How May I Help You? 2.0

We've all seen them. Most of us have even been one — an angry customer. Marketers have been dealing with disgruntled customers for some time, and most have gotten pretty good at finding solutions for their unsatisfied customers. However, things have changed.

Web 2.0 -- including social networks, blogs, forums, boards and other social media -- has entered the scene, and customers aren't always letting marketers know when there’s a problem like they used to. They’re opening up to other customers like themselves when a marketer slips instead.

Consumers complaining to others and spreading negative word of mouth can leave marketers intimidated by social media because of the fear of losing control over the brand. The fact is that consumers are going to talk to each other about brands whether brands like it or not. Web 2.0 takes brand control away, so the best strategy is to adopt a Customer Service 2.0 strategy.

What is a marketer to do when they are called out in front of the Internet world by a social media user? To be honest, it’s really quite simple. Customer Service 2.0 begins with the same things as Customer Service 1.0, understanding and a willingness to fix the problem.

Five Elements of a Successful Customer Service 2.0 Strategy
Here are 5 elements of a successful Customer Service 2.0 strategy (and don’t be surprised if they remind you of Customer Service 1.0):

1.) Listen
Marketers cannot hear negative comments if they aren’t listening. Keeping an ear to the ground and monitoring what the Web has to say about a brand is the base of a Customer Service 2.0 strategy.

Listening can be simple. Subscribe to Google alerts, search for your brand on Twitter, check Facebook for negative groups about your brand and keep an eye on YouTube.

The Internet is a big place, and keeping an eye on everything is very difficult, especially for a marketer new to the social media scene.  However, implementing some simple tactics for listening will help solve the problems of some disgruntled customers, and the customers who you solve a problem for are more likely to defend you when they come across negativity themselves.

2.) Don’t let problems linger.
One disgruntled customer can become an angry mob…quickly. Establishing a team that can respond to problems fast is important. Otherwise, one angry customer becomes more

3.) Be reachable.
Make sure that customers can reach someone who can solve their problem. Too often, customers are transferred back-and-forth before they reach someone who can help them.

Give customers a way to reach you through several different channels, and ensure that whoever is on the other end is capable of helping.

Your customers will probably try to reach out to you before social media to solve a problem, and not being reachable only increases frustration.

4.) Empower your employees.
Employees are the face of a brand, and empowering them to solve customer problems by any means necessary is a big part of Customer Service 2.0.

Employees that feel empowered and obligated to solve customer problems no matter what have better morale and a drive to put a smile on a customer’s face, which, of course, means happier customers who will spread positive word of mouth.

Make your employees customer problem solvers, and your customers will love you for it.

5.) Be thankful.
I know that an angry customer seems undesirable, but they are doing you a favor. They are bringing a problem to your attention, making your business that much better.

Thank them for their concerns, and find a solution for them. Chances are that the solution will benefit a lot of other customers who chose to remain silent.

An angry customer helps a marketer solve the problems of more than one.

Big Rewards
This sounds like an investment, and it is. However, the investment is necessary. Social media has put what a brand stands for in the hands of the consumer, and investing in a Customer Service 2.0 strategy is investing in the integrity of the brand.

The reward for marketers who establish a Customer Service 2.0 strategy is loyal customers and brand evangelists. An angry customer whose problem is solved can become a brand evangelist who steps up to the plate when it comes to defending your brand against negativity. The fact that you are actively trying to solve the problems of customers will encourage them to give you the benefit of the doubt when you do (and you will) slip.

Social media is about relationships, and Customer Service 2.0 is all about maintaining those in-store relationships online, where your customers are spending much more of their time.