By Mark Kersteen - October 22nd, 2015

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Insights from Hyatt Hotels, Time Warner Cable, and Conversocial at #CSMCS

Customer service is finally being unlocked as brand-building powerhouse. No longer seen as begrudged cost and necessary evil, big and small companies from an array of industries are finding ways to use service and care to delight companies and grow the business.

Thus far, the Incite Customer Service Summit has been a masterclass on how top brands are succeeding by making customer happiness their first priority.

Time Warner Cable has not always been at the top of the list for “Best Customer Service”, but Stephanie Anderson, Chief Marketing Officer of TWC Business Services, has been working with the company to not only rehaul their customer experience, but how customers perceive that experience.

In the last year, Time Warner has drastically cut their call waiting times, and allow you to leave a time for a customer service agent to call you back. They also offer hour-long windows for technicians to arrive for service, so you don’t have to waste an entire day waiting around. Plus, they’ll even tell you how long your appointment is going to take beforehand. How was this turn-around possible?

“Three years ago we overhauled all of our data storage systems. It wasn’t glamorous, but it sure was necessary. We had to make sure we had the right data sources, and that all of this was connecting back to a customer profile. But since then, we’ve been able to implement campaign management, including sending profiles of customer to salespeople ahead of time. This has been extremely useful, as more than 60 percent of the sales process has already been completed by the customer before they even speak to a salesperson.”

However, marketers like Stephanie don’t necessarily ‘own’ the customer service function within the organization. What role do they play in shaping customer care?

“The tone, demeanor, and way everyone within an organization reacts with everyone externally is marketing. We have cross-functional teams for each area, so we’re working closely, but marketing doesn’t prescribe what’s best for other teams. They do tell them what to say, and how to say it. It’s a blend, not ownership. It’s about setting the tone, how the brand is going to be perceived. It’s not about controlling every aspect.”

According to Dan Moriarty, Director of Digital Strategy and Activation for Hyatt Hotels, agrees: “It’s less about ownership, but what your skillset is, and where the resources are to overcome your challenge. We have to work together to tackle problems.”

It’s no surprise that a multinational hotel corporation like Hyatt puts such a priority on making their guests happy—and, they have a novel approach:

“We don’t see ourselves as a hospitality company. We see ourselves as providing care. We try to understand why you’re staying with us, and help you be the best at what you do while you’re there. It’s not service, but care. Empathy + action = care.”

This means really listening-to and acting on your customers’ preferences, down to the smallest details.

“We had one high-value customer who made a comment to a staff member that they always untucked the sheets as soon he got to his hotel room, because he hated the tight hospital corners you get on hotel beds. Now, the sheets in his room are always untucked.”

However, this kind of personalization can also backfire.

“We had another guest who hated green apples. Detested them. Couldn’t even stand to look at them. She’d throw them away as soon as she got into her room. Now, housekeeping take note of what is and isn’t used in room, and since all the green apples were disappearing, they kept sending more. Later, this guest was part of a customer feedback program, and made an offhand comment about hating green apples and wondering why she always got so many. Well, an agent looked at her preferences and said, ‘but here it says you love green apples!’”

When it comes to mastering customer service, it’s that kind of empathy that is key, according to Dan:

“Empathy is different for each person. It’s about teaching employees to have a conversation, to record preferences, and to act on them in a way that isn’t creepy—not saying, ‘Welcome, I see you like green apples!’.”

Josh March, CEO of Conversocial, who works with a lot of brands, had a wide angle view of where modern companies are succeeding with service, and where they aren’t.

“The question you need to ask is, are you offering a real resolution over social? Too many companies are responding, but not fixing issues. Too many companies push customers off of social to private channels, or are unable to take private details. However, there’s a massive amount of data that says first contact resolution is a huge contributor to a positive customer experience.”

There are other small stumbling blocks holding back brands’ customer service as well:

“A lot of companies are trying to do customer service with marketing tools. These give you no real understanding of response times or SLAs. Trying to do social care with marketing tools is like trying to do enterprise email support with Gmail.”

However, Josh has also seen customer service come a long way, and the function has never been better set-up for success.

“Teams of agents are much more highly-powered. They have real responsibility and respect within the enterprise, which they never had before. How do you scale 10 skilled, smart agents to 100? It’s easy to work with a crack team, but growing that investment and making it pay off is a whole other proposition. I hope that customer service continues to become a more empowered, highly trained part of the business.”

Clearly, customer service is growing as it becomes more possible to deliver seamless, personalized service. The biggest challenge is going to be providing this to even more customer, and building what you learn into even more parts of the business.  

The Social Media for Customer Service Summit 2013

October 2013, New York

How you can leverage social media for a more effective customer service function and better customer insight

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