The more the internet evolves, the more it changes the way we do things. Think about it: In 1994, you had to make a phone call to get on the internet. Not 10 years later, the emergence of VOIP flipped the table. Today, even customers with “landlines” require an internet connection to make a phone call. It’s this kind of radical paradigm shift that anyone using the internet – particularly social media – needs to be aware of and ready to manage.
Even looking back just 10 years, we see an evolution of social media that has literally changed the way we use the internet. Sites like LiveJournal paved the way. Then there was the era of Myspace, then Facebook. Facebook, as a platform, has evolved radically itself since its inception. Its purpose has also completely changed.
Today, people’s lives are so immersed in social media, it has become the hub of nearly every kind of interaction and engagement, including customer service. Ever noticed how Facebook tracks how long it takes you to respond to a question on your business pages? Ask anyone who has ever worked in a call center if those kind of numbers matter (hint: they do).
Facebook (and other social media sites) track these metrics because they know their audience. They have created such an immersive experience that people have begun associating these sites with every facet of their lives. It stands to reason, then, that people would use the various social media platforms as a customer service tool.
Bottom line: If your customers see it that way, you need to, as well, which is why, today, I want to give you a thorough framework for delivering outstanding customer/client services via social media. Some of these touch on areas I’ve discussed in the past, so if you see something familiar, take note. It means that it’s an important thing to understand about social media in general.
#1 – Be Ever-Present and Ready to Help
One of the biggest challenges you will face when attempting to provide quality customer service via social media is figuring out how to maintain a steady, consistent presence on all your channels. When it comes to social care, Facebook and Twitter will be the primary platforms that people will use, with LinkedIn coming in a distant third.
This is why I think it’s a great idea to invest even a few hours a week in social media management or in a VPA who is knowledgeable about your brand and can field questions or concerns as they emerge.
You also want to monitor the conversations happening on your page closely and attempt to deal diplomatically with negative or damaging comments. Never get into a public conversation with naysayers. Deal with them privately and, if that doesn’t work, restrict their access to your channel.
Being able to manage at this level will almost always mean outsourcing at least some of your social media management, but consider the damage not dealing with the negatives at all (because you aren’t paying close enough attention) can do to your bottom line.
Remember that it’s the consumer, not the brand, that determines your brand image, so be ready and available all the time to:
- Engage with your social audience regularly
- Be quick with responses to followers’ questions
- Encourage conversations that build you up
- Be ready to do damage control with those that seek to tear you down
#2 – Pay Attention to Your Metrics
It is important to keep track of how your followers and customers use social media to obtain client services.
As I mentioned earlier, the speed of response on social media is critical. If your business isn’t large enough to warrant creating trouble tickets or if you just prefer to handle these situations on a per-incident basis, it is important to know what the majority of inquiries or concerns involve.
Knowing this will allow you to optimize the user experience in several ways. First, you can start dealing with common questions and objections in your content. This is the best and most effective way to handle common questions or objections, and it has the added effect of making you look like more of an authority – answering questions before they’re even asked.
You can also show your audience your commitment to good customer service by keeping the numbers they see looking favorable. Just make sure your responses suit the inquiry. Don’t just respond with a, “Let me get back to you on that…” so you can keep your numbers looking pretty. I guarantee you’ll forget to follow up eventually and, when you do, it just escalates the problem.
Finally, knowing what the biggest questions and concerns your followers have are, helps you to prioritize your responses. While every business will experience slight differences in how inquiries line up, you might want to consider dealing with these types of issues in this order:
- Direct pre-sell questions
- Technical or account-related issues
- Customer complaints
- Urgent requests for information or service
Once you’ve tackled all of the above, it’s time to manage the less stress-inducing elements of social care, including:
- Responding to general comments and questions
- Thanking people for positive comments and feedback
- Interacting with your audience and encouraging continued conversation
#3 – Pay Attention to Details
When a customer or follower raises a complaint, handle it the right way. It may seem like an elementary concept, but I guarantee you that much of your competition isn’t good at this yet on social media.
So, without providing an entire course on customer service, here are a few things I think you should consider when approaching a possibly difficult situation:
- Listen to your customer
- Correctly identify the problem or issue
- Listen to your customer
- Provide the best and shortest possible avenue to a solution
- Be courteous and positive throughout
- Listen to your customer
- Deal with all problems and issues swiftly and consistently, and, finally…
- Listen to your customer
If you get good at the first, third, sixth, and eighth items on that list, you will likely blow most of your competitors clean out of the water. The number 1 complaint across every possible customer service channel out there is that the rep did not appear knowledgeable or attentive to the details of the problem.
Simply listening to the customer and understanding the problem will exact a fast, fair, and mutually agreeable solution. This works especially well in your favor if a user decides to make his or her issue public. Showing your ability to listen and understand will only help you build trust in your brand.
#4 – Always Be Professional
Never, ever say or do anything in clear view of your customers and followers that can be construed as rude or condescending. This is the wrong time to get offended. It is, however, the perfect time to make your brand image shine. With that in mind, here are a few social care “don’ts”:
- Don’t neglect your responsibility to your customers – Answer every question and address every concern, no exceptions.
- Don’t censor or delete unfavorable comments (unless they are obviously spam or violate the platform’s TOS). This just shows that you agree with them.
- Don’t get defensive – Stand up for your brand but also take all customer concerns seriously.
- Don’t feed the trolls – Don’t directly engage users who are clearly just there to rouse the rabble; show them who the adult is in the situation.
- Don’t try to over-impress – Tread the fine line between “authority” and “know-it-all” with great care in front of your audience.
#5 – Seek Professional Help
No, I don’t mean “find someone nice to talk to,” although it’s conceivable that the right irate customer could drive you crazy…
Before it ever reaches that point, it’s a good idea to have a structured management system in place to help with the fine details of social media management. I hinted at this a little earlier. Now, I want to go into a little more detail about why I think it’s necessary.
Simply put, content creation and online interactions are usually the first things to go when you start feeling pressed for time. Admit it – You’ve neglected to update your channels or deliver any fresh content in favor of doing other things more than once, haven’t you?
There’s no shame in it – You need to deal with the specifics of your business in order of importance. The problem is that the time you spend developing content, delivering it via social media, and interacting with your audience needs to be profitable and inconsistency never is.
Working with a social media management team brings with it a number of benefits. First, you get access to top-quality management software that is capable of creating consistency and giving you the numbers you need to manage social care effectively.
You also get expert advice from people who do this for a living. Odds are, they will spot problems and offer solutions long before you ever notice them and before those things have a chance to wreak havoc on your social media marketing efforts.
Social media has actually made it easier to provide good customer service in many ways. It is also more cost effective than outsourcing an on-call customer service team. If your business isn’t big enough to warrant that, social media can be your most effective customer service tool.
With that said, I think you should seriously consider the benefits of investing in social media management. One of the advantages of that is a built-in mechanism for dealing with customer issues. You can either let your social media team handle them or give yourself a way of being alerted to them quickly so they can be dealt with quickly in-house.
Whatever you decide to do, make decisions that line you up for success. That means providing consistently fast, competent, and agreeable care to all customers’ and followers’ inquiries, period.
How is your business doing? Have you ever thought about using social media as client services tool or are you already using it? Please share your experiences by leaving a comment or joining our closed Facebook group for further discussions. 🙂