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Fix Your Customer Service

Small business owner
Alija | Agency Collection | Getty Images
Small business owner

These days there are more ways than ever for a customer to reach you. That's great—except when you can't keep up.

With Twitter, Facebook, email, and other channels all pumping customer requests into an organization, it's easy for chaos to develop. Which queries have been answered and how quickly? Who is taking care of which client and through what channel? Has anyone fallen through the cracks?

That pile-up of requests and lack of clarity on who is responding (and how fast) was exactly the problem fast-growing online retro clothing retailer ModCloth faced. When the company was smaller, a manual, DIY approach worked well. But as it grew, the number and variety of requests started creating problems.

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"As a company that is driven by its community, we needed visibility into why customers contacted us and the ability to collect that information in an organized, cohesive way," said Audrey Griffith, customer-care manager at ModCloth.

"Our biggest issue was that we lacked reliable statistics about our performance, ticket first-response rate, first resolution rate, satisfaction ratings and industry benchmarks," she said about the company's 62-member strong customer-care team.

(Read more: Taking Your Company to the Next Level)

Tech to the Rescue

After testing out five possible solutions, ModCloth settled on Zendesk, cloud-based customer service software that also offers reporting and analytics. Why Zendesk?

"The ability to customize responses, tag interactions, and collect data on a granular level were super compelling," said Griffith.

The new system provided clear results. "ZenDesk has allowed for a much more manageable workflow for the team and as a result, we've seen about 20% improvement in productivity," said Griffith. First-response times also came down from 37 hours to seven hours within seven months.

The technology seems to be a hit in terms of the team's qualitative experience as well as the quantitative improvements in key statistics. The software helps the team "recognize great service and reward employees that demonstrate our service values," said Griffith. "This has helped create more robust training, coaching and incentive programs as well as positively impacting turnover."

More Social, More Problems

But Zendesk was only part of the solution. The customer-care team's social media presence also needed improving.

"While the company prides itself on being on the forefront of social engagement with robust Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr presence, [the customer-care team] has only recently tapped into the potential of using social media to assist in customer issues," said Griffith.

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Modcloth is certainly not alone in wrestling with the tricky but essential issue of monitoring and responding on social media.

"A study by A.T. Kearney found that, of the top 50 brands, 56% did not respond to a single customer comment on their Facebook Page in 2011. Brands ignored 71% of customer's complaints on Twitter. And, 55% of consumers expect a response the same day to an online complaint, while only 29% receive one," Mashable recently reported, while also noting that 80 percent of companies plan to use social media for customer service by the end of this year.

That means more and more small businesses will soon be in ModCloth's shoes.

In order to keep tabs on their social streams, Modcloth now uses Sprout Social. And the team is energized to look at expanding onto other platforms and examining ways to be even more engaged with customers.

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