Social media has been used as a customer service channel for the last several years. Companies such as Zappos, Rackspace, and Jet Blue have been lauded for using social as an effective customer service tool. Many companies remain wary of using social media to address customer service issues. We were fortunate to hear insights from the Rackspace customer service team including Jeremy Wasner, Robert Collazo and Matt Wilbanks during a panel discussion at Blog World Expo last week.
So, what makes Rackspace customer service special?
The customer service team reported that their department is empowered to point out lapses in service delivery to the rest of the company.
They have the support of leadership to be the thorn in the side of the company. Culturally, everyone in the company talks. Customer service is encouraged to talk to the team that needs to change, bringing consumer posts straight to internal departments. “Since we know the teams are knee deep in the work and isolated from customers,” Matt Wilbanks said during the panel, “we know it’s our responsibility to inform the teams of problems that need to be fixed.”
Also, they do not use an external call center. Instead, all customer service is handled in house by engineers who can understand and address customer issues.
Monitoring tools are used to find any mention of the company, and a customer service team member responds rapidly. Most of the company’s social media customer service interactions take place on Twitter; Rackspace gets over 4,000 mentions during a typical week, but Twitter isn’t the only place consumers are asking questions.
The team also responds to questions frequently on Quora, Facebook, blog posts and of course, by phone. Rackspace customer service staff post their cell phone numbers publicly so consumers can call them directly. People just seem to want to know that they are heard and that their issue is going to be acted upon, according to Rackspace.
While turn-around time is important when dealing with customer service via social media, the team sees a clear difference in dealing with customer complaints delivered in the form of a blog post. A blog post is often the result of a long-term unresolved customer service issue. So usually, the customer service team involves senior management to respond personally to the post. Subsequent comments are typically positive, with Rackspace getting kudos for responding to the issue.
So what mistakes do they see other companies make when using social media to interact with customers? Many companies use social media as a place to see how great they are instead of listening and responding to customers. The job of a customer service employee is to relieve stress and pain. Being consistently helpful and genuine helps create a brand image that reinforces the company’s mission of support.
Supporting competitors instead of disparaging them is a better approach. Often, Rackspace sees other companies trolling for Rackspace customers who may have a service issue, then trying to pounce and convert the customers to their hosting service.
Rackspace takes a different approach, never chasing ambulances on Twitter. When a rival hosting company was struggling with a big issue, Rackspace sent $7,000 in pizzas to their corporate office as a show of empathy.
They advised to never pray on customers struggling with their providers or complaining about a rival product. That would be like a car salesperson approaching someone who just had an accident and saying creepily, “Looks like you are having an issue with your car…” By having a strong customer service practice, the number one source of new customers is referrals from existing ones. Rackspace doesn’t do a lot of marketing.
When rivals start talking to customers on social, attempting to disrupt the customer service process, a best practice is to reach out to them publicly and ask if they need anything. If a competitor continues to push, a call to the company and to the social customer service team’s supervisor usually resolves the issue.
In summary: Always be nice. Always be a step above expectations.