Technology makes our lives simpler. It opens doors and allows us to communicate with our customers in engaging and productive ways. It connects us with people we could only dream of meeting before Skype or Twitter or email came along.
And yet it can be the single thing standing between us and creating a good experience for our customers.
There are two sides to every coin, and while it’s important to focus on using technology to positive effect, it pays to remember there’s a dark side, too.
Here are three ways that tech is standing between you and your customers and maybe even costing you business, plus some tips to combat the downsides with a little bit of attention.
1. The Great, Big Ether Of The Internet
A contact form on your website is vital. Without one, you’re limiting yourself to doing business with people who are willing to call – most often between 9AM and 5PM – and leaving out all those people like me who do most of their searching at night and want to shoot off a request with the expectation that someone will follow up within a day or two.
Having a contact form is a positive effect of technology.
But where contact forms go off the rails is when they fail to actually contact you.
The problem with forms is that they are not guaranteed to work forever, and yet that’s exactly how most businesses treat them. We pop them on our websites then sit back and wait for the emails. We focus on things like SEO, funnels and calls to action and forget the most fundamental failure point of all: technology.
I heard from someone recently who had not gotten an email from his site in months. He was overwrought, wondering what he could do to improve conversions. And the answer turned out to be very simple: fix the contact form!
A small change in technology had broken his. And so we will never know how many leads he lost or customers he annoyed because they submitted a form that went into the great Internet Ether.
Few things will kill customer experience like being ignored. We may have every good intention of being attentive and responsive but if we never get those forms we’ll never be able to prove our worth. Our customer’s perception will be of us as poor communicators, providing poor customer service. It’s too easy to lose business to a failed form.
The good news is it’s too easy not to fix. The solution is to test your own forms on a regular basis. That may be once a month, once a week or even every day. Trust me, filling out a few fields with a quick click of the submit button is not asking too much, especially if it means the difference between winning customers and losing business.
While you’re at it, check your spam folder to be sure your forms aren’t going there. Set up some filters or rules that direct important forms to a special folder, or apply a special tag. That way you can ensure that you won’t miss a single one.
2. Lost In Limbo
Voicemail is a life saver. Many days I don’t answer the phone at all, whether because I’m meeting with customers or prospects, in the middle of a project or otherwise focused on something else. I love being able to call people back when my attention is 100% focused on the call, rather than picking up the phone half-distracted and attempting to juggle mindsets.
But on the flip side are all the things that can go wrong between “Hello, this is…” and our ability to process that call.
I’ll give you two examples from my experience, both with one simple solution.
Our business voicemail has a single inbox. Since there are only a couple of us in our office, that’s not a terrible thing, but it did lead to some confusion early on. When someone called for me, I returned the call. But if it wasn’t for me, I ignored it. Unfortunately, the effect of listening to a voicemail marked it as “listened to” and long story short, that lead to a lot of, “But I thought you answered that call… no I thought you answered that call…”
Like many things, it was a huge failure point that turned out to have an easy fix. We simply made sure we had a process for listening to and responding to voicemails. We agreed that I would be responsible for listening to voicemails and that I would assign a task to anyone who needed to respond to one.
Our voicemails also get emailed to us. When that featured was implemented, I stopped listening to voicemails altogether. Now I read them instead. And I’d be lying if I said that was always a good idea!
The problem with the email voicemails is that my inbox can get very full. Sometimes I miss emails. Sometimes I forget them. Sometimes I accidentally delete the one I wanted to keep instead of the junk mail sitting right next to it. When that happens to a customer voicemail it can be a very bad thing. If it happens to a prospect voicemail you can kiss that business goodbye.
In the hierarchy of customer experience, ignoring a phone call is worse than ignoring an email. In many ways we expect email to be more impersonal, less reliable. But when we call someone, we fully expect a response.
“I accidentally deleted your voicemail because I thought it was another ad from Walmart” is not an excuse for poor customer experience.
The solution again is process. Email filters, tags or just checking the verbal voicemail will resolve what can amount to a huge problem if left unattended.
The simple solution to most service fails is simply having a process in place and following it. It might take you a few extra minutes to be thorough but consider the alternative – offended customers, bad perception, lost business.
3. The Anti-Social Side Of Social
There’s a particular company that I do business with (more because lack of competition forces me to than because I want to) that is impossible to deal with on the phone.
Whatever the reason for my call, I get caught in a lengthy queue, often rerouted to the wrong division, only to find a rep who can’t answer my question or solve my problem.
I’ve learned that whenever I need to resolve an issue with this company, I take it to social media. Whether because they are afraid of public ramifications or they have simply trained their social media staff better than their phone staff, I can’t say. But what I can say is that I get results on social media, almost immediately, almost every time.
That sounds like a good thing, right?
Well, the good part is that this company has found a way to make social media work from a customer service standpoint.
But there’s a flip side, too. And the flip side is that social has gotten in the way of human interaction. Sometimes I don’t want to tweet at a logo. Sometimes I want a live human being on the phone to discuss an issue, a live human being to answer my questions, a live human being to make me feel like another live human being.
Too many companies use social media to replace human interaction rather than to enhance it. When our customers’ last resort is to post on our Facebook timeline because we aren’t engaging them properly via phone, email or even in person, that’s a catastrophic business failure.
The solution is almost too obvious to say out loud: don’t let that happen! Remember that social media is a tool. One channel of communication. You can use it to make yourself more available to customers, to make it easier for customers to communicate with you, even to help build your relationships in 140-character snippets.
But always keep it where it belongs – as far as I’m concerned, at the bottom of the experience pyramid. If you want to create a positive experience for your prospects and customers, it’s important that you don’t rely solely, or even mostly, on social media.
How was that for a bit of a soapbox rant? Have you seen any of these get in the way of your experience, either on the business side or the customer side? And can you add to the list? I’d love to hear about your experiences!