Social media customer service is an emerging field that has extreme value to brands and consumers alike. With the capacity to resolve issues proactively, as well as provide insight into customer usage and feedback, an effective social media customer service division can greatly impact not only the company’s bottom line, but their reputation as well. With that said, because this field is so fresh, there are very few established best practices to go by for companies looking to start their own effort.
Very few companies go into their customer service with poor intentions. While deflection and slow-playing are rife in these engagements, ultimately a brand understands that a happy customer is better than an unhappy one. What’s more, it’s cheaper to keep a buyer than to find a new one. That doesn’t mean, though, that companies do not regularly get in their own way in their customer service efforts. Whether through poor training, unnecessarily hoops or poor planning, customer service can be a labor for consumers that would, ultimately, rather hang up (metaphorically or actually) and tell all of their friends than go through one more stage.
Instead, I genuinely believe there are three core “A’s” to social media customer service that can cut through the bull and help avoid problems, all while providing exceptional appeal to consumers that advances your brand. Those three As are:
If you are copy and pasting the same response, over and over, to customers, it will show (metaphorically and actually). What’s more, heavily scripted answers are nearly as bad and inherently transparent. Instead of boxing your agents in with response prompts, train them as to proper ways to show empathy and communicate on the internet. Doing so will not only help in making for organic dialogue, it will also help in finding additional problems beyond the original prompt. This may not always be the option for some industries, but does not mean that you can’t find 20 different ways to have your agent respond to the same problem.
If your company is not actively listening through social media to find out what is being said about your brand beyond direct mentions or posts on your Facebook Page, you’re failing miserably. Organic conversations take place about brands daily that provide extensive insight as to customer sentiments, as well as emerging issues with products/services that may allow for fixes to be made before they amplify (or become widespread). Even if your brand does not have the resources to respond to everything found, ensure that you know what is being said through a listening tool. And budget isn’t an excuse: a platform as simple as Hootsuite can allow for listening insights at the prime cost of $0.
A social media program that either a) redirects customer service issues to traditional mediums like email/phone or b) never handles problems and only sells is a problem. If you are going to have a social presence, your brand must be able to resolve issues on the platform received (except when barred by law or logistics); a social media program that redirects to an email address is merely an answering machine, not a legitimate endeavor. What’s more, if your brand is only online to post marketing pitches and sell, expect vitriol from every customer who comes across those posts. Ensuring you can be effective does not require more than training and buy-in.
Social media customer service is a complex field. Brands that handicap their own effectiveness, either through poor planning or an inability to do what is necessary are merely creating their own problems. As we all continue to find the best manners in which problems can be resolved, do yourself a favor and ensure your brand isn’t throwing up roadblocks in front of itself.
Note – Times the phrase “metaphorically and actually” were used: 2
Photo Credit: Martina Photography