It's true that social media has opened up a whole new world for marketing and sales, and that's a wonderful thing for businesses. The more markets you have to peddle your wares the more eyeballs you can get in front of, and that means more sales.
The online social world offers much more than just sales opportunities, but many businesses seem to view it as simply another magazine to place ads in. One major way that social can help your business is through customer service, but there's a fine line there. Doing customer service wrong or badly in a place where the whole world can see your mistakes can be devastating. Just ask Carnival Cruise Lines about the #CruiseFromHell.
Doing it well, however, can connect your company with its customers in a more sincere and intimate way than ever before possible. Great customer service almost always leads to greater loyalty and more sales, so let me help you out and give you ten best practices that can improve your company's customer service skills using social media.
1. Have Dedicated Customer Service Channels
There's nothing inherently wrong with using your business profile for customer service inquiries, but maintaining a separate customer service handle offers plenty of advantages to make it worth the effort.
One of those advantages is keeping your primary feed focused on engagement that promotes your business. From the customer's standpoint, a dedicated customer service channel gives them clear direction on getting answers to their problems.
In addition, you get the benefit of transparency in customer relations without advertising your issues to other followers who may not be aware of them. You don't want to hide customer issues, but there's no reason to advertise them either.
— Sendible Support (@SendibleSupport) November 10, 2014
You should always keep an updated blog in order to share relevant and interesting content to followers. When you successfully resolve a customer issue, particularly if it's not an extremely common one, write a blog post about it. Using a customer service tag on these will give your readers a library of issues and resolutions, like an FAQ but with more personality and storytelling.
This will let you share the customer service stories with followers without putting them in the middle of the complaint and resolution process, which can get ugly sometimes. You may also head off other complaints by addressing the issues they have before they even need to contact you.
Don't ever sit around and wait for a complaint to come in before you address it, if you have the option. You should be using social media monitoring software to seek out potential issues before they find their way to you. In addition to monitoring your brand name, add keywords like "problem" and "issues", among others, to your software so that you can reach out to the customer before things get overblown. They'll appreciate that you care enough to listen before they've spoken to you.
In addition to writing blog posts that deal with customer issues, you should keep a list or spreadsheet of an issues that arise and regularly look for patterns, for several reasons. Any repeated issue should be added to your website's FAQ in addition to any blog post you might make on it.
This also gives you additional keywords and phrases to monitor social media for, which becomes a new listening queue for customer outreach. Of course, any problem that seems to pop up regularly should automatically become something to be addressed within the company for improvements. Once or twice might be a fluke, but more than that means there's a real problem that needs addressing.
Always learn from your competition, both the good and the bad. Monitoring competitors for the same customer issues that you deal with will let give you new ideas for helping as well as things to avoid - if they screw it up. Monitoring their customer service streams can also bring issues up that you haven't had to deal with yet but might, giving you a head start on the problems before they reach your inbox.
You may or may not have a dedicated team or person that handles customer service, but you want to make sure that you never send mixed messages or handle issues inconsistently. On method for ensuring service consistency is to have an approval workflow system in place, so that even if there are multiple people handing issues a central person approves any messages before they are posted.
Often, an issue may be better addressed by someone in sales, or programming, or marketing than in customer service. They are the experts in their areas. Using an approval workflow for responding allows you to get the right answer from the right person, and then present the answer to the customer with the right words and tone.
Customers expect a quick reply through social media. Checking for issues and complaints once per week and then responding days later doesn't cut it anymore. You should respond within 24 hours no matter what, and within a few hours if at all possible.
If you have physical locations as well as an online presence, use the lessons you learn from quick responses to customers on social media to make your real-world customer service more efficient as well.
If you don't ask for feedback, people will think you don't care. Any and every sale should offer the customer a survey other form of feedback opportunity to voice their satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Even without a sale, regularly posting comments asking for feedback is a great idea. The customer may not always be right, but enough of them with the same advice or complaint usually are. The more feedback you can get, the better you can improve your product or service.
TMPI is my own acronym for 'too much Public information'. People can be rude, belligerent, and downright mean. Don't let that happen in your publicly-viewable feeds. Use social media to find and address customers with complaints, but when you get down to specifics you should take it offline to email or private messaging. This should be part of your social media compliance policy.
If you do get some ugliness in your feed, don't immediately delete it unless it is completely unacceptable. Deleting negative comments makes you look as if you have something to hide. Once the complaint is resolved to the customer's satisfaction, politely ask them if they would mind removing the comments. If they don't respond to them in the feed with comments explaining how you are so happy you were able to resolve their issue.
Just because it's a customer service channel doesn't mean that the same rules don't apply as a marketing channel. The number one rule is, of course, be social. Never, never, never forget that social media will only be helpful to you as long as you stay social and engage with followers. As soon as it becomes a broadcast medium instead of a conversation, the game's over. You'll lose followers much quicker than you gain them.