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Social client services, going real-time

Dealing with client problems to their 100% satisfaction is the nirvana of all client services departments. It’s a constant challenge to balance the expectation of the inward flow of issues and the actual work of fixing things that are broken. We’re all told “it’s about communication” and that’s where a social-based focus has helped us enormously.

Clients are people masquerading under a corporate banner – they are still human beings and that’s the way to deal with them. As people. If you’re quoting contract clauses and response times then you might win today’s battle but you’ll lose the war. Be honest, a little white lie now can easily come back to haunt you and, in our experience, if you are transparent about the problems then you’ll find a friend and ally in the client. That’s a sweet place to be and takes some earning.

Clients expect value from you, and that frequently extends beyond the terms of your agreement; you need to be on their side and working with them. The issue is usually to do with a product or service and our business model, like many others, is moving towards being an aggregator of services, tools, products and experiences. Fixing the product, on it’s own, is not the best solution. You should create a collaborative solution to the problem and share the progress with the stakeholders, transparently.

We use Zendesk to share and discuss issues internally and externally, there are thousands of alternative solutions out there. We, also, need to create a dialogue that works the way the client does; some want email, some love Zendesk, others want to use different platforms such as Basecamp, Desk.com, Twitter or a myriad of other systems. Providing discrete support channels is wasteful, duplicating effort and, potentially, losing knowledge value between systems so we have a central knowledge hub on Zendesk that allows clients to use whatever method they feel comfortable with and can even swap around channels by using APIs.

By approaching client services in this way, we create the ability to monitor what clients do and say to one another across communication and social platforms, accessing unbiased feedback and behavioural data on scale that simply wasn’t available 10 years ago. What we learn from this is revolutionising how we work, how we communicate and, critically, how we market our service experience.

As we transform our brand away from being a Web Development House and evolve into a Digital Aggregator we’re sweeping away traditional organisational structures, tired processes and employee-management-client drama triangles and empowering folks to “do the right thing“. It’s about trusting human nature. It’s very liberating and, at the same time, quite shocking to get an honest client-side view of what we do. We’re on the journey and we’ve still got some way to go but the nature of the client conversation has changed and we must adjust the tone and articulation of our message to echo the social environment.

By Penny Driscoll