Making Online Customer Service Information Safer

People tend to trust search engines. The concept seems simple, actually. When you have a question, click over to your favorite search engine, ask your question, and browse through the results offering a bevy of information that usually – hopefully – answers your question.

However, phishers, scammers and anyone with the intention of stealing information and personal data are now leveraging search engines for their own use. One recent story suggests these harmful users are taking advantage of unknowing people who attempt to find customer service contact information for mega-sized companies such as Facebook and Google. After all, do you know Facebook’s customer service 800-number? Why not “Google” it?

When a person types in “Facebook customer service”, there are results that appear that look to be official web pages offering up contact numbers for the company’s customer service department.

Upon further review, these numbers lead people directly to harmful scammers who are quick to use tactics that obtain personal information and security details.

We shouldn’t be quick to sound the alarm. This article isn’t designed to deter people from using their favorite search engine, which still serve a monumentally helpful purpose in research and obtaining information.

However, when it comes to engaging and communicating with a certain company or brand, such as contacting the customer service team at a specific company, there may be a better, safer, way.

Customer service is moving toward more digital support and for many brands a self-support environment, where consumers log onto a brand’s website or social channels, type in their query and access a variety of digital support materials available to help answer their question. And since those channels and the website are controlled by the brand, the information is more trusted and reliable than what may be found in general search engine results.

The upside here, besides the increased security of the data, is the fact that people of all age groups are now used to searching online for answers to their own queries. Favorite things to do in Key West? Best minivan for my family? Cooking instructions for a turkey at Thanksgiving? These are all questions we ask a search engine, and the results help get answers to what we’re looking for.

Customers call on service departments all the time, or even walk into their local store to get help. Consider a new smartphone purchase; often times after the purchase, customers will have a variety of questions regarding their account, or the functionality of the mobile device itself. Rather than waiting on hold for thirty minutes to speak with a customer service agent at their mobile carrier to ask questions, this same customer service information is now pre-loaded onto the carrier’s website and digital properties like Facebook, accessible to any customer, anytime, anywhere, for a more convenient way of handling customer queries and concerns.

With today’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, the more customers utilize this type of channel with a positive outcome, the “smarter” the process becomes for future customer interactions.

For example, the way to optimize search for self-service is to implement a metric that allows the best results to match a user’s satisfaction rating. The best measure of quality for search results is content effectiveness. Content effectiveness combines the frequency with which a customer selects a piece of content based on the search terms and the quality of the interaction with content as measured by positive feedback, time spent on content and deflection of calls to customer service.

As more customers rely on branded websites and self-service digital support materials, the more convenient and safer the customer support process will become in the future.

Editor’s Note: James Ramey is CEO of DeviceBits, a software company that services clients through a predictive and personalized understanding of interactive tutorials, adaptive FAQs, Interactive Guides, and Videos designed to for self-serving consumers. For more info visit Device Bits.

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How Your Customer Service Strategy Will Change Beginning in 2017

smartphone weight training

The way brands and retailers have operated their businesses has changed significantly over the years, due to technology such as the Internet, online shopping and mobile devices. However, the way we handle customer questions, complaints and queries has not changed all that much. By and large, your customers still approach brands and retailers by seeking out the customer service desk in-store, or by calling an 800-number to try and resolve an issue.

This is about to change in a radical way.

The consumers of today are tech-savvy, do-it-yourself people. According to a recent survey, 36 percent of consumers now prefer using self-service customer service tools rather than traditional customer service agents. The way consumers shop is changing and brands should be aware of the new tools and trends at hand.

The Changing Shopping Path

It used to be that if a customer had questions while shopping, or a problem after they made their purchase, they would ask a sales associate in the store or call the customer service phone number. Now, customers are seeking alternate ways to get their answers. Customers can simply look up the answers to their questions, compare prices and get other useful information from their mobile devices or laptop computers. This growing trend of consumer self-sufficiency is why brands are looking at revamping their customer service departments and overall customer experience strategies in 2017.

A More DIY Approach To Customer Service

This change in consumer behavior is a natural progression. As technology becomes more readily available in the shoppers’ everyday lives, the need for one-on-one communication with customer service and sales personnel will evolve into different formats. Digital customer service options are more efficient, easier to access and provide a faster response time for customers.

New Tools To Consider

There are a few different tools that are behind this growth in popularity of self-service customer service techniques. Perhaps some of the most popular are artificial intelligence (AI) and self-discovery methods.

