This is the third of a four-week series on how to make customer service your most effective community broadband marketing tool.
Last week I talked about the tech prep needed to get your customer service house in order and increase your odds for community broadband success. This week we should talk about the business communications prep that’s also needed. And as I’ve said repeatedly, this work starts long before the network launches.
To turn customer service into a righteously awesome marketing tool, you need a creation orientation rather than a problem-solving orientation. Much of broadband is driven by the latter. “We have a problem – broadband sucks. We don’t have enough money. The cable guy is always late. Subscribers are on hold for an eternity. Customer service becomes endless exercises in conflict resolution. It’s difficult to be proactive in this type of environment plus you miss many of the marketing benefits customer service could produce.
Conversely, using a creation orientation enables you to make something that bigger, better, more awesome than what has gone before. Applied to customer service, rather than focus on building a faster “problem-solving” operations, how about creating an organization-wide culture of service that’s frequently ahead of customers’ wants and needs. Subscribers look forward to working with you rather than dreading the call.
First order of business is to create and coordinate as many ways of communicating with subscribers as possible. If you drill into your entire staff’s minds that any opportunity to communicate with the customer is an opportunity to provide some sort of service, you’re reasonably assured of tapping into a myriad of communication vehicles.
Newsletters, printed and online versions, public meetings, e-mail, text messages and the old marketing standby – printed flyers – are some of the conventional channels that give you an opportunity to deliver messages and gather feedback. There should be a plan to participate in every special event big and small (county fairs, expositions, as well as the run of the mill standard meetings such as town halls and city council. During the slow periods in the year, create your own meetings to tackle broadband issues.
Social media is the way of the future in communication, but not all social media is alike. Recruit some college kids to help you understand how to act and interact in each network: Twitter, Facebook, Redit, Pinterest and on and on. Again, you’re establishing a way of distributing info and gathering valuable market feedback. Then there are the communication channels you may not even view as such. Truck rolls to fix problems, invoices, turning on services all are opportunities to interact with subscribers.
I mentioned in the previous post that the needs assessment is key in determining how to build a network that minimizes problems and complaints because the process yields data you can use to better predict short- and long-term usage of the network. But from a creation orientation, you should also use that data to create services and service plans that meets as much as it anticipates needs. The communications channels I’ve listed are how you deliver the details on those services, and gather feedback that shapes future services.
In practical terms, the same way that magazines and other media maintain schedules of topics their content will address, broadband operators need to maintain a “schedule” of current and proposed services that will be pushed out through these channels. If your network team comes up with a new way to optimize network performance in the home, everything from the newsletter to invoices and a promo booth at a county fair should have this information. The net result? Customers increase loyalty because they see these types of announcements as great proactive services. If on-going research reveals that hospitals and doctors are main users of the network, use various channels to communicate specific ways medical professionals can maximize the network, thus delivering more proactive services.
Obviously a lot of work has to go into the planning to so best leverage communication technology such as text messaging that promotes your customer service offerings and implements customer service tasks. “You must consider the technology’s impact on the costs, efficiency of delivery and brand perception associated with these tasks,” states Mike Roddy, COO of NuTEQ. “And of course, you have to assess text messaging’s impact on your market image: are you easy to do business with, does it contribute to you staying price competitive, does it enable you to offer greater value than your competitor.”
To determine if SMS text messages will complement your planned customer care platform, ask yourself these questions:
- Do we receive routine calls from customers asking for account balance, payment due dates, payment confirmation, copies of invoices, appointment times/dates, or outage status? Is there an easier, less costly way to deliver this information?
- Would customers value proactive account notices (balance due, payment received, etc.)? Would more customers use electronic billing if we delivered account information through SMS?
- Do we routinely survey our customers? What is the response rate? If we had real-time access to survey results, such as GOCare makes possible, could we make timely decisions and improve customer satisfaction?
- Are any of our competitors using SMS to communicate with their customers?
All of you technology decisions and communication strategies should based on feedback and research in the marketplace. For example, a recent ChaCha mobile survey showed that 52% of customers preferred texting for customer communications with a service provider, and 80% believed a text message could help them avoid issues like late fees.