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We’ll come to you.

It’s easier than ever to find out what consumers are talking about when it comes to your company or type of business today. Log online and run a Google Search, or a Twitter search - better yet, program Google Alerts with your company name or the name of your products and voila’. Not only that, but it is even easier to offer help proactively.

When using social media tools such as Twitter, you have the ability to listen to conversations and connect with your customers with an immediacy you may not even had at the corner store. Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers and messages.

If you want to learn what anyone is saying about a specific company on Twitter, start here. Enter "Skype customer service," for example and you will find what everyone is saying about the company in real time. It looks like the company is having a hard time delivering good service. what would you do if you were them?

Since it is so easy t find out what your customers are experiencing, it is more than surprising that companies are not taking advantage of these tools to become more visibly engaged in how they support their customers. It has long been my belief that customer service is the new marketing.

Customers are watching and they are talking. Are you part of the conversation?

I canvassed my network on Twitter to find out how businesses innovate their way out of a rut in customer service. The three best answers:

  • John Marino at BRIO Publishing: we have challenges answering the phone so I offered $50 (cash in hand) to the person who answers the most calls. Employees felt if it wasn't ringing in their department, they didn't have to answer. The contest is weekly for all calls. It works!
  • Sam Decker, CMO, Bazaarvoice: We have clients using UGC (reviews & answers) to train customer service, change policies, & respond to influencers.
  • Mike Brewer: the more a company can put themselves out there by way of inviting feedback the better. And, if they utilize sites like Yelp in lieu of an internal feedback system, it suddenly has more merit. If you were to place a link or url address to Yelp on every piece of marketing material it would both invite and encourage people to participate in a conversation. In a perfect world that conversation would yield countless ways that you might serve your respective customer better. In a perfect world it would draw them into a participative and collaborative relationship that would not only yield better ways to serve but evangelist for your brand.

Seek feedback, communicate with your customers about what you are doing to fix problems, find ways to be proactive, and make yourself accountable - 2009 will be the year of execution.

Valeria Maltoni | Conversation Agent