AI, in the form of chatbots and other tools, is helping bridge the gap in customer-brand communications. By allowing customers to engage with a brand via SMS messaging, social media messaging and live chat options on a brand’s website, customers can quickly and easily get their questions answered without the complications of sending emails and waiting on hold on a customer care hotline.

Self-service is another rapidly growing customer care trend among shoppers. Self-discovery tools such as interactive tutorials, adaptive FAQ’s, interactive guides and videos contain the simple, DIY answers that customers are looking for. These tools allow the customer to solve most of their problems themselves, putting the power back into the customer’s hands.

The Role of Self-Discovery Applications

Putting these trendy tools to work can be as simple or complex as a brand or retailer wants. The easiest way to get the ball rolling would be to make interactive guides and adaptive FAQ’s for common customer problems and questions. These tools can help customers by providing answer to questions that other customers have previously asked and showing users step-by-step how they can reach a common goal. Other tools such as interactive tutorials and videos can also aid customers in their customer car journey by visually showing them how to resolve a problem.

These tools and technologies are the next big things in the world of customer service. Help your customers help themselves by leveraging the power of the self-service customer care.

Editor’s Note: James Ramey is CEO of DeviceBits, a software company that services clients through a predictive and personalized understanding of interactive tutorials, adaptive FAQs, Interactive Guides, and Videos designed to for self-serving consumers. For more info visit Device Bits.

Knock Your Clients’ Socks Off: 6 Customer Service Musts

Agents who provide superior customer service build bonds with their clients that lead to long-term relationships. Therefore, the service you provide lies at the heart of your referral pipeline. It’s not good enough to be average when it comes to your customers’ experience. There are many agents to choose from, so you have to prevent your clients from looking elsewhere. Make sure that your excitement and desire to work with a customer is matched by your words, your actions and your behavior.

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Put on Your Friendly Face

First impressions are crucial. Whether a client likes you is determined in the first few seconds of meeting. You can have the most professional marketing materials in the world but the test of your likeability and trust comes in the first connection. If early on you aren’t projecting warmth and friendliness, and putting your to-be client at ease quickly, the chances of getting to the next level of a business relationship are reduced.

Text Your Leads

Conventional wisdom says to call a lead, but more than 90 percent of people respond to texts within five minutes. And keep texting and calling them. Research shows that it takes on average six attempts to get a hold of a new client, so your persistence pays off. When you text, make your copy concise and action oriented, such as “I’m setting my appts for the next few days, what day and time would work best for us to meet?”

Communicate All News Good and Bad

If you aren’t brave enough to make a hard phone call, real estate might not be for you. Clients expect you to not be afraid to pick up the phone and deliver bad, conflicting or contrary news. And, the quicker you communicate with a client, the better for all involved. You increase the chances your client will want to use your services again or refer you to others when you demonstrate the ability to communicate bad news effectively.

Learn From Bad Experiences

It’s a good idea in your early interactions with clients to ask them what they didn’t like about their last Realtor. Odds are, the list of what went poorly, or not as the expected, will tell you a lot about how to conduct yourself with the client. Sometimes a complaint might be around communication such as, “My agent would never call me back!” or “My agent didn’t keep me updated.” Take notes of these negatives and use them to inform your responses.

Inform and Educate

Many clients don’t have a clue about what lies ahead in their transaction. It’s important to spend time with them at the very beginning, giving them a short-course on what to expect during their buying or selling process. For example, explain your commission. Many clients think agents are paid a lot for doing little. So explain how it works; how a commission split works, the fees involved, the cost of things like photography and marketing, etc. Make sure they know key terms and people such as what earnest money is, who escrow is, what title does. The more informed they are, the more likely they’ll be positive about the process.

Do the Extras

The key to rising above the crowd is to consistently exceed expectations. Do you roll up your sleeves and stain a fence, perform minor maintenance, plant plants? How about advising clients on how to protect their credit or their identity throughout the transaction? Do you refer and meet contractors at the house, even if the client is there, too? Do you regularly send thank you cards, pay for a bill that might be someone else’s responsibility, or call back with an answer sooner than the client expected? Showing your willingness to step in and get involved. Advising clients on topics that might seem over the top to other agents is a sure-fire way to be a stand-out in your clients’ minds and build a positive reputation.

Note: Even though I’m taking a break, I did say I would create blog posts and share them on social media:

  • If I have something to say
  • If a guest blogger has something to say.

Hope this helps.

