7 Surefire Tips for Winning at Social Customer Service

Social media is changing the entire business of customer service, posing great challenges and presenting new opportunities for brands. Customer service is undergoing a major revolution, with online communication becoming mobile, social, and attached to a real identity.

The growing preference for social media as a go-to channel requires your organization to re-think its customer service strategy.

Let us discuss some tips in re-thinking your social customer service:

  1. Be present, current and extant

Traditional communication channels like the email, phone, and chat support are all reactive channels.  With these channels, the brand has to wait for the customer to initiate the contact. Social Media, however, allows brands become proactive in customer service. One way of doing this is to keep your customers in the know with regular updates. Sometimes even information about what you are working on behind the scenes is great. Some proactive information you can give include:

  • Products back in stock
  • Changing locations
  • New office/new staff
  • Closures – for inventory

Prevent common frustration; let your customers know ahead of time. If there is a crisis, it is always better for customers to hear about the hitch from you directly instead of realizing the product or service does not deliver. Maintain control of potentially volatile situations by confronting problems head-on. This helps build customer trust and avoid damaging PR. Remember to inform customers about what you are doing to figure out a solution and make sure the problem does not happen again. Make sure customers know who to contact if they have further questions or feedback. You can even offer a discount on a future purchase, or give a refund if the action you take to fix the problem does not satisfy their needs. Be ready always with possible issues and solutions – create FAQs if so required. Prepare for related queries if you make an announcement about an upcoming big event. For example if a university announces an upcoming congregation, graduands may have questions on registration processes etc. Anticipate these and craft ready responses. That is being proactive.

  1. Assign an account

Assign a different account for customer service if you have huge volumes in terms of customer requests.  Tigo Ghana and Vodafone have dedicated Twitter customer support handles. See figure 1.

 

Figure 1 – @VodafoneGhana displays its support handle @askvodafonegh in its Twitter bio.

A dedicated support account will help you keep up with constant support requests.  Imagine a Facebook brand page with an open wall – how do you sort spam, complaints and compliments in the customer posts and comments? A unique account will help you dedicate the needed time and efforts for customer service on social. Select the most relevant channels. Facebook and Twitter are the most obvious social sites for customer communications. Most brands consider Twitter an excellent platform for customer service. If you are scratching your head on how to use your brand’s Twitter handle, do consider customer service. (Read our successive articles on using Twitter for customer support.)

Customers who are looking for detailed responses about technical issues on Facebook and Twitter may benefit from a link to a video on your YouTube page. You can also take advantage of Facebook videos.

  1. Train Staff

Great Customer service will start with the staff and their understanding of what service actually is, and their attitude. Because of the underpinning role they play in Social Customer Service – staff training is crucial. The Social Customer Service team must be passionate about helping people. Individuals on the team must be courteous with impeccable written communication, and build rapport easily by nature. Before team members start posting from branded accounts, carry out training to ensure the right social customer service protocols are adhered to. Training will not only prepare the team for different situations but will also empower and guide them through any social media eventuality. There should be ongoing training, even after the team begins giving support on social. Up-skilling and training should be constant because social evolves at a dizzying speed.  Social Customer Service staff must keep on learning and improving.  Your Social Customer Service Team should be empowered. Give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions. Your customers will be more satisfied with an empowered channel rather than a scripted, straight jacket one. Your team should be empowered to provide a call back when necessary to respond to particular issues off Social Media.

Social media should be part of a broader channel strategy so that interactions flow smoothly and customers get rapid answers with minimal effort, irrespective of the channel in which they begin or end a support query. Big brands should always Staff up and resource a coordinated social media/customer support team. In this day and age, brands cannot afford just anyone toiling away on their brand’s social media pages with little guidance.  About a year ago, on Thursday, July 17’, the US Embassy in Ghana had to issue a series of tweets to remedy an ‘errant tweet’ sent from its official Twitter page. See figure 2 and 3.

Figure 2 – the infamous ‘errant tweet’

Figure 3 – Training Social Media Managers is essential as a brand’s image and reputation are tied to what it says on Social Media no matter who said it on their behalf.

Delta Airlines suffered a similar fate. It was brought to its knees after an attempted to celebrate U.S.A’s 2-1 victory over Ghana in the just ended World Cup. Delta was forced to delete the tweet (see figure 4&5) and issue an apology amid a flurry of criticism. The tweet was branded ignorant, offensive, racist etc. Delta became the butt of many online jokes around this period. To further embarrass the airline, it had to delete an initial apology on Twitter because of a typo that referred to its “precious tweet”, instead of its previous tweet.

Figure 4

Figure 5

  1. Systems

Set up systems for social listening. There are tools and software which alerts you and brings information about topics you feed it to you. A small company may not need to use tools. If you are a larger company with constant customer feedback, there are tools you can use to support workflow processes, facilitate approvals for sensitive questions and share feedback with the appropriate people. Effective multi-channel support requires the ability to capture all requests in a unified tool. If a staff responds to email in one system while another tweets from a different system, the right hand would not know what the left is doing. When delivering Social Customer Service, brands must always provide a unified front. Your customer does not care about departments. A central tool and set of business processes gathers requests from different channels but treat them all the same, on some level, within the tool. For example, picture every single customer interaction captured in a ticket—including messages and posts on Twitter and Facebook. This keeps things simple. Such software allows the capturing of all data on the customer, including their entire support history, allowing the team member to consider the channel and then decide how to respond.

Categorize, route, and respond to queries. Enterprises should invest in social media management tools to help them extract relevant and actionable messages from among personal tweets and noise. They should set rules in order to group interactions into categories, which could include product, Web site, and technical or billing inquiries. Interactions can then be sent to the most relevant agent to handle the response. Enterprises should find ideal interactions to be handled via social media and train agents with responses for common queries. Agents need guidance around the tone to use and when to push information to a more private channel. Interactions should be accessible, recorded and tied to a customer record, alongside communications from voice, e-mail, and Web chat.

  1. Set goals for listening

This will decide the keywords and phrases you look out for. Listen to the right conversations at the right place. Put customer service goals in your social intelligence and listening. These two actions are key to a strong foundation for strategy development among other benefits. Listen to:

  • prioritize social efforts,
  • designate platforms to handle service,
  • know where to commit resources,

For more on listening visit. https://exactmedia.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/using-social-media-for-customer-service-listen-hear-and-engage/. Always listen, understand and learn.

  1. Policies and procedures

As with traditional channels, you should develop best practices for handling social queries and complaints. We discussed this in our previous article. Visit https://exactmedia.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/using-social-media-for-customer-service-how-to-answer-customers/ if you missed this article.

  1. Use feedback for insights and pass information on

Social media affects different parts of the business, and data needs to be shared across departments. This will help solve perception gaps and deliver what the customer expects. Pass information on to the right quarters. Use the “What, So What and Now What” framework when distributing relevant and useful information gleaned through listening and other Social Customer Service activities.  When customers start complaining about rip-offs on your Social Media Channels, a legal crisis may be imminent. Such information should be shared with the Public Relations and Legal teams. Some issues start on Social before they become full-blown PR crisis/disasters. There are some seasons where there will be spikes, like big events, disasters etc on your channels. You need to be alert, observant and ready in these times.

When you do not engage customers through the channels they already use, you are not only missing out on sales but also missing chances to create good experiences. Loyalty comes from having a longer-term vision than going after short-term wins by offering things like price discounts. Essentially, loyal customers become brand advocates, and brand advocates spend more, buy more often from your brand and evangelize your product to other potential clients.

Social media has already reached a high level of maturity as a communication channel. People have blended it into their lives along other technologies and they expect brands to follow suit.

I offer my services in Staff Training – kindly contact me with any of the addresses below.  Next week, we discuss using Facebook and Twitter specifically for Customer Service. Kindly head over to www.exactmedia.wordpress.com if you enjoyed reading this article, or you have any contributions and comments.

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