The rapid growth of Social Media channels such as Facebook and Twitter over the last few years has inevitably led to many businesses jumping on the bandwagon to use these new platforms for cheap and efficient digital marketing. However, in some organisations, Social Media is still thought of as maintaining a single purpose, often used solely for marketing rather than a multi-functional platform for B2C (business-to-consumer) communications on all levels.
The traditional model for businesses of providing customer service, whether a complaint or query, would have happened in the private domain:
Customer contacts brand (either by telephone, letter or email)
Brand responds (either offering to phone back or sending a return letter or email)
Customer is either pleased (and tells their friends and colleagues in person) or continues to be displeased (again telling their friends and colleagues, but from a negative perspective)
Overall brand image would remain largely intact, regardless of the outcome of the customer service provision in the particular circumstance
As many are aware, the rise of Social Media has now interrupted this cycle, meaning that customer communications now happen in the public domain, broadening the reach of the feedback stage (#3) to potentially thousands of followers. As messages can be shared and retweeted, negative criticisms of brands can not only be shared with a large number, but retweets mean that numbers can grow exponentially. For example, a tweet initially sent to 20 followers could end up being seen by thousands if it is retweeted by influential followers.
Responding in public to customer complaints does require tact and, above all, good judgement, but when done well it can definitely benefit a company’s public image. Good Social Media customer service also emphasises the value of monitoring what is being said about your brand online so you can respond when necessary, as not all complaints are directed toward your business. Whilst many customers will directly contact a company to make a complaint, there are also those who simply wish to vent their anger amongst friends and family. Social Media Monitoring allows businesses to engage customers and offer customer care even when they haven’t received a direct complaint. For many organisations there is an opportunity to deliver effective and differentiated service and support through social channels, which in turn necessitates the integration of Social Media with other parts of your business, and the importance of recognising that Social Media is much more than just a marketing tool.
Here at Social Media Brand Experts, we have put together our 5 Top Tips for providing excellent customer service through Social Media. Engagement and interaction through the different online social channels can make businesses appear more caring, and providing good customer service is a great way of showing this. The transparency provided by communicating through the public channels of Social Media can build consumer trust where traditional paths of customer service may have failed.
Be pre-emptive with customer relations
The growth of Social Media has enabled far greater customer insight than we could’ve imagined even a couple of years ago. Rather than simply handling a call centre, Social Media customer service assistants can now actively join conversations, seek out industry and related hashtags for possible complaints, respond to Facebook posts, and thank customers with immediate replies and occasional promotions.
“Think of all these communications as a social phone that’s ringing. Someone needs to pick up before they ring off and go elsewhere. Time is of the essence.” (Lebrun from Salesforce.com’s Radian6).
Similar to a customer service call centre, being quick to respond on Facebook and Twitter will enable people to know that there is someone on the other end of the line. As social traffic happens in real-time, customers will expect a quicker reply than through traditional means.
Be aware of other customer service channels
Just because the customer service issue has originated via a public domain does not mean this is always the best place to give help. Brevity of messages and inconsistent responses used can rapidly lead to misunderstandings. Dealing with customer service issues is best via a private message, email or phone conversation, and use Social Media channels as a way of directing queries.
Be helpful on the chosen channel
Following the integration of your existing customer service, when responding, make sure you actually offer to help through the social channel, don’t just copy and paste a call centre number! There is always a reason why a customer has chosen to use Social Media, rather than contacting your business through other means. Importantly, passing on social customer service problems to other departments is also time consuming – for both the business and its customers.
Be continually caring
Don’t forget to get in contact with the customer after you have helped them. It doesn’t take long to send a quick message asking if they are happy or if they need further assistance from you, but it shows that your business cares about individual customers, and in turn can benefit the brand image.
Whilst Social Media channels will never replace traditional customer service, they do provide an opportunity to engage with customers in a way not yet seen. Rather than simply being another marketing tool, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed customers another way to contact businesses, particularly when traditional forms of communication are not sufficient. These ‘5 Top Tips’ are a great way to help your business provide excellent customer service through Social Media, although it should be remembered that every issue is different, and every response will need to be weighed accordingly.
We are a world leading social media consultancy, marketing and customer care agency. This blog will keep you up to date with relevant business social media industry news and tips on how to progress your company by using social media.