18 September 2013

The Customer Experience – Why It Matters in Genealogy -- Guest Blogger, Thomas MacEntee


by guest blogger, Thomas MacEntee

The genealogy industry has traditionally been a somewhat “sleepy” trade. However that industry is on the verge of explosive growth thanks to the Internet, social media and national television exposure via Who Do You Think You Are? and Genealogy Roadshow. While some may bemoan the changes and the need to monitor many different points of entry to the genealogy market, others are scaling their resources to take advantage of the newcomers and addressing their needs.

The days of genealogy societies and businesses acting as if they were run out of a church basement, a kitchen table or as a weekly neighborhood coffee klatch no longer serve the needs of today’s genealogy enthusiasts. Yet, this doesn’t mean these groups have to “go corporate” and lose that sense of small town approachability. The smart use of modern tools with an old-fashioned approach to customer service can be a formula for success.

Customer Service Meets Social Media

Savvy organizations are using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for their customer service needs. Yes, there are risks in handling inquiries in such a public manner and from time to time you will encounter an irate customer who just can’t be satisfied. But for many companies and membership groups, the transparency that customer service via social media provides and the goodwill that it builds is worth not just the risk, but the tasks involved with handling customer service inquiries online. 

Here are some tips:
·       Manage expectations. If your organization can’t field requests on weekends or after hours, make sure this is clear both on your website and on your social media platforms. Most people don’t expect an immediate response but they usually hope to hear back within 24 hours. A fast response time is always impressive, but don’t let those quick responses set the bar for unrealistic expectations.
·       Check platforms frequently or set up alerts. Make sure you check your business or organization’s Facebook page and other social media platforms at least once a day. Nothing says “stale” and “unresponsive” like a posting made by a customer or potential member that sits there for days or weeks. Use notification services built in to each platform to receive email or text message alerts when others post or ask a question.
·       Be human. What works for the big corporations can work for the small business owner or society in genealogy: come across as human and not an automaton. This means having conversations via social media with your customers. Go out of your way to thank customers for their patronage. Tell customers to have a great weekend or holiday. There can be many “persons” managing a social media account but there should be a unified “voice” in all communications.
·       Monitor the chatter. Besides checking in at the social media platforms you manage, also use Google Alerts (http://alerts.google.com) to be notified via e-mail when there is new information about your organization posted to the Internet. Also create a separate alert for each product such as a publication.

Pro-Active Customer Service – Is There Such a Thing?

Think about it: if we see genealogists as consumers and customers, then we know that they will at some point need to take advantage of a vendor or society’s customer service. This could initially be in the pre-customer stage when they have questions about a product or joining as a member.

Do you have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on your website? Doing so can minimize the emails and phone calls you will answer for prospective customers. Do you have a “welcome” mat for new users or consumers even if it consists of an automated e-mail greeting? Do you check in with the newcomers to understand their needs? Do you ask for feedback after a given period of time?

Customers: Keep Them Coming Back

Remember that the customer or member that renews on a regular basis and can quickly see the value of your products and services is the best kind of customer. You only have to look to the “big muscle” in genealogy – Ancestry.com – to understand how important it is to not just attract new users, but to keep the current users happy and using the Ancestry services.

Your best customer will be one who not just continues using your services, but is willing to engage with your customer service mechanisms and, more importantly, tell others in the genealogy community about their experience.

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Bio: Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

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