Customer service and brand reputation present challenges for any business, particularly in the era of the hyper-connected, socially savvy consumer. But e-commerce businesses, like Amazon and eBay, take transparency to a whole new level by ranking businesses higher in search if they have better service ratings, displaying reviews, and in some cases banning merchants that don't pass muster with consumers.
Excelling at customer service for these kinds of businesses isn't just an aspirational goal: It's a business necessity. And no one knows more about e-commerce customer service than Marsha Collier.
Marsha is the best-selling author of 32 books, including eBay for Dummies (currently in its 9th edition). An expert in the areas of customer relationships, social business, and e-commerce, Marsha has appeared on NBC's Today show and ABC's The View. She also hosts the popular Computer and Technology Radio podcast.
I invited Marsha to Marketing Smarts to discuss what marketers can learn from the best e-commerce sellers, how to manage customer relationships across channels, why psychographics are more important than demographics, and more.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Build an audience that will follow you to new channels (07:59): "You have to understand your audience. I call myself an 'accidental influencer' because I really didn't set out to do this. I went on social media because, when social media started...I had this mailing list, email list, of ten thousand people (I kept it under ten thousand because...it cost more the higher you go). And I had to think up things to send out a newsletter regularly. And newsletters are great. But, depending on your business, whether you're getting ROI from it is another story. My point was brand-building for myself.
"When I made the move to social media, I put in my books ['join me']. I never say 'follow me,' I say 'join me' on Twitter, join me on whatever. Let's have a great time and let's share stories and stuff like that. The community came online with me, and I find when I speak at a conference, that's one of the high points. People love that. Last time I spoke, I took out Periscope and I had the slide up with step-by-step how to install Periscope into your phone. And these were marketers, but they hadn't used Periscope, so they did it and I did an interactive thing with the audience. How fun is that?"
Avoid "shiny new object" syndrome (09:27): "You have to be aware of the channels, and don't fall prey to the shiny new thing. Like we all fell into Blab. Blab was great, but it was a shiny new thing, and as a business person you don't have the time to be messing around with something that your customer isn't going to be there. Be where your customer's going to be. If they're not on Snapchat, don't spend hours becoming a Snapchat guru."
Become an expert (but don't necessarily call yourself one) (10:30): "Let other people call you an expert. There's someone's blog that I share every once in a while and when I click to Buffer the link, it says something like 'Worldwide Expert in blah blah...' and I'm going, 'Really, you think I'm going to tweet that? Have you lost your mind?' Let your audience make you the star, and it takes time."
Move past demographics to better understand your audience (16:56): "[Use] psychographics. What does the customer think about? What does the customer do? I saw a Nike commercial that showed some really old person in a swimming thing. It was a 'Just Do It' commercial. The point is that that ninety-year-old guy who's swimming with the kids and is competitive, I can guarantee you that the interests you're going to come up with under stock demographics are not going to reach him one bit. And some of the people on social media are of different levels of savviness. So you can't just say 'I want people who are on social media.'
"I've found with my podcast, which has evolved more into consumer electronics, that people know less than I expected.... Understand the psychographics of your customer. What is it they do? What is their spare time thing...? You have to work out the psychographics of your customer. Some people call that customer mapping, which is great, but if you generalize too much, you're going to miss great opportunities."
Marsha and I talked about more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Marsha Collier, best-selling author of 32 books, including eBay for Dummies (currently in its 9th edition). An expert in customer relationships, social business, and e-commerce, Marsha has appeared on NBC's Today show and ABC's The View. She also hosts the popular Computer and Technology Radio podcast. Follow her on Twitter @MarshaCollier.