Customer Service Blogs: Communication is key

    March 8, 2006

Customer service blogs are one of the most powerful types of business blogs, for keeping open the lines of communication, between company and customer.

As a means of starting and maintaining conversations between all interested parties, blogs are almost without equal. Business, public relations, and customer service blogs are even more valuable when problems arise.

When something goes wrong, as it always does in the real world, there is a natural tendency for many business people to keep quiet. By clamping down on suspected media leaks, dissidents, or those employees simply acknowledging an everyday problem, the company is taking exactly the wrong approach.

Instead of tightening down the lines of discussion, customer service blogs enable the flow of conversation to travel in both directions. As a result, small problems and misunderstandings can be fixed to everyone’s satisfaction, with little fuss. The danger of the customer related problem exploding to major crisis stage is reduced dramatically, or even eliminated entirely. The lowered stress level on employees, resulting from fewer confrontations, boosts morale and productivity. It is also crucial to lowering staff turnover and replacement hiring and training costs.

Every business experiences customer and client related complaints at one time or another. The customer’s concern may be very legitimate, and in fact, the problem could become very serious and expensive if left unresolved. The first course of action is to discuss the concern with the customer directly. Often, the issue can be settled at that point, and everyone leaves with smiles on their faces. The customer is relieved the problem is over. The business has an opportunity to learn a weak point in their customer experience, product quality, or a glitch in the overall delivery system.

Many studies of word of mouth advertising have discovered that previously disgruntled customers, finding their problem resolved to their satisfaction, often become the firm’s best customer evangelists. They let the world know that your business keeps its clientele happy. Satisfied customers are any business’s best and least cost advertising and client recruitment resource.

Many times, however, customer relations issues are not resolved so easily. Often, the attempts at meeting the customer’s needs fall well short of what is necessary to end the dispute. While the person at fault could be on either side of the negotiation table, both parties often have very different ideas of the proper solution. No one involved is happy, and events can escalate very quickly.

At such times, what may have started out as a misunderstanding can erupt into a media and public relations nightmare. Faced with a potentially disastrous blow to the company’s image and reputation, the worst option is for management to hide from the issue.

Enter the customer service blog.

Many potential problem issues could be removed from the table, before they ever happen, by starting and maintaining an honest and open dialogue with customers and clients. One of the first steps to avoid misunderstandings from arising is starting a customer service blog. The purpose of the blog is to open a conversation between the blogger, representing either the entire company or a department within the organization, and current and potential customers and clients. The blogger will address openly, and and with the transparency essential to a business blog, possible problem areas within the company’s operation.

With a very large corporation, the potential number of breakdowns and bottlenecks is very large. Many different departments face their own unique weak links in their chain of operations. By helping make the customers aware of these potential squeeze points, many difficulties arising from overload can be prevented. Timing problems in production, order delivery, and product restocking can also be addressed in a timely manner through blog postings. Discussion can open up in real time, helping the company solve their problems, and assisting the customer in understanding where the potential for dispute could occur.

From the customer side of the blog comment feature, new ideas for better customer service can be suggested. Often, some very obvious solutions are overlooked by management in their haste to correct the problem. The best and most cost and time effective answers could offered by the customers themselves.

Listening to customers and clients got much easier with the rise of the business blog. That elusive and much discussed relationship building starts right there in the blogging trenches of the blog comment system. The two way conversation, and open discussion of what could be some very real concerns, can indeed build lifelong relationships. The responsive and open company adds and retains the customer for the long term.

Starting a customer service blog could be the first step for your business to avoiding some very costly disputes with customers. They also make life much easier for the company’s customer service staff, from the office to the front lines. Possible media and public relations disasters can be remedied before they ever take place.

In many ways, the open and transparent customer relations blog is like a vaccine against major customer service meltdowns.

Start a customer service blog today. Your current and future clientele will thank you for it.

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Wayne Hurlbert provides insigtful information about marketing, promotions, search engine optimization and public relations for websites and business blogs on the popular Blog Business World.

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