Social media is a powerful tool, and businesses are basically required to incorporate it into their marketing plans if they hope to survive and excel. One way businesses often fail to properly utilize social media is through customer service.
Strong customer service can go a long way in strengthening your business’ brand and improving customer relationships, and social media has become yet another outlet to do just that. It’s important for businesses and brands to begin thinking of social media as a huge customer service opportunity, because that is what customers think of it as.
The first step is to find out where your customers are and what social media sites are best suited to reach them. It’s hard to go wrong with Facebook and Twitter, but there may be discussions about your business on other social media sites as well. Include yourself in conversations that are going on, but be sure to add something of value. Whatever you do, don’t neglect conversations, especially direct inquiries. 88 percent of customers said they are less likely to purchase from a company that leaves questions unanswered on social media.
In addition to showing customer reviews, Facebook Pages now show how quickly a company replies to consumer messages in the ‘About’ section. The faster and more consistently a business responds to customer questions and complaints sent through Messages, the more positive it will reflect on the page. In fact, select Facebook Pages that have excellent response rates can proudly display a badge indicating their level of customer service.
On Twitter especially, it can be a smart move to create a separate account purely for customer service use. This is especially true for larger brands that get consistent messages related to customer service. For instance Delta Airlines has several accounts – @Delta is the main account and @DeltaAssist is used to manage customer inquiries related to customer service. Having two accounts will keep the main Twitter feed clean and free of customer complaints and responses. With the separate account, you can follow the user, reply to them or even direct message them to keep the conversation private. Once you have that account figured out, it’s time to use social media as one of your strongest customer service tools.
The key to this process is replying to customers’ complaints or concerns as quickly as possible. Generally, aim to respond within five minutes (faster if possible). In fact, many brands now have an online concierge, marketing assistant or a social media manager who are tasked with monitoring social media and answering customer inquiries and complaints, which makes answering so quickly possible. Don’t ignore any post; simply acknowledging the customer can go a long way. With that said, don’t just be an automatic social media account responding to customers; personalize and humanize the experience. People like to know who they’re speaking with, so simply providing a name with your response can help you connect with your customer.
It goes without saying that you should be friendly and helpful in your communication with customers. Show genuine concern and make an effort to help them through their problems. It’s all about helping someone, which in turn helps win over other customers and strengthen your business. Since social media is a public forum, be mindful of what you post. Don’t be mean, dismissive or aggressive, because anyone will be able to see that.
Always respond and interact with your customers whether their comment is a complaint or praise. Engage and encourage conversation. This shows others that your business is observant, thoughtful and always ready to help.
You don’t just have to respond to others to grow your customer service skills. Asking customers questions is a great way to see how people perceive your business and how customers feel. This informal survey can be used to see how they’re using your product, how they heard about you or even how to improve your business.
Granted, online communication is not always the best form of communication. Sometimes it’s a good idea to find ways to connect with your consumers offline as well. More serious inquiries should be handled with a phone call or even a face-to-face meeting, so be sure to always provide the necessary contact information. These types of interactions can be valuable in building a strong relationship with customers.
That’s really the goal of social media as a whole: to build relationships. By providing excellent customer service, you can show that you care about your customers and keeping them happy. Perhaps you won’t be able to respond to every complaint, or the complaint occurs offline. Build relationships so your other customers will want to advocate on your behalf and resolve issues for you.
Social media is an exciting forum for many businesses because it encourages creativity. Try to have some fun and to not take some things too seriously. Many businesses have found success through providing unexpected gifts to customers, joking with customers and going above and beyond what others expected. Doing nice things for customers and making sure they’re happy can lead to longer relationships and overall creates good publicity.
You can do a lot of talking in customer service, but don’t forget to listen. What are they saying about your business, and why are they saying it? Use this information to your advantage. Make decisions and allocate resources that rectify any problems you’re facing.
After every complaint is heard and every issue is settled, it’s important to sit back and reflect on how each situation was handled. Look at them individually. Was your customer service approach successful? Were you able to fix the problem? Did the customer end the conversation happy? Sometimes these answers won’t all be positive, but it’s crucial to know what works and what doesn’t in order to continue to improve your business’ customer service.
Dealing with customers can be the hardest part of the job. However, it doesn’t have to be, if handled correctly. Using social media is a great way to connect with customers, and it’s a great way for customers to connect with you. This interaction fosters a stronger relationship, a stronger company brand and stronger customer service.
To learn other social media secrets for your business, check out what we have to say on our website. For more information on exceptional customer service, read Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard.