Using Social Media for Customer Service – How to Answer Customers

In the last two articles, we have examined the importance of Social Customer Service. We have also looked at why Social Media is a great tool for customer service. In our last article, we established two things were important if brands were to offer exceptional Social Customer Service. These are listening and engaging.

In this article, we look at ‘The Role of Responses in Customer Service on Social Media’. Giving customer service on social channels is not only becoming a necessary part of a brand’s Social Media presence but also one forced upon it by a consumer base who see a brand operating in a public space as a premise for intimacy. Brands that have not prepared well enough to deal with customers via social channels have become prey to a lot of viral scandals and blacklisting. These are the brands that ignore complaints, questions or even just rudimentary engagement.

Besides providing reactive customer care within social channels, brands/businesses can also proactively reach out to potential customers, even ones who have not contacted the company. One way to do this is through social poaching or Customer jacking. Because of the slow response rates to customer queries by many brands in general, some very ‘smart’ brands have resorted to Social Poaching or Customer Jacking. Social Poaching or Customer jacking is a trend where brands zero in on complaints on their competitors pages, reach out to these complainants and offer solutions to their problems

 

As established in previous articles, the mere fact that a brand is present on social media is an ‘open for business’ sign for the customer. Your brand has ‘set up shop’ and you cannot afford to ignore communication directed at or about you. To the customer, a brand’s presence on Social Media implies that it is there to listen and respond and must realize that a significant part of their audience is seeking some form of customer support.

Social Media is a great tool to offer your customer assistance and by doing so, create a customer for life. How do you assist a customer who reaches out to you on Social Media to ensure that your customer is satisfied? Here are a few tips on how you can reply to customers when offering Social Customer Service.

Responses to customer queries must be timely, accurate and consistent as discussed below:

  1. Promptness and timeliness

Time is of the essence when responding to customer queries. The Social Media Help Desk is somewhere in-between the online chat facility and the email inquiry.  When it comes to responses to their queries, Customers have high expectations because of the immediacy of Social Media. According to socialhabit.com, about one-third (32%) expect a response within 30 minutes while nearly half (42%) of consumers who complain on Social Media expect brands to respond within one hour. Responding to the customer promptly is like giving a patient First Aid; it is not about solving the problem entirely and immediately but giving a response which acknowledges the customer’s request – more like “ok, I hear you, hang in there whilst I attend to your dilemma”.

 Tip: to be able to respond speedily to customer queries, couch a response (boilerplate) which acknowledges the comment, question, complaint and promise to respond in a given time.

It is possible for help to be instantaneous or at least timely on Social Media. There are inbuilt notification features on most social media platforms to prompt you when there is activity on your page.  For small businesses with smaller audiences, this can be a good start towards responding on time on Social Media.  See the Digital Nuggets segment for some tools to help with notifications.

Some conversations have to be moved off the Social Media page – this will depend on their nature. Not every exchange or issue can be resolved entirely on Social Media or in a single exchange. Twitter, for example,  has a 140 characters limit and may not be suitable for some problem-solving conversations. Issues which are very technical or grievances that have the potential to be a long thread of conversation may be better treated in the ‘inbox’. Some issues also have to be resolved out off the limelight. For example a University puts up a post for a new programme and a prospective student makes an inquiry, instead of letting him/her post their examination results directly in a comment, that person can be encouraged to inbox his results for the admission officer to determine whether s/he qualifies. See figure 1.

social customer service in Ghana

Figure 1 – Isaac: Am having HND ACCOUNTANCY certificate, can I also apply. PENSA (sic)

Pentecost University College: Kindly inbox your SHS grades Isaac (sic)

After such issues have been resolved, the conversation can be brought back to the public sphere.

A customer looking for the phone number (see figure 2) or a brand’s shop which is closest to his/her location should not be put on hold for a long time. In some cases however you will need time to give an actual solution to the customer’s problem.

customer service barcelos

Figure 2

Make sure that you are giving correct answers whether your answer can be given straight up or requires some research. A response may be prompt or timely but wrong – the speed of response is not enough if the response is not helpful.

