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8 Simple Ways to Cut Customer Service Costs (Hint: Use Pinterest)

Simplicity.  We all want simplicity, right?  As customers we want simplicity when we have an issue.  We want to contact customer service at the time it is convenient for us.  We want to connect with customer service using the channel of our choice.  After all, we are the customer.  As business owners and managers, we want efficiency.  We want to cut costs through reduced call time, first call resolution, etc.  Ironically, there is an easy way to meet the expectations of both customers and businesses: use Pinterest.  Not sure how to do that, read on to learn 8 Simple Ways to Use Pinterest for Customer Service.Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 8.56.29 AM

Pinterest continues to be popular and contrary to popular belief, Pinterest is not just for women.  In fact, when a businesses uses Pinterest properly they have access to a very powerful tool.  Depending on what research you use, we know that at least 65% of the population are visual learners.  So, as managers, let’s leverage Pinterest to reduce costs while also meeting (or exceeding) customer expectations.

1.  FAQ Boards

What are the questions asked most frequently by customers?  Every business has a list.  Sometimes it is available on the website, sometimes not.  While this is good, many websites have become labyrinths to navigate.  Why not make it easy and have a Board for “just” FAQs on your Pinterest Page?

2.  How-To Boards

As businesses move away from printing user manuals and/or how-to guides, create a board specifically for your visual representations of your products.  The visual aspect will always be appreciated.

3.  Special Offers or Sales

There are two great opportunities with this type of board.  Customers are rewarded for visiting your Pinterest page and will be able to see special offers and or sales at any given time with great visuals.

Additionally, businesses that use the merchant version of Pinterest can make use of the automatic alerts for specials and price changes that go direct to those following your boards.

4.  Customer Board

Creating a customer board can showcase how your customers are using your products.  Such boards not only give your customers new ideas, but they act as testimonials of your product at the same time.  Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 8.57.21 AM

5.  Contests

Another way to reward customers who focus on your Pinterest page, is to have contests that originate on Pinterest.  This is a great way to inform and educate customers about all the great content and resources available for them.  Giving them a great one-spot source will ensure that they visit your Pinterest page frequently.

6. Customer Insights

Want to really learn about your customers and the things that are interesting to them? Take a look at their boards.  Use this information to build better boards for them to use on your page.

7.  Collaboration Tool

Want to really impress your customers and show that you are listening and want their input to improve customer service.  Create a collaboration board.  Invite your customers to pin ideas, information and issues directly.  The key of course is to monitor and act in a timely fashion.

8.  Product Reviews

Want to really demonstrate your confidence in both your product and your customer service?  Have a product review board.  Let your customers share their experience. Not only will you learn new insights, but you will build trust and create ambassadors for your product.  Product reviews occur outside your marketing channels, but when you create an environment inside your environment, you demonstrate confidence, openness and the willingness to listen to others.

These are some simple ways to cut your customer service costs, while increasing communication with your customers and reaching out to them in the channel they prefer.  What are your thoughts.  Have you tried Pinterest?

5 Ways Small Business Can Leverage Social Media for Real-time Market Research

As a small business owner and a professional Marketing and Communications Practitioner, I know the value of market research.  When I worked for large organizations, we often hired agencies to provide specialized research services. However, we smaller business owners just don’t have the luxury of the big budgets that the larger organizations enjoy.   We also don’t have a lot of spare time.  So, I wanted to share 5 really easy ways that small business can leverage social media for real-time market research:

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1.  Maximize your membership in existing groups like Facebook, Linkedin and blogs to gain valuable insight into what topics are hot. By being an active listener you can find emerging themes.  You can learn quickly what, if any, conversations taking place about your brand.

For example, if you own a restaurant you can learn about trends that are happening in food preferences.  If your customers and/or target market are discussing local organic foods as being important, you could start promoting the local fare that you have on your menu.  Alternatively, there might be an event – perhaps a beer festival – that you would want to promote and create a menu pairing for the various types of beer being featured at the festival.

2.  Use Twitter Lists to organize key stakeholders, customers and Influencers.  Using lists saves time when you want to focus on specific information and/or people.

For example, if there is a specific vertical that you want to penetrate, make a list and add the people you see Tweeting on the topic. You can then easily learn who is in that space.

3. Conduct Facebook surveys to reach out to your followers and ask them specific questions — keep the same questions so that you have consistent data. One of the benefits of doing this type of research versus a focus group is that neither the facilitator nor any other members of the focus group will unintentionally influence the participants. You can have your survey be anonymous or with a customer name attached to it.

For example, if you are uncertain about carrying a new product, you can ask your community.  You can develop a simple questionnaire that you can send to all your followers/subscribers or those who have “Liked” your Brand Page.  By reaching out to your customers you are demonstrating that their opinion matters.  You are getting a first-hand account of what they think about the product.

For more information on how to set up your survey, visit Facebook’s survey page.

4. Use Pinterest to determine what photos are being pinned from your website.  This can be an invaluable tool. Learn what is popular and by default, what is not.  Learn what is resonating with your customers through your visuals.

It is quite easy to do: simply go to your browser and type:  http://pinterest.com/source/YOURWEBSITEHERE.com/.

5. Use Twitter Hashtags to search and track relevant conversations.  You can use hashtags to monitor conversations about competitors, different product lines, events and more.  You can use existing hashtags or set up your own.  They are simple to use.

For example, if you are hosting a user-group and you want to know what the buzz is both leading up to and during the event, you could create a hashtag specific to your event.  Once you do this, be sure to share it with your organizers, sponsors, delegates, etc.  It could be as simple as #CustomerSpeak2014.  By simply searching your event hashtag, you can monitor all the chatter.  If you notice a problem emerging, you can be proactive and take action.  You can then share the solution using the hashtag, letting your delegates know that you were listening.  You can also use the hashtag to monitor post-event conversations and use that intelligence for lessons-learned.

These are just five examples of how you can use social media for real-time market research.  What are some other channels that you use and what have been your results?