If you caught the spot Ogilvy created for Time Warner Cable during last month’s Super Bowl, you saw a suburban family indifferent to The Walking Dead’s Darryl shooting walkers in the living room. This reminded me of something else I’d spotted recently. Another cable company chose to abandon all attempts at providing customer service via social channels. They cited the low number of customers touched via social, and that they preferred to focus on one-to-one interactions. My immediate reaction to this move was, after a long sigh, that those of us determined to provide customers with a better experience still have a lot of work to do.
I am not here to make the argument that it’s impossible to provide excellent customer service without a social care team. In fact, other brands, like BMW, are now embracing Apple’s Genius model, where customers are driven to a consultative face-to-face experience that drives deeper engagement. However, none of this is a zero-sum game, and it’s unlikely that avoidance is a viable long-term strategy.
So, I thought it might be interesting to explore how avoiding customers is behavior from another time, when brands thought terms like “call avoidance” and “cost center” littered every turn of a customer journey. A time when we treated customers like, well, zombies.
The Do and Don’ts of
Zombie Customer Care Strategy
1. Don’t Think of Your Customers as a Hoard
Brands are investing resources in analytics and the ability to marketing to customers not only by their particular segments, but also by their individual journeys. Don’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach when these customers approach you for service. This will create a disconnect, where the promise of becoming a customer is soon undone by the reality of being one.
2. Don’t Wall Yourself Off
By barricading yourself behind a call center that you don’t ever set foot in, self-service that you don’t optimize for relevancy, and a labyrinth of 800 numbers, you may keep service costs down, but you will lose the voice of the customer inside your enterprise, and an invaluable warning system of customer dissatisfaction.
3. Don’t Panic
Nothing can be more frightening to a corporate office than a real live customer who shows up in the lobby with a service issue. “Help! Who do we have who can talk to this person?” This fear is similar to brands that are afraid of misspeaking while learning how to provide social customer care. Keep calm. Remember that you are dealing with fellow human beings, and your worst crime would be to be display a zombie-like silence or numbness to their situation.
4. Do Be Agile
Some zombies move fast, some move like sloths. Some customers want to Tweet you and some want to talk. Don’t force them to interact with you on your terms. An old best practice was that you helped the person using the channel by which they had contacted you. Perhaps now, a call leads to an email with follow-up points tailored to the customer and the conversation you had.
5. Do Keep Innovating
Although your instinct may be to hunker down and play it face-to-face, using social media forces wielded by your customers, all provides you with an opportunity learn more about them via a listening post, creating a robust community, influencers engagement, and other forward-leaning efforts.
And to show you that this is all possible, take our great friends at Time Warner Cable, who remain on the leading edge of social customer care. Jeff Simmermon and Phil Blum of @TWCableHelp provide passion, dedication, and a sense of humor to their work as leaders in social care. This case study of their work remains pinned to our desktop as a daily reminder of how a large brand can be nimble and responsive.
I was moderated a panel for Social Media Week at Ogilvy & Mather New York last week with Jeff and Phil and others in a merry band of customer-focused thinkers and doers. See it live below.