Business Book Review: Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World

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Customer Service

“Customers are more than five times as likely to post something online when they feel like they’ve been taken advantage of….Right away the odds are stacked against you.  But treating them well is all you need to start changing the odds.”

This quote is from Peter Shankman, best known as the founder of HARO and currently CEO of his own boutique marketing and PR firm, The Geek Factory.  The quote appears in his guide Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World.  I picked up a copy while browsing in Barnes and Noble Union Square in New York. Even with a few page flips, you’ll find this a helpful handbook to keep your customer service, and your business, on track.

Actionable Ways to Improve Customer Service

Call me a sucker for deja vu, but this book really reminded me of Empowered, a book on infusing social media through employees, IT and management (read the review here).  Empowered was about how to empower employees with social media so they could provide better service within an organization and to customers. The same theme occurs in Customer Service, though with fewer case studies to explain nuances and successful efforts, as well as with fewer pages.  So the theme becomes crystalized in a few sentences, like the comment below:

“The key to good customer service through social media starts in the company as a whole….The happier the employees are, the better they’ll be at administering stellar customer service…If the company is happy, good customer service becomes second nature.”

Here’s what I really liked about this guide: Customer Service provides specific to-dos (and to-don’ts) scalable to small business, along with first-rate reminders of those actions.  As a case in point, Shankman created an acronym for treating customers: WARS.

  • Make them feel Welcome
  • Make them feel Accepted
  • Make them want to Return
  • Make them want to Share

Shankman also has a penchant for thinking about how to classify responses.  His names for the kinds of complainers are just cool, such as the Dear @cnnbreakingnews Complainer (one who will gladly go to the media with their grievance).  Shankman uses these interesting descriptions to explain what needs immediate attention, and if so, what kinds of steps are effective at appropriate times.

Take the Never-Complained-Before complainers.  Shankman suggests that the you address them immediately, because you may not distinguish them as truly angry or in the Multi-Complainer category (one who likes their dissatisfaction to be heard repeatedly via many different channels.) These kinds of approaches and subsequent steps are a godsend if you’re in the throes of business building and not sure where to begin. As Shankman mentions in the section “Always Be Aware – It’s the Thing You Don’t Think of That Can Kill You”:

”No matter how busy you think you are running your business, you need to keep one ear to the ground looking for problems. Problems tend to be immediate surprises.”

The nice aspect of Shankman’s approach is that no idea is offered in a paltry attempt to cause ongoing panic about customers.  Instead the goal in each tip is to manage your engagement as best as possible.

The social media tools recommended are pretty basic, such as reliance on Google services but no mention of other alert services.  For Twitter, there are no suggestion for apps such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.  But given the rapid proliferation of applications and even quicker introduction of upgrades, this content skip-over is probably wise.  Consider how this guide can fit your immediate social media tools selection.

What Books Are Potentially Complementary?

Customer Service did not read like rehashed blog tips, and contained some very solid suggestions.  The successful and not-so-successful examples are presented similarly to those in Power Friending (see the review here), which is a good thing as far as I am concerned.  In addition, if you have just upgraded your website using tips like those from Effective Websites for Small Businesses (see the review here), you’ll find a book like this a second wind to make your site an effective working asset and wonderful online experience for customers.

You can follow Peter Shankman on Twitter at @petershankman.

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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

2 Reactions
  1. Customer service has been the key to success in business forever and yet correlating it to happy employees sometimes gets missed. The frointline manager is key to this because of the immense affect on frontline employees and thus the customers. Seems that social media feedback could be a gauge of how things are perceived and then corrections made.

    Nice article.

  2. Thanks, Liz. I like your comment on the overlook of a frontline manager’s impact. It’s a reminder of how so much importance has shifted because of the empowerment of purchasing decisions that customers now have access to.