Social Media Infographics for the Fourth of July [infographic]

Courtesy of: SurePayroll

The above infographic was suggested by Jamie Flynn TFF-DealingWithAngryCustomersD1_opt The above infographic was created by Dave Landry Jr TFF-M6-SocialMediaEtiquette_opt (1) (1) The above infographic was created by Dave Landry Jr Most of us have been angry customers ourselves. That is, until we worked customer service and experienced verbal brutality that can come with customer service first-hand. Isn’t it interesting how working customer service increases your patience while waiting in line at the grocery store or when your order is incorrect at a restaurant?   Perhaps those who have the most difficult job in customer service are those who work in call centers. Since there is no face-to-face interaction, the possibility of misunderstandings or miscommunications are increased exponentially. It’s also easier for customers to generally be ruder and less patient, as they’re not dealing with anyone in public. Although a recent study by The Daily Beast showed that more call center jobs are being appropriated for domestic workers which will reduce the amount of calls lost in translation abroad, the truth remains: call centers are a pivotal part of customer service.   So since call centers and angry customers are here to stay, have no fear! A Customer Service Reps Bible has been put together with cooperation from global communications and customer service experts TollFreeForwarding.com, highlighting several caveats of successful customer service representatives. Also included: reminders for angry customers to hopefully reduce a little bit of the frustration.   Dave Landry Jr. is a business owner and journalist who has been published in numerous publications. He feels customer service is the touchstone of any successful enterprise, and has recently devoted many of his musings to just that topic.

Is it possible to get a live Boost Mobile customer service rep?

Customer services

Image by gordon2208 via Flickr

Is it possible to get a live Boost Mobile customer service rep?

This is the question I tried answering this week – right after I signed up for Boost Mobile. You can read all about my experience with Boost Mobile. Just check out last week’s blog post.

When I tried to contact customer service via the toll-free number, I got caught in a maze of options. But there are ways of circumventing this maze. It doesn’t matter if the maze belongs to Boost Mobile, AT&T or a host of other big and little telephone mazes. Here’s some things that may help:

  • If you search for the “right keyword combinations”, you will find discussions on technical sites, Yahoo answers, etc., where they will discuss this. All you need to do is look for what the respondents say.
  • Try contracting an “independent” store that carries and sells the product. Ask them if they know a shortcut for getting through to customer service.
  • Depending on the customer service rep answering, they might give you the answer – if you ask.
  • There is a website that does keep up a list of company toll-free numbers, along with the shortcut to get a customer service representative. Here’s what they say: “This is a simple website list that is compiled by the users, internet resources, user suggestions, a lot of research and phone dialing and a lot of unusual methods. Sometimes a company discovers you know the ‘back line’ or shortcut prompts and they change them so that they can ‘keep up employee efficiency’.”

I won’t be giving “specifics” here. If I do, it’s possible Boost Mobile will be reading this blog and just react to the user shortcuts. Then we begin the cycle again with the hackers discovering the new shortcuts. I did try all the avenues I mentioned above. From those who responded, I have multiple ways I can try.

Customer Service Centre

Image by xcode via Flickr

My talk with Boost Mobile on Facebook

Here’s a conversation I initiated with Boost Mobile on Facebook.

Me:

I have Boost Mobile Unlimited and I love the service. But when I call the customer support number, I get the automated system with automated options. How do you get a live person when you are in that automated system.

Boost Mobile:

“You would have to go through the prompts to get an agent through customer service, you can email us at bstsocialcare@sprint.com we would also be able to help you.

Me:

Going through the prompts reminds me of watching Mission Impossible. I find that navigating the prompts to a live agent is “more difficult” than other customer service systems (i.e. Comcast). But I did try the email option and I was surprised that it was very effective. I’ll have to see if I get the same email results in future endeavors.

Who designs these automated phone systems anyway?

I don’t know the answer but I can make an educated guess. It’s probably someone or group from IT that doesn’t know a thing about marketing, psychology or any related discipline. If you want my opinion, the designers can be better served by hiring university psychology researchers or clinical psychologists and pair them with subject matter experts (i.e. marketing for a marketing company, technology for a technology company, etc.). Then you might get a system that works the way a human wants it to work.

Customer Service center at 23d Street downtown...

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A pleasant surprise

I did end up with a pleasant surprise from Boost Mobile. I filled out the customer contact form off their website. I provided an email and phone number (i.e. non Boost Mobile) in the form spaces provided. About two to three hours later, an actual Boost Customer service agent called me. I’m not sure if this will work every time. I’ll try this first before I avoid the system.

I should add I am somewhat tech savvy and won’t contact their customer service on trivia stuff. Boost Mobile is a good addition to my NetTalk, Skype,  Google Voice and ATT bare-bones land line.

