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Marsha Collier is a speaker, teacher, and writer of many business books, including a series of "..For Dummies" books about Ebay and online retail in general. She is Social Media Spokesperson at The Collier Company, Inc. based in Los Angeles.

 I asked Marsha what she was busy with these days.

Marsha: There’s lots on my plate, but one thing I’m working on is a new business book, The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide: How to Connect with Your Customer to Sell More! 

Selling is part of every profession. My book does not apply just to retailers. Doctors, for example, are in the business of sales as well a healing. (healing being their product). The Hippocratic Oath says they should serve their patient. Service: the key to satisfaction.

The most successful marketer becomes part of the lives of their followers. They follow back. They wish happy birthday. They handle problems their customers have with products or service. They grow their businesses and brands by involving themselves in their own communities.

Craig: There are some great examples of that. I Tweeted recently about cutting my thumb, and busy business owners responded with first aid suggestions. Kindness of "strangers" goes a long way. For people who don’t see the value in this kind of interaction, what are they missing?

Marsha: What is missing in the message is that today’s Social Media (and new media) is a vehicle for connection and engagement: the desire to build communities to serve an unlimited number of customers. Gone are the days of "owning" your customer with loyalty programs.

The need today is good, old-fashioned, high quality customer service. All the newest technology can deliver it better than ever. If, as a businessperson, you’re not willing to go the extra mile for your customer; then all the social media in the world won’t bring loyalty. To win customers today, you need a combination of new-age transparency and good old fashioned customer engagement.

Craig: What are some of the biggest customer service mistakes you see made in online retail? 

Marsha: Have you ever been to a site where there are more "calls to action" then there are benefits to the visitor? You must give the customer a reason to be there. This is merely customer haranguing instead of community building. Building a community, making a place where your customers feel comfortable to return is what customers need today. Rather than broadcasting your advertising messages (painfully often on a daily schedule), why not approach your customer with a valid comment that makes them feel like you’ve planned this sale/event/message *just* for them. 

Craig: How should those mistakes be counteracted? 

Marsha: By getting back to basics, RESPECTING your customer. Any business will benefit by remembering the rule.. "do unto others.." Corporate CS "tactics" and Social Media tools are great – but only when used to connect the business to the customer in a one-on-one way. Perhaps not answer every follower on Twitter – but at least – follow back! By your following they can make the subtle connection immediately. Tools to manage the Twitter conversations can streamline the efficiency of monitoring the feed. Placing replies to @ remarks is wonderful acknowledgement to the public, but the simple act of following back goes even further. 

Craig: How do you respond to people who wonder how fuzzy things like "engagement" and "connection" make an impact on the bottom line? How do you measure that? 

MarshaFuzzy things? Are they really that fuzzy? They may be fuzzy to those who depend on charts and graphs to gauge their customer interaction. Humanity must be returned to business. We’re all human, customers, employees and management. We are all driven by the same basic desires; one of which is hoping to be respected in the course of a day. Measurement is by employees staying with the company longer, customers coming back and publically voicing their pleasure in doing business; and management spending time to improve their products – versus manipulating the customer.


To learn more about Marsha and her work, here’s a handy profile or follow her on Twitter: (she might just follow you back!)