not make your interactions all about business all of the time. Just like you would ask a customer at the cash register what their plans are on a particularly sunny day, don’t forget to ask your online customers a bit about their lives.
If speaking as a human is challenging for your brand, consider a strategy on social networks like Facebook and Twitter where the team member managing the account “signs” posts or signs on and off when engaging.
How Else Can I Help You?
Above all, marketers can better meet their customers needs online by simply asking what they want. In fact, recently Brian Solis and the team at Pivot Conference revealed what they call the “perception gap” noting that 76% of marketers feel they know what their customers want yet only 34% have actually asked customers. How can you ever meet and exceed your community’s needs online without asking them? Ask first, then over-deliver when you can.
So the next time I get winsome and want to stay behind at the store sacking groceries and asking people about their days, I’ll remember to ask my online community about their lives, learn about their needs, and strive to create conversation and content that addresses them.
Speaking of which, how can I help you?