 

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The Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader Customer Service Stories

What’s that little extra touch a store can provide? You know! The one that causes you to come back – again and again?

I experienced one this week. And it concerns tires. I’m one who believes in going to a tire place, when I have a tire problem. Forget the dealerships! Throw away the full-service auto mechanics shop. Give me a place devoted

Off-road tire

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to tires. In Illinois, it would be either Just Tires or Discount Tires.

The new free touch is offered by Discount Tires. I don’t know if this is isolated to the local shop, or if it’s part of their national marketing. But they have one service bay open. There’s a sign that says, “free air check – 3 minutes,” or something to that effect.

So I’m eating lunch at the local Chinese, strip mall eating establishment. The weather is getting colder. I need to check the tires. When I exit the restaurant, guess what? There’s the sign~Jeff Foxworthy (i.e. comedian) style.

I pulled into the bay and they checked my tires – all in 3 minutes, as promised.

They rock! Not that Discount Tires is my favorite tire place. I actually like Just Tires better. But they made a dent in me, with this little extra, customer service touch.

They get an A from me for Customer Service

Darth Vader customer service

Then there’s the Taco Bell. Not just any Taco Bell – but a specific one. One off of Route 64, near where I live. I won’t mention who they are. But they are next to an abandoned Harris bank building.

Let me diverge a second. Harris Bank is owned by a Canadian bank, so they are less effected by this recession.

First Taco Bell Restaurant in Cyprus at the My...

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And they are better equipped to loan to small business.

But enough. Back to this Taco Bell. Most Taco Bells have peppermints you can eat. They are great for after dinner mouth refreshing. You find them at most counter.

There are also napkin dispensers. You can obtain all the napkins you want. But not at the one near the abandoned Harris Bank building. They hand you a measly napkin, when they take your order. And there’s not a peppermint in site.

They get an F from me for customer service. And this business is very close to the Discount Tire place mentioned earlier.

Both Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader started small

In the examples of Discount Tires and Taco Bell (i.e. a particular facility), it’s the small touch that entices me towards, or away, from the facility.  Let’s examine some quotes on small things:

  • A small leak can sink a great ship ~ Benjamin Franklin
  • All good work is done the way ants do things, little by little. ~ Lafcadio Hearn
  • All great things are only a number of small things that have carefully been collected together. ~ Anonymous
  • Do little things now; so shall big things come to thee by and by asking to be done. ~ Persian Proverb
  • A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark. ~ Dante (Alighieri)

How about a small virus check, attachment tip?  There’s a service called Virus Total.  You can use this tip at Virus Total Email Attachment Tip.

Let me share a couple blog post responses on other blogs.

A response to a blogger’s post on story telling.

I really like this post today. Perhaps because it’s a bit deeper than the usual XXX post.

Getting the little guy hooked is what clever marketers and copywriters attempt to do. A classic line runs something like this: “Everyone laughed at me, until I sat down to play the piano.” It’s a classic ad and made much money.

I like the fact you write short stories and a novel. Stories are integrated into good marketing materials. If you learn and perfect the art of fictional or non-fictional story telling, it helps you to better craft marketing material. I learned this from being a COD creative writing student, before I started writing marketing materials.

The story matters, as you correctly point out.

I liked the fact you were also a guinea pig. And you had to do the work. Reminds me of me learning internet marketing, via the free XXX (I can’t mention it here, but it’s a challenge you can complete in 30 days).

I’m going to have to visit these summit links you mentioned. It’s probably very good, with all great speakers.

If I was to grade your presentation today, I would give you an A+.

A response to a blogger’s post on emotional appeal

Much of what we buy today is based upon emotional appeal. People buy for different emotional needs, which the skilled marketer needs to tap into – be it greed, fear, etc.

Often, the skilled marketing writer will paint picture stories, putting the reader into the story. Image how this car will make you feel more important, with a better sense of class status, etc. This is often coupled with product benefit approaches.

Know your audience! You alluded to this in your post. Much of this depends on research. Perhaps surveying customers, hanging around forums where you target audience is, etc.

You know what the most important point is (in my opinion)? Cultivating customers for the long hall. I won’t buy any products on-line, where the company is flagged by the “Web of Trust” (i.e. Google for more info), or has a bad Better Business Bureau rating. Companies out for the long hall will try to satisfy customers for repeat future purchases.

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company …simply by spending his money somewhere else.”~Sam Walton

I should add a note here. A few days ago, I saw an ABC news clip entitled, “BBB Wants Money For Rating.” If you query Google for “abc news bbb,” you will find it. It’s too early to tell of BBB is doing anything wrong, but I’ll be watching future story updates.

