30 Mar Providing Quality Customer Service on Social Media
If you’ve ever tweeted your cable provider to ask about the reason for an outage and when they expected to restore service – and never received a reply – you know the frustration of poor customer service on social media. Today, people are more likely to reach out to a business on its social media account than by phone or email. How responsive that business is to questions and complaints plays a great role in its online reputation and success. While your small-to-medium-size enterprise isn’t on the level of (insert name of ginormous cable company here), knowing the right way to address customer concerns on your social channels can build loyalty or send unhappy campers to your competitors.
Facebook and Twitter are the social media platforms most conducive to fielding customer service issues. Making sure your business uses the platforms that members of your target demographic use is the first step. As covered in our blog post – “How to Choose the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business” – each social platform appeals to different demographic groups.
Social media and quick customer support
With 2.42 billion daily active users, Facebook is the undisputed king of social media platforms. According to Lyfe Marketing, almost anyone can find their target audience on this platform and get in front of them. Businesses in every industry have a presence here, and the potential to reach new customers – not to mention provide great service to current customers.
Writing for branding agency FreshSparks, CEO Sonia Gregory notes that your company’s Facebook support response time rate is clearly shown on your Facebook page. And Facebook only considers your business “quick” (or very responsive) when you reply in five minutes or less – 24/7, not just during your business hours!
Twitter is best for businesses that want to communicate in real time. Again, be prepared to respond accordingly. Search Engine Watch reports that 53% of those making an inquiry on Twitter want a response within the hour. This increases to 72% expecting a response within an hour of posting a complaint.
Clearly, letting questions and complaints languish is not an option. Customers will wonder who’s minding the store, and if you care about them. But how can you run your business and continually check in with your social media accounts? Social media monitoring tools can be programmed to notify you – or whoever you designate to handle online customer service – via a text or on an app when someone posts.
Facebook Messenger is also a powerful communications tool that facilitates quick responses. In Facebook’s own words, “Integrating Messenger into a customer service strategy allows customers to communicate with your business on their terms. No more waiting on hold or keeping website windows open. And the conversation stays in Messenger, an easily accessible spot for questions and re-engagement.” The Facebook for Business page for Messenger provides the details for getting started.
While not applicable to all business, a chatbot may serve a valuable role. This is software utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) that can converse with humans via a live chat interface on a company’s website or app, or through platforms like Slack, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Alexa. You may have already chatted with a chatbot on a Facebook Business page or an e-commerce website and assumed it was a person who gave you the answer you were looking for. Our blog post – “Improving the Customer Experience with Chatbots – What You Need to Know” – covers the topic in depth, and provides essential information on their functions and benefits.
Although we’ve been focusing on calls for help and complaints, your customers are (hopefully) also thanking you for providing a great product or service – or for your earlier, timely assistance. Reply to compliments, as well, which will build customer loyalty – and ask them to write a review, as well as recommend you to their family and friends!
Providing an authentic – and professional – voice
In addition to replying in a timely manner is the absolute necessity to reply in a respectful manner. Whether it’s an inquiry or complaint, acknowledge the customer. In the first case, let the customer know that you are looking into the matter and will contact them as soon as you have the answer. Depending on the nature of the inquiry or complaint, you may want to invite the customer to have the conversation in private. As Gregory recommends, determine which conversations should become private – whether it be moved to direct message, email or phone.
For this to work best, Gregory provides the following recommendation:
“You already know you can’t please everyone, so prepare for the inevitable negative comment or complaint. Create a process to provide clear direction on handling customer service through social media for your business. Guidelines are important to document and follow, as consistency can only strengthen your overall brand building.”
Having a strategy in place will help avoid commission of the first deadly sin of responding to complaints by becoming defensive. Even when the complaint isn’t made in a polite manner, don’t take it personally. Keep a professional tone, acknowledge the complaint and – depending on the situation – let the customer know you’ll do you best to resolve it. Remember, all the world is potentially reading your response, not just the customer. A rude reply could prompt a potential customer to form a negative opinion of the way you do business, and continue their search among your competitors.
There are two classes of complaints. Sawaram Suthar – head of marketing at Tagove – makes the following distinctions.
“The most-reputable businesses always give priority to complaints and negative comments. The difference between the two is that complaints are generally made by customers while baseless negative (and downright abusive and insulting) comments can come from rivals or trollers. That’s because no customer exists that doesn’t want a quick solution to their issue.”
For the legitimate complaints, make a sincere effort to look at the cause of the complaint. If the complaint was about an employee (damaged property, was rude, didn’t complete the job to the customer’s satisfaction, etc.), get the employee’s account to determine the facts. If the employee was at fault, make sure he/she understands your company’s customer service standards, and follow up with any necessary training. If the same employee is the source of other complaints, you’ve got a decision to make.
Your customer-facing message: Apologize, let the customer know that you’ve spoken to the employee about the incident, that you have taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and that you are committed to providing excellent service. Then do so.
Always be current
As we noted earlier, providing great customer service through social media isn’t always about addressing complaints and answering questions. Being proactive gives you a good opportunity to serve your customers by anticipating their needs. For example, if a situation beyond your control disrupts your regular service (unfortunately, I think we all know what this refers to; hopefully, we will soon reread this in better times), jump on your social accounts and let your customers know about new business hours, changes in service and how they can stay connected with your business.
Even in the best of times, keep your customers involved on your social accounts by informing them about special offers, member discounts or other perks. Support your customers, and they’ll support you with their loyalty.
We now return to our regularly scheduled blatant self-promotion
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