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April 26, 2013
This is a tale of social customer service. The main characters in this story are Bluehost, the company that hosts my website, and me, the customer. Our "happy marriage" has lasted about 4 years, but now we are on the rocks because my website keeps going down. In frustration, I send out this tweet:
A mere seven minutes later, the strangest thing happens. Bluehost sends me a two-tweet response. No, not two tweets. That wouldn't be quite as strange. Bluehost has sent me one 280-character response that's been broken mid-sentence into two 140-character tweets. And in my inbox and my Twitter Interactions, the second one showed up first.
Why a 280-Character Customer Service Tweet is a Bad Idea
Don't even get me started on the content of the tweet(s). (In my opinion, Twitter isn't the best place to urge an angry customer to upgrade and pay more.) Here are three reasons why using Twitter in this fashion is a bad idea:
- If separated from the other, each tweet looks like a mistake. Plus, this two-tweet weirdness makes it seem like Bluehost doesn't understand how Twitter works.
- Customer service writers are obliged to work within the requirements of each channel. If you write a customer an e-mail, you have to use a subject line. That's one of the requirements of the channel. If you mail a customer a letter, it should have a greeting, closing, and the signature of the person who wrote it. Those are the requirements of the channel. If you tweet a customer, you've got to present your message in a 140-character box. If you have more to say, tweet or DM the customer and ask to switch to a "more words" channel: e-mail or phone.
- This two-tweet set is impossible to share. The best social customer service is easy to share. While a customer service agent may not have crafted a tweet to an individual customer so it could go viral, it's just dumb to write tweets that cannot ever be shared.
Maybe I need to get with the times and realize that the two-tweet message is a thing. Are you as put off by Bluehost's two-tweet message as I am?
It's not like this is the first time. The I-can't-fit-everything-I-have-to-say-into-140-characters problem is pretty common. (See my previous post "Twitter Customer Service: Two partial DMs from AT&T do not make a whole.") But a 280-character just seems wrong to me, like violating the rules of the game, like being both the shoe and the Scottie dog in Monopoly. That's just not fair.
Want more posts on writing to customers in social media?
- In live chat, don’t argue with customers who are trying to pay
- Using Twitter for customer service? Answer the customer’s dang question
- Six things that won’t change about writing to customers
February 16, 2013
This guest post is by my friend and colleague Hilary Marsh, Chief Content and Digital Strategist of Content Company, and its founder. She's had lots of success with LinkedIn and offers great tips here on getting your profile into the top 1%.
How to Use LinkedIn to Your Best Advantage
Many people recently received emails from LinkedIn congratulating them on their statistics on the site. I was fortunate: My email said my profile was one of the 1% most viewed in 2012.
Since a few folks asked how I did that, I wanted to share my tips. I should mention that I have been on LinkedIn since January 5, 2004 – 9 years. I have never paid them any money.
While I don't actively think about it, I do have goals for how I use LinkedIn. As a consultant, I want to be sure that prospective clients can find me. I have also used the site to ensure that potential employers or recruiters can find me, as well as to find employees or partners. I want to be seen as knowledgeable in my area of expertise, and connected both geographically and in my profession (digital content strategy). I’m also a big believer in karma, so I am happy to forward introductions or share prospective leads for jobs or projects. It may be odd, but I believe that “competitors” are extremely valuable people to know.
Here are my recommendations about how to use LinkedIn to your best advantage.
1. Be involved in your profession.
- Speak at conferences.
- Write for the trade publications that your peers read.
- Think about how the profession could evolve or improve, and share that information.
- Join relevant groups – in person as well as online. In person, this usually means associations or other networking groups. Online, groups include those on LinkedIn, as well as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, or your professional association’s online community.
- Initiate and participate in conversations, both online and in person.
2. Echo your IRL (in real life) professional relationships online.
- If you attend an event, connect on LinkedIn with the folks you talk with and whose business cards you get.
- I use Gmail and have installed a plugin called Rapportive that shows me the photos and social media profiles of someone I am emailing, as well as whether I am connected with that person. If it’s someone with whom I am establishing a new professional relationship, I usually take a second and connect with them on LinkedIn. (Rapportive makes it really easy.)
3. “PYMK” is your friend.
- About once a week, I take a few minutes to look through LinkedIn’s “people you may know” list, which displays your second-tier connections – a.k.a. friends of friends. If you think about it, this second tier is critically important in your professional life – it’s how you learn about new jobs or projects, connect with companies, etc. I think this was one of LinkedIn’s most brilliant features ever. These people are very likely to accept your invitations to connect, and they are priceless.
- Similarly, the list of people who have viewed your profile, which LinkedIn not only shows you on your profile but now shares with you via email, is a great source of new and really useful connections.
