Social Media Cust Care

Using social media for customer service

With the right planning and approach, you can use social media to build loyalty, get valuable feedback and create a real connection with your customers.

From small independent businesses and eBay sellers to big major brands, sellers of all kinds are discovering the benefits of social customer service.

Before you start…

1. Decide what channels you want and how you’ll resource them

Start by listening to where you’re being mentioned. You can use a service like Google Alerts to see when your brand or products are being mentioned online. Once you get an idea of your brand’s social territory – the places people are talking about you – you can get an idea of the volumes of interaction and make sure that you are covering all the main channels.

2. Understand your chosen platforms

Using a social platform without understanding its rules and user conventions is a quick way to undermine customer confidence.

You don’t have to be a seasoned social media professional, but if you take some time to learn how each platform works and what tools it offers, you can hit the ground running, and avoid making any embarrassing mistakes. Start by looking at what other businesses do in your chosen channels. Also, there are lots of useful insights about social customer service on blogs like Econsultancy’s

3. Be realistic about your resources

Remember if it’s just you, you’ll need to set time aside to be present on your chosen channels and deliver timely responses to customer questions. That might mean using fewer channels than you’d like to, at first.

Major brands such Apple, Google and HP tend to respond to their customers using a mixture of the following platforms:

  • phone
  • email
  • live chat
  • community forum
  • blogs
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube

Remember, they’ll have whole teams of people staffing these channels, but as a small business you may want to pick just one or two to focus your social customer service on.

4. Monitor forum activity

If there’s an interest, there’s an online forum for it. Forums and online message boards are one of the most established forms of social media, so there’s almost certainly one or more that’s just the right fit for your product or service.

Forums can be a great way to get insight about what your customers want and what their pain points might be. Members can post answers to each other’s questions, and receive notifications when their questions are answered by others, so by monitoring these community forums you can highlight the best solutions provided by the community.

5. Don’t forget video

Channels with video capability, such as YouTube, are a good choice for highly visual or practical products. You can create how-to videos, or show someone demonstrating – or wearing – your product. Seeing your product in use will help potential customers imagine how it might fit into their lifestyle.

Video is far more inspiring than a small static image, although there may be time and budget constraints when it comes to making videos of large product ranges. If you’re just starting out, you may prefer to wait and see what customers are asking for before you invest in video production.

Your social customer service strategy

1. Manage timeliness and availability

Social media moves at lightning speed. While 2-3 working days might be an acceptable timeframe for answering an email, even 2-3 hours can seem sluggish on social media. Twitter is probably the fastest-moving social media site, so if it’s one of your key channels, make sure your turnaround times for questions are in line with user expectations.

Whichever channels you’re using, commit to a minimum turnaround time for responses and stick to it. You can state your policy on your social media profile(s).

So that you’re not constantly on social media duty, you can put an hours of business in your profile. For example, state that you will deal with questions between 9am-5pm.

2. Speak in your own tone of voice

Take some time to think about how your communication style reflects your brand, and create a brand voice that is friendly, human and approachable. A distinctive brand voice will make you stand out in a crowded social space – but remember that the message comes first. So if you’re dealing with bad news or a sensitive situation, for instance, personality needs to take a back seat to tact and empathy.

Customers should know that a real person is responding to their complaint and they are not receiving an automated response. One popular tonal strategy is to use real names when responding to customer service enquiries – if you sign your post or tweet with a first name, the user knows that there’s a real person picking up their messages.

3. Learn from experience

Keep track of your social customer service activity over the weeks and months. Make a record of the questions you’ve been asked, the answers you’ve given, and the overall trends in your social status, like numbers of fans or followers. You should also note any positive feedback you’ve had, and any retweets or shares your posts have received.

If your volume of responses is big enough, you can consider using metrics tools that will measure your response time and response rate automatically, as well as keeping track of your retweets, shares, follows (and unfollows) and other metrics.

Your records and reports can guide your future social customer service processes, helping you get the bigger picture about how your business is doing and where you can improve. If a lot of people appreciate a particular aspect of your business, like free shipping or personalised delivery slips, you can think about increasing or building on that popular feature. And if there’s an issue that keeps cropping up, you can devote additional resource to getting it fixed.

Either way, it’s really important to let your social audiences know you’ve acted on their feedback. People love hearing that their opinion has been heard and their feedback has made a difference, and it can encourage others to share their views with you.

4. Crisis planning

Sometimes, disaster can strike, even for the smoothest and most sophisticated operation. If your supplier goes out of business, a family emergency crops up, or you’re hit by a postage strike, letting your social audiences know might be the last thing on your mind as you try to sort out the problem.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have a crisis plan in place, so that you’re ready to respond smoothly and promptly. Draft some updates and responses to have at the ready in case something goes wrong. And if possible, have someone who can stand in for you on social sites if you’re unavailable.

Top tips for social customer service

1. Getting lots of the same questions?

The great thing about social media platforms is that they are public and accessible to everyone, meaning one customer’s solved problem could solve another’s. Save time and resources by providing clear solutions to all your customers. You could also create an FAQs section on your website, store page or Facebook page that answers common questions. If the answer’s longer than a social reply allows, direct users there.

2. Receiving messages from an angry or upset customer?

It’s a good idea to take the conversation offline, where you can create a one-to-one conversation rather than a public exchange. Offer the user a DM or give them an email address where you can resolve the issue together. 

It’s essential that you stay positive and professional in such a situation. Remember that how you deal with a difficult customer speaks volumes about you to all the other customers (and potential customers) who could be following the conversation. 

If you can stay calm and focus on solving the problem, it’s possible to create a positive impression even in a negative situation. Studies frequently show that a customer who makes a complaint that is resolved to their satisfaction becomes a more active advocate of your brand than someone who is satisfied from the outset. 

3. Remember that what you say on social is public and permanent

If you’re asked for details about your posting times, returns policies or other important information, never guess at an answer. Double-check before you post a response, because the information you give will stay in the public domain and can be shared with thousands of potential customers, even if you delete and correct it on your own account.

4. Never miss a message

Thank your customers when they reach out to you or mention your brand on social media. Never leave any negative comments unanswered, or delete or flag negative comments. There’s nothing more unpopular in social media communities than the suspicion of censorship.

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