Social media essentially functions to allow people to make their voices heard, but unfortunately for businesses the things that their customers have to say may not always be complimentary. With that in mind, more and more businesses are turning to use social media less for promotion and marketing, and more for customer service. Social media allows businesses to have a pulse for what their customers are thinking and feeling, and allows for easy social interaction. But does it really give customers valuable customer service, or it is marketing by another name? Here is a guide to using social media effectively for customer service, but also noting where social media can sometimes fail to meet your needs.
Using complaints to your advantage
The search functions of Facebook and Twitter, combined with the use of hashtags, makes it easier than ever for companies to monitor what their customers have to say about them, and intervene if necessary. Tasking someone within your company with trawling through tweets should not be an after-thought, it should be a task of high importance. By catching someone who is complaining indirectly about your company, you can intervene, make them happy, and turn a complaint into a happy ending. Not all customers who are unhappy with your company will ring up, but they will more than likely tweet about it as well as giving you bad word-of-mouth. Catch that bad word-of-mouth before it spreads, and you will do wonders for your reputation.
Embrace informality and do the job well
The informal nature of social media often makes for easier social interactions, which can make delivering customer service over social media a less tiresome and more productive experience. Informality also works for customers too: many expect corporate accounts to be marketing-only and computer-operated, so it can often be a pleasant surprise for them when they great real interaction from you. Informality also serves to root out smaller complaints that you may not otherwise register.
Social media customer service is becoming more common, but that doesn't mean that everyone is doing it well. In fact, many companies provide worse customer service via social media than they do by other means. Ensure that the service you provide by social media is just as good, if not better, than your other offerings. Do the job, and do it well.
Creating meaningful conversation
Many customers will contact you over social media to deal with a specific problem that personally belongs to them: their order didn't arrive on time, you overcharged them, etc. However, by searching social media platforms you can also pick up on other, more generic and subtle comments that can be of extreme value for your business. If you see someone expressing their wish for you to stock bigger sizes, or commenting that you should stock a certain brand, then you can act upon that. Create conversations with your customers and see what they want from you. It's the best way to grow as a business and actually deliver what people want to see.
Promoting positive feedback
Customer service is not all about complaints, and often customers will be very happy with the service they receive. People tweeting about your company to this effect are effectively providing you with trustworthy free testimonials, and they make for great marketing points. By just retweeting a couple of people who are happy with you and thanking them for their custom, you can cement a returning visitor and create some positive buzz at the same time.
Of course, this can work in the exact opposite manner as well. Whilst businesses can promote positive feedback, it is just as easy for customers to promote negative feedback. British Airways customer Hasan Syed did just that when he paid to promote a tweet discouraging people from using BA after they lost his luggage. The tweet was so visible that BA had contacted Mr. Syed within hours offering a personal apology and also eventually found his missing luggage. So remember, while social media can be powerful in your hands, so too can it be powerful in the hands of your customers.
There comes a point in any social media customer service interaction were the limitations of social media chat come into view. Many people for example would not feel comfortable discussing personal information on a corporate Facebook page, or sending things like card details over Twitter direct messages. With that in mind, any company who uses social media also needs to perfect their handover or scale-up procedure to help transfer complaints to more appropriate mediums like email or a telephone answering service. This can be troublesome however as many customers use social media because they have had a poor previous experience with your traditional customer service channels. So what does this demonstrate? Social media should be a point of effort in your customer service strategy, but it cannot be your only customer service delivery channel and therefore you should also invest in ensuring your phone and email customer service provisions are excellent too.
(Customer service needs / shutterstock)