4. Complete your profile, and keep it up to date.
- A recruiter who was looking to tap my network suggested that I put my email address right up there with my name so folks could contact me even if we weren’t connected. I took that advice to heart, and you may want to, also.
- Whenever you update your profile with new skills, new projects, or a new description, everyone in your network will get notified. Recruiters pay special attention to those notifications (I guess that’s why they pay to upgrade their accounts!).
- Follow these detailed recommendations about how to audit and improve your LinkedIn profile.
5. Endorse and recommend others.
For years, LinkedIn has enabled people to recommend others – clients, employers, colleagues, etc. These are fantastic testimonials, and I’ve heard recruiters say they read those recommendations when deciding whether to contact a prospective job candidate.
I noticed last year that some early-adopter friends of mine had added skills to their LinkedIn profile, so I did the same. When LinkedIn added the ability to endorse others, my skills were already there, so I had a bit of a head start in that arena. It’s a pretty quick exercise, and also enables you to see who else is tagged with some of those skills, and how popular each of the skills are. It’s also SEO for your profile – another brilliant move on LinkedIn’s part.
It was surprising to learn that my profile was so popular, because there are two major things I feel successful people do on LinkedIn but that I haven’t made enough time for: I don’t post very often, and I don’t check the updates that others post and interact with them. Those next steps are some of my goals for this year.
Thanks for the guest post, Hilary and Content Company!
If you'd like to write a guest post for the Writing Matters blog, contact me at Leslie@ewriteonline.com.
February 15, 2013
This year, I've been helping customer service agents learn to write high-quality chat to customers. And if I had to give them (and their managers) just one piece advice about chat, it's this: "Writing good chat is WAY harder than it looks."
My recent chat with Lord & Taylor is a case in point. This agent, "Paige V" does little to help me and succeeds in antagonizing me in a few ways. Take a look at the chat transcript:
Please hold while we find a customer service agent to assist you…
We thank you for your patience. An agent will be with you as soon as possible…
Welcome! My name is Paige V, how may I be of assistance?
Paige V: Good evening, this is Paige speaking.
Leslie O: Hi. I am having trouble placing an order online. Every time I click "Check Out" to pay for my shopping cart, I get an "Access Denied" error message. Why is that happening?
Paige V: I would not know why unfortunately. You can call into customer service to place the order at 1-800-223-7440.
Leslie O: ok
Paige V: Is there anything else I can do for you?
Leslie O: Please hold on the chat.
Leslie O: I am on the line waiting for Lord & Taylor to answer, but I have been on hold for a long time
Paige V: I would not know why. There is not a wait.
Paige V: Are you still there?
Paige V: Ma'am?
Thank you for using Lord & Taylor's Live Chat. If we can be of further assistance please Chat with us again or contact us at 1-800-223-7440.
Your session has ended. You may now close this window.
- Lack of empathy. When I asked why I couldn't pay for my items, Paige should have scrounged up a bit of caring. "I would not know why..." doesn't work. How about "I am sorry that happened, but don't worry. We can process your order over the phone."
- Insincerity. Don't ask "Is there anything else I can do for you?" if you don't mean it. I asked Paige to stay on the chat in case I wasn't able to place the order over the phone. She didn't agree to do this.
- Picking a fight with the customer. I said I had been on hold on the phone for a long time. Paige's sassy answer, "I would not know why. There is not a wait" antagonized me. Even if I had been lying about the long hold on the phone (and why would I do that??), the live chat agent should not contradict me. Her writing sounds sarcastic.
In the end, this chat did little to build my rapport with Lord & Taylor, a store that sells the same items as many other retailers, I might add. Even if the live chat agent's best advice about placing my order is that I should call the customer service line, she still should have taken the opportunity to make this exchange more pleasant. In the future, I'm not likely to purchase anything online from Lord & Taylor. The shopping cart is hinky, and the live chat agents are crabby.
Want more advice about writing live chat to customers? Read on:
- Are 6 exclamation points too many? Punctuation's gone wild in live chat with Crate and Barrel
- Verizon customer service chat: How to kill your relationship with your customer
- Tips for writing customer service chat
- "Doing the needful"? Does odd wording harm the quality of customer service chat?
Update: Polite, quick response from Lord & Taylor to my tweet about this post
Mere minutes after I published a tweet about this blog post, I received a polite and considerate response from Lord & Taylor. Very impressed! Maybe they should let the customer service agent who tweeted write live chat!
February 13, 2013
This course will provide you with what you’ve often said you need: practical guidance on writing web content, examples of effective content, and the opportunity to practice your writing skills. This hands-on workshop introduces you to the principles of web writing and gives you concrete strategies for writing to online readers. You’ll learn how to write content that search engines can find and people can use. You’ll practice writing concisely, repurposing print for the web, and revising your own web content. You’ll have the chance to share your work with the instructor and other course participants. You’ll receive useful, focused feedback.
