It’s a brave new world of customer service. It’s called “social customer service” and it doesn’t mean you can do away with your 1-800 number or your legion of call center agents. But it does mean there are a lot more ways to help your customers. This includes social networking on Facebook and Twitters, and communities where you can offer knowledge bases, ideation, games to reward participation and much more. The options are as varied as your customers.
To give you an idea of how your different customers like to interact with this world of social customer service, let’s talk a walk along Sesame Street and meet the people that we see each day.
Ernie: Ernie is your typically chatty Cathy. He likes to ask a lot of questions and interact with all kinds of people. So when he has a problem like why his rubber ducky keeps taking on water or what’s the best bath temperature so rubber ducky doesn’t get ruined, he’ll ask a question on Twitter or your Facebook page – actually Facebook is one of his favorite places find information and help others.
Bert: Bert’s Ernie best friend, but he’s the opposite of Ernie. He’s a bookworm (bird books are his favorite), and not overtly social. Most of his time is spent with his nose in a book, so when he has a problem, his favorite places to look for answers include your online help support or the knowledge base in your branded community. While it’s important to first find the answer he needs, his love of learning means that if you can point him to other related information like the best bird seed to put out in the winter, or where the bald eagle raises its young, you’ll have a customer for life.
Big Bird: Big Bird is the most active customer in your branded community. He is the one everyone comes to for help. He listens and helps out where ever he can. He is considered the most knowledgeable person on a variety of topics including birds, bathing and dealing with imaginary friends. Big Bird is the customer you need to pay a lot of attention to and reward well, because without him, your community would be a much quieter place.
Mr Snuffaluffagus: Snuffy is a pretty intelligent fellow, but he keeps to himself. Called shy by some, Snuffy likes to think up really cool ideas; which means if you have a way for him to make suggestions he’ll spend a lot of time there. He also likes to comment and vote on other people’s ideas. A lot of people have heard about him and appreciate all the good comments, but no one is really sure who he is.
Elmo: Ah, yes, Elmo – the happy -go-lucky little red fella who’s always giggling and happy. Elmo’s not the most knowledgeable guy, but he loves games, so whenever he can he helps out in your community providing the best information and ideas he can, commenting and voting where appropriate, hoping to win a badge or two, or earn points to put towards a discount on your products.
Maria & Louis: This husband and wife team is a bit old school. When they have a problem they still prefer to talk to someone on the phone. But at the same they understand that sometimes it’s the people around them who can help answer their questions the fastest. So while they don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, they do visit your branded community every once in a while to ask a question or do some research.
Oscar the Grouch: Oscar is your worst nightmare and potentially your biggest ally. When he has a problem you’ll know it, because he tweets it to all his friends and then he heads to your Facebook page and gives you an earful. It’s not that Oscar is a trouble-maker, it’s just that he has a problem and he wants it fixed, and to be honest, your call center agent wasn’t the most helpful person in the world (I think they made some comment about people who live in garbage cans and Oscar really didn’t appreciate that). Oscar is also the guy, that once he gets his problem solved, by you or another customer, he will let people know the answer and say nice things about you (although maybe a little grudgingly).
There are so many other people (or muppets) who live on Sesame Street who will interact with you in different ways. Most of them are helpful and want to pass their knowledge along. These are the customers you want to reach out and bring into your community, because they will help make it a success. Social customer service is about implementing new tools and technologies to provide information and support in new “social” ways. It’s also about customer “self-service” and providing ways for customers to help each other. I’ve never been a big fan of call centers personally, so this idea of customers helping customers is something I can very much relate to.
If you asked me which Sesame Street character I relate best to, it’s a cross between Bert and Snuffy, but if you asked, I would help you out any day. I’m just that kind of customer.
Barb Mosher is a guest columnist for MindTouch and Managing Editor for CMSWire.com. You can follow Barb on Twitter @bmosherzinck