A San Francisco-headquartered firm says customers railing against your company on social media can actually end up being good for business.

It is a growing business’ biggest headache: as orders ramp up, the phones start to ring off the hook and the emails come flooding in faster than it can recruit staff to deal with them.

Frustrated customers waiting for products or desperate to arrange returns then head to one place, according to Prelini Udayan-Chiechi, VP for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Zendesk.

“People take to Twitter to complain,” she told BusinessCloud. “The customer thinks: ‘I need to interact with an organisation because I need their product [now], and if I can’t get through to them, I’m going to complain about it.’”

Customer service provider Zendesk was founded in Copenhagen a decade ago and is now headquartered in San Francisco.

San Fran

Its automated system amalgamates customer communication on a variety of platforms – email, telephone, website, chat and social channels – into one place for clients. It also analyses the urgency of the query and escalates it appropriately.

“You can see every contact the customer has made across multiple platforms, which allows the customer service rep to be more proactive and say: ‘I see you’ve sent us two emails, on the phone and Twitter. We want to apologise, we have been dealing with your query, it’s been directed to here, the delivery is on its way – is this what you are calling about?’

“It puts them on the front foot rather than the back foot. I remember this famous quote from [poet and civil rights activist] Maya Angelou: ‘People don’t always remember what you say, or even what you do – but they always remember how you make them feel.’

“Customers want to feel that you care about them.”

Zendesk

Udayan-Chiechi, who spent a number of years at tech giants IBM and Adobe, says the data from complaints can also turn them into a positive.

“Let the data guys in… the data might tell them [for example] that at this time of year, customers engage with the company in a certain way – so they may need to reinforce support in that area.

“[Also] invest early in a knowledge base such as better FAQs on a company website. Our research has shown that the majority of people prefer to self-help than speak to a company representative.

“Thirdly, look at artificial intelligence. If customers talk to a bot in the first instance, their query can be triaged: if it’s complex, it can be directed to a human. Perhaps the ‘get back to you in 24 hours’ email could include a relevant message – have you tried this?’ – which might solve the problem in the meantime.

“And the AI is improving all the time by talking to customers and through their feedback.”

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