 

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NetTalk and MagicJack – Some Leftovers

A Router Tip

There’s an interesting answer to why use a router, found in the newsletter at terryscomputert…. The author recommends using a router to enhance security, even if you only have one computer. Here’s what they say – in part:

“A cable/DSL router isolates your computer from direct connection to the Internet. Your computer can easily request your email, web pages, etc. through the router. The responses come back to the router and are smoothly routed to your computer. But, someone on the Internet side of the router can not initiate a connection to your computer — they can only respond to your request.”

Back to NetTalk shipping

Remember that UPS package I got? Well, I thought it might be from NetTalk – I was wrong. It was from my local bank. It would be so much easier if NetTalk shipped all US products by Priority Mail with Electronic Delivery Confirmation or UPS Ground. Of course, if you want this, you must pay them an extra $12. That’s in addition to the $10 already paid.

I have talked with Customer Service and the US postal service in Carol Stream, Illinois (USA).  Apparently NetTalk shipped it by UPS and UPS transferred it to the postal service.  Carol Stream is a regional postal service.  I was given a USPS tracking number, but the postal service hasn’t received it from UPS.  NetTalk has shipped me a second device and I’ve signed up for email tracking on device #1.

Another mystery here!  I called the local UPS store.  They haven’t heard of UPS transferring packages to USPS.  But I did find a story confirming UPS-USPS at http://is.gd/epjue.  A bit of searching on the web found USP mail innovations – this is the name of the UPS/USPS mailing hybrid service.

  • NetTalk customer service claims that UPS delivered the first shipment to Carol Stream on August 14, 2010
  • The Carol Stream post offices claims they haven’t received a shipment, when I gave them the NetTalk supplied tracking number, on August 19, 2910.
  • The USPS email tracking said they received the package on August 20, 2010.
  • I did receive the device on August 20, 2010.  I have set the device up and activated the phone service.
  • I have called NetTalk to stop the second delivery or just return the package.  They are mailing me a return label and a code to put on the package.  I’ll drop it off at the local UPS store.
  • What can go wrong in delivering an item from UPS to USPS in the same city?  I can only conclude that the package sat in a UPS Carol Stream facility for 7 days, before being delivery to the Carol Stream USPS.

NetTalk Has Video Soft-phone?

As Jerry Seinfeld would say – what’s up with that? Nothing, really. Except that Skype has been working on – and perfecting – a video soft phone for a while now. Can NetTalk really compete with Skype?

Updated Drivers and MagicJack

I’ve ordered Driver Detective and have updated my drivers – it’s worth the $30 fee. Of course, there are other vendors. But I like this vendor because:

  1. I’ve used them before.
  2. They are a Microsoft certified partner.
  3. They are a BBB accredited business with an A+ rating.

I have a PC I got a year ago. Recently, I bought Driver Detective for around $30. Now other software vendors offer similar PC Driver software, at the same price. After I upgraded all my drivers (which included the sound drivers), my sound quality went from mediocre to excellent – just a thought.

I should add that Driver Detective and similar competing vendors offer a license for 10 computers – just put in the registration code.

It makes my PC run better – But! And I do have a big but here! It did nothing to stop my Skype/MagicJack conflict, written about in last week’s blog post.

Company Acquisition of MagicJack

Here’s some interesting news I found about MagicJack, while looking at the COD Hoovers tonight. I’m looking at the VocalTec Communications entry out of Israel, which had $6.9 million in sales in 2009. “In July 2010 the company acquired YMax, maker of the popular magicJack phone product and service. ” Great – a strong company is now behind MagicJack – I think

Does that mean that the MagicJack customer service will improve? Or will it be the same as the NetTalk shipping policy? Stay tuned.

Improving Creativity

I’ll leave the reader with an exercise I use to improve creativity and thought process. Take 5 diverse books and read them. Let me suggest 5 you can get from http://www.amazon.com or your local public library:

  1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  2. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  3. The Morning of The Magicians by Louis Pauwels
  4. Dune by Frank Herbert
  5. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Try this and report back to me.

Well, this creativity exercise is more useful that a certain project road map.  This small business owner hired me and another vendor to help with marketing.  The other vendor came up with a project road map, of things he plans on doing. Only one problem – no project start, end and milestone dates.  This is something that apparently doesn’t bother the person who hired him.  How good is such a roadmap? What’s that old cliché?  “About as useful as a screen-door on a submarine.”

I know! I know! You want to hear more about my NetTalk testing.  Perhaps next week?