Who should attend
- Anyone who is planning, writing, maintaining, or editing web content for a personal site, a company site, or a community organization site
What you'll learn
- How to write task-oriented web content
- How to write content that is appropriate for its intended users by using the bite, snack, and meal approach
- How to repurpose print content for the web
- How to write concisely
- How to write web content search engines can find and rank highly
- How to write scannable web content
- How to write meaningful hypertext links
- How to write plain language web content
Why you should attend
- You’ll receive expert instruction in writing for the web
- You’ll have hands-on practice in web writing and editing
- You’ll be able to write web content that meets your readers’ needs
- Your new web writing skills will enable you to speed up the editorial cycle
- You'll get feeback on your own web content or help planning new content for your site
What you will receive
- A course manual containing guidance and examples
- A link to a private web writing resources page
- A 30-minute follow-up phone call, so you can discuss your own content with the course instructor
- Coffee, water, and snacks. (Lunch is on your own.)
What you should bring
- Lots of questions about writing web content
- A laptop or tablet (optional, not required). The meeting room has wi-fi.
- Hard copy of your own content, if you want to take notes while receiving feedback on it
Course fee and discount codes
- Register by February 18 and get two-for-one tuition. Bring a friend for free! Pay $295 to enroll two people. Use discount code TWO-FOR-ONE. If you register yourself using this code, I will contact you to get the name of the person who's attending for free.
- Register by February 25 and get a 10% early bird discount. Pay $265 per person. Use discount code EARLYBIRD-10PERCENT
- Register after February 25 and pay full tuition of $295.
- DC Web Women use discount code DCWW-DISCOUNT and get a 15% discount. Pay $251 per person.
Questions? Contact Leslie O'Flahavan at 301-989-9583 or Leslie@ewriteonline.com. Hope to see you at the web writing course on March 15!
Tuition refund policy: You will receive a full refund if you cancel before March 11, 2013. If you cancel between March 11, 2013 and March 15, 2013, you will receive a 50% refund. If you cannot attend, you may send a substitute.
February 7, 2013
I recently read Ashley Verrill's write-up on "The Great Social Customer Service Race," an experiment by her company (Software Advice, Inc.) that put 14 top consumer brands to the Twitter support test. As you might imagine, some of the brands fared poorly in this test:
- Coca-Cola sent one reply four days after the initial question. In Twitter-time, four days is an era or an epoch. (Which one is longer? That's the one I want.) And customers don't want to wait an era for a reply.
- McDonald's failed to be helpful. The "customer" from Software Advice asked "If I wanted to pick up pre-made orders for my office weekly, how do I set that up? Can the order change? Is there a min spend?" The McDonald's customer service agent tweeted back, "Hey Kyle, I would contact the manager at your local store. Stores work differently when it comes to prearranged orders." Verrill argued that the agent could have asked where the office was located and provided the nearest store’s address, phone number, and manager’s name, or answered, "Yes! Some stores can do that. Let me see if I can help!" I agree. The McDonald's agent should have helped more.
Verrill is echoing the core principle of my courses about writing high-quality responses to customers. When writing to customers in any channel, social or otherwise, the agent must answer the customer's dang question. That's the minimum requirement of any customer service communication.
So I'd like to take issue with Verrill's rewrite of a Wells Fargo tweet. Her piece criticizes the Wells Fargo's tweet for being robotic. The customer wrote:
- "I'm thinking about switching banks. @WellsFargo what kind of fees do you charge for personal checking?"
Here's Wells Fargo's reply:
- "@HoneyBeeRich Hi Brittany, please visit: wellsfargo/checking/ for information regarding our checking accounts. Thanks. ^SP"
Verrill suggested that a better response would have been something like:
- "@HoneyBeeRich Thx so much for ur interest! We'd to have your business! Here's more info. on fees: http://bit.ly/GKn0S Hope 2 'see' u soon!"
I don't agree. I find the rewrite grating: too many !!!s and too many tweet abbreviations; that's not the right tone for a buttoned-down bank. But the biggest problem is that neither the Wells Fargo tweet nor the rewrite answers the customer's question about fees for personal checking. Here's my version:
- "@HoneyBeeRich Personal chkng fee is $0 w/ $1,500 min daily bal OR direct dep of $500 per statmnt cycle. Learn more bit.ly/YGt3Xt Thx!
My tweet is kind of lumpy with abbreviations, and I used every last character, but at least it answers the question. If you have a better rewrite, please share it here. Tweeting to customers is much harder than it looks, so it's always useful to have good models..
Interested in apples-to-apples comparisons of customer service quality? Download our whitepapers:
Read our blog posts about Twitter communication with customers:
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