  1. Accuracy

For the person or team handling a brand’s Social Media account(s), you need to get your facts right. Hand-off messages internally to whatever team or individual is best suited for the task and gather appropriate feedback. The person/team handling the brand’s social media account must be abreast and be kept updated on all company policy changes. Make sure that the information you are giving to customers is correct. Imagine how frustrating it will be for a customer to walk into a store with information he has been given online about a promotion only to be told that the promotion ended weeks ago and he is not entitled.

Tip: To make sure information online matches with offline stocks, always put caveats in your posts. For example you post a picture of a product you have in your shop, you can include “available whilst stocks last”/”check for availability” so that a customer is not frustrated when he gets to the shop and you have run out of the product.

This will work well if there is back-end and front-end collaboration. The brand must also empower employees with the necessary tools and information to solve problems. We will look at the role of employees in subsequent articles.

  1. Consistency

There must be a consistent level of service across all digital touch points. Your replies should be the same across board. Find a means of identifying and tracking customers who reach out with issues. A consistent communication system between teams in an organization is essential for delivering an equal level of excellent support.

Tips:

  • Open case files or number customers who contact you with their challenges across your customer support channels. That way if someone starts to reach out via social media but later calls your customer support centre or sends an email, his/her information will be accessible across board.

  • Share information between teams about trends. Alert other teams about recurring issues on your channel so that they start expecting similar issues and get prepared to deal with them.

 

Nature of response

The manner in which you craft your response is very important to ensure your customer is satisfied at the end of the day.  You have to decide if the customer query requires you to be formal or informal (with smileys and other emoji). Your response should be sensitive, brief, friendly.

Condescending, scripted, we are sorry, next person/any other issues answers will not go down well with distraught customers. Kindly refer to Figure 3.

Some tips for giving a fitting response:

  • First of all access the state of emotions especially if you are responding to a complaint or a comment made out of frustration or anger.

  • Empathize and apologize.

  • Ask for time or the necessary information to solve the problem

After the issue has been resolved, return to the original message/comment to thank the customer for reaching out.

Take the making lemonades out of lemons stance when dealing with negative criticisms and complaints on Social Media. That angry comment/complaint is still a customer reaching out and crying for help. How can you manage that situation? Figure 3 is an example of a customer reaching out about the experience he had at a popular Fast-food joint in Ghana. How do you think the brand could have coached a response to keep this customer satisfied and have a customer for life? Tweet your suggestions to @enyaadie or comment on www.facebook.com/exactmediagh and http://www.exactmedia.wordpress.com

customer service kfc

Figure 3 – After the customer complains about the quality of the food he got at the restaurant and the bad attitude to the staff. This customer was going in the next day for his money. This is the response from the brand: “Thank you for your feedback (NAME). Your query will be forwarded to the necessary department. If you need any further information do not hesitate to inbox us. Have a nice day”.

There are many brands out there totally nailing social customer service. Especially in a market where customers can buy from anywhere and prices are relatively the same Social Customer Service can be your competitive advantage.  Use Social Media coupled with your other offline efforts to sell an experience – an exceptional one. David Prokupek, CEO of Jackson Hewitt (the second largest tax service in the U.S.) directed his Social Media Manager to make sure that all customer queries on Social Media were answered within 15 minutes – that was his brands commitment.  Do you need extra persuasion that bringing customer service to your social strategy is the right thing to do?

Digital Nuggets

Here are some applications that can help you get all your social media updates in one place.

Chime: True to its name, Chime will “chime” you with a small pop-up box any time you receive an update.   It is a Chrome browser extension that aggregates all your notifications from Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Quora, Github, Flickr, Foursquare and Stackoverflow.

If you’ve already logged into the accounts on Chrome, the add-on will automatically start pulling notifications once you install Chime.  Read more or try this app: http://chimeapp.com.

Snowball: is exclusively for Android phones. It shows messages from all your favourite social apps in ONE place. Snowball provides you with a single, easy-to-access place to view everything. Snowball supports: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, SMS, Hangouts, Twitter, Line, WeChat, and Slack with Telegram.  This app is available on the Google Play Store.

For Social Media and Content Managers, these tools (if you are not using them already) can help with running all your social accounts:

This is not an exhaustive list, there are other tools out there which can help with Social Media Management. Which tools are you using?

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