Russel Lolacher and I have a similar illness, we see every interaction people have with companies and think about how it could have been done differently or better. Sometimes, we are surprised at what we see. A previous girlfriend got tired of listening to his analysis and so he decided to start blogging. The Upsell is his place to capture all those experiences but also share them with the rest of us.
In this episode of the CX404 we talk to Russel about the customer experience and particularly how situational awareness plays a role in the whole experience.
Russel Lolacher is the Web & Social Media Director for the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, & creator and moderator of the blog at THE UPSELL. He believes that “what better way to entice your customers to spend more and build a relationship for long-term patronage, than with GREAT customer service”. So, what better guest is there for the CX404. Let’s go.
What got you into all this interest in customer service?
Russel Lolacher: I worked in the service industry for 15 years and now as a director of the engagement online and all my experiences, even those as a bartender, have played a part in giving me the opinion or thought leadership in the customer experience. The Upsell came out of a comment from a previous girlfriend which had heard enough of my talking, commenting about exchanges and things I’d see which got me to create the blog. Communications has been key to my passion for customer service.
Do you think companies will actually pay attention to the customer online?
Russel Lolacher: They just have to. Unfortunately, what they might not realize is that even if their customers are not online at the same time they may are online, using Google or Yelp and will run into what others had said about your business. Companies have never been part of the conversation. They have to understand the value of being in those conversations. They need to think of this more in human terms.
You posted recently on your blog an article which introduced the idea of situational awareness. What did you mean by that?
Russel Lolacher: You have to better understand what is going on around you. People seem to be living too much in their bubble. Whether it is the cashier across the counter or the server passing your desk. It’s not just about you. The emotional, physical, spiritual. Emotional is understanding who you are talking to. Physical is there something you could do which could enhance the experience. Spiritual is more look at yourself, and think about what you are going to do and how that might affect the experience. Read more on Situational Awareness here.
How can good customer service be delivered via social media?
Russel Lolacher: Absolutely. I find it really funny when companies ask this question. They probably had the same reaction when the phone lines arrived. This is no difference. It is two people using technology to communicate with each other. That’s all it is. People need to take the technology out of it. Social media is not about the technology it is about the people.
Companies struggle with the diverse communication channels. Your exchange with Microsoft started on twitter then went to email. Was there a smooth transition across those channels?
Russel Lolacher: No. As soon as I hit email I knew I was dealing with another person. Actually it felt more like a form letter which came back. The robo response was what I got. A totally different human tone as well. When on social those responders were signing their tweets with their initials, which I suggest companies should do. But this was not the same in email. There I was in the world of process not in the world of human beings. There was a certain disconnect. Social media is not just about customer service. It is sales, PR, research so siloing the different worlds of customer service will only hinder the experience. It will just feel herky-jerky.
If you had one tip to customer service organization on how they could improve their interactions with customer, what would it be?
Russel Lolacher: Perhaps in the online world, social media should not be put on a pedestal. It is not the cure-all for what ailes your business. If you have troubles with customer service then social media will only put a spotlight on it. It will show every crack in your process.
In a more personal, offline mode; be human, make eye contact, smiling are a must. It is shocking how many times these are forgotten and not used. People are not connecting anymore.
CX404 Shout outs!
Russel gave his shout outs to some heavyweights in the customer service world. Kate Nasser, in people skills and brings a human component. Marsha Collier, author and among others cofounder of the Twitter hashtag #custserv. Ted Coine more from a leadership aspect in the customer service field but puts out some great contact.
Where to find out more on Russel Lolacher?
Thank you very much Russel for joining us on the Customer Experience 404