According to the Pew Research Center, 74% of all internet users use social media. Though this percentage is taken from a study performed in January 2014, it’s safe to assume that the number has only increased.
It’s undeniable that social media has become an important part of our everyday lives. It’s a way to communicate with those we never thought we’d be able to communicate with, and an avenue for us to publicly voice our successes, disappointments, questions, concerns or issues. In this respect, social media has become an important way for brands and customers to interact, which is why companies should implement a social customer service plan.
Why you should use social media for customer service:
Incorporating social media into your customer service efforts is an exceptional part of engaging with your consumer. By doing so, you’ll:
Encourage mentions—If you provide great customer service, users will likely sing your praise and talk about their experience over social channels. This increases visibility for your brand, and the potential to earn more media.
Be able to easily follow-up—You’ll know almost immediately if your support solved the problem and be able to follow-up with the user in the future, fostering a relationship between the customer and your brand.
Be able to personalize the service experience—By browsing the customer’s profile and posts, you’ll get a more immediate picture of to whom you’re speaking. This allows your brand to go the extra mile and provide extremely personalized customer service.
What do customers expect?
One of the best ways to know if your customer service efforts will be successful is to understand what your customers expect. Social media has heavily influenced what and how customers communicate with brands with which they engage. As a result, customers have begun to expect the following:
Quick response times—Customers expect immediacy.
Personalized answers—Customers don’t want to feel that they’re just a number, or that they’re given a generic response.
Help where they are—If someone is consistently on social media, and hardly checks their emails, they want help via the channels that they frequent most often.
Transparency—Customers expect you’ll give them the complete truth, especially since they have the ability to publicly shame you for false information or for being perceived as rude.
Customer service is about managing client expectations, so it’s important to understand how consumer expectations in your industry will impact your new social strategy.
How you can prepare your team for social media customer service greatness:
Planning is an essential part of any new corporate strategy, especially when your brand’s reputation is on the line. Customer service can heavily impact consumer perception, ultimately deciding whether or not they will purchase, or continue to purchase, your product.
So to successfully integrate social media into your existing customer service strategy, your business will need to apply the following:
Check out the competition
Understand what’s currently being done in your space regarding the use of social media for customer service management. What are your competitors doing well? How are they lacking? Using this type of business development intelligence will not only strengthen and help develop your own corporate strategies, but will allow you to offer even better service.
Create a policy
Have a written plan that outlines who will do what, what the corporate and department-level goals are, and what are the expectations. This will ensure clarity amongst employees on how social media will be integrated into their day-to-day customer service activities, and secure consistent service across all platforms. It’s also a handy piece of documentation to refer to and modify as the social customer service program is implemented and evolves.
Train your staff
Now that you have your policy in place, it’s time to train everyone. Not everyone will have the same basic understanding of social media, so it’s some additional technology and etiquette training may be required. Ensure all your employees understand what is expected of them, and what the tone and purpose of your social customer service channels will be.
Consistency is an important part of your strategy. Without it, your customers may not have the experience they were expecting which could have detrimental effects on the perception of your brand.
How to go the extra mile with your customer service
Now it’s up to you to determine how your company will go about enacting a social media plan for customer service management. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started:
Create a profile with dedicated service hours to promote transparency
Completely separate your brand’s social media profile from your customer service profile. This ensures that when customers go to communicate with your brand, their queries aren’t getting lost in the clutter of your other social feeds. Letting customers know when there will be a customer service representative online also helps control their expectation when it comes to response times, allowing you to foster a better, more transparent relationship with them.
Listen to what your customers are saying
Don’t just respond with a generic “Thank you for contacting _____. We’re working hard to solve your issue.” Personalize your response to reiterate the customer’s issue, and let them know what steps are being taken to solve it. Customers want to know that they’ve been heard and that action has been taken. If possible, also give them a time estimate for when they can expect to hear from your customer service team.
Be genuine, compassionate and human
Don’t just resolve customer disputes on this dedicated social media account. Personalize it by having your employees tweet or post about their availability, and encourage them to share a little more about themselves — that allows customers to connect with them.
Find the problem first
Sometimes customers will complain about your brand, product or service without directly tagging your social media account. Use social media listening tools to identify keywords associated with mentions of your brand name, product or service so you can reach out to any unhappy customers. This shows that your brand is proactively trying to rectify the situation, and the customer will be appreciative that your company cares enough to go the extra mile.
Know when to take things offline
Sometimes, no matter how prepared you may be, some problems and complaints are best dealt with over a form of synchronous communication (in person, or over the phone). If a customer continues to be upset, or the matter continues to go unresolved, offer to take the issue offline.
Going the extra mile is all about using intuition and strong interpersonal skills to enhance the customer service experience. If there are opportunities where your team could have gone the extra mile, let them know–it’s a great learning experience and will help improve customer service efforts in the future.
Any good strategy constantly strives for ways to measure success in order to improve and develop. You can measure the success of your social customer service initiatives by looking at:
How often is your team successful in resolving a customer’s question or issue?
Volume of customer questions
How many queries is your team resolving in a day, a month, or a quarter?
Is your team resolving questions quickly? Is there a way that your team can be more efficient?
These KPIs will gauge whether your current efforts are working, or whether there is room for improvement. Using social listening tools can help make measuring this information simpler, so your team can continue to focus on providing exceptional customer service.
Things to watch out for:
Handling customer queries can take a delicate touch, which is why your team should be mindful of the following:
Without being able to see someone’s face, or hear their voice, it’s important to be extremely mindful of tone. A response that you think is sufficient and helpful may be misconstrued as being aggressive. That’s why any contact and touch-points with a customer should be looked over twice to ensure there’s no ambiguity in the tone of your messaging.
Using proper etiquette and mannerisms via social media is an integral part of customer service. Always be mindful of your manners to ensure that you’re providing the most pleasant
Giving up too much information
It’s important to be transparent when providing customer service, but your team has to be careful with how much information they divulge. Providing too much information can sometimes confuse customers, or raise their expectations to an entirely unmanageable level. Make sure you’re providing enough information that the customer is happy with your response, but withholding enough as to manage expectations.
Fighting lost battles
Sometimes a customer is just looking for an argument, so your team should be able to identify which cases are “lost battles”. If you’ve resolved an issue, and they continue to negatively communicate with your brand, simply ask if there’s anything else that you can help with. If not, it’s simply better to not engage with them.
For more information about MediaMiser’s social listening tools, contact one of our Media Analysis Experts.