Dos and Don’ts of Using Social Media for Customer Service

Using social media for customer service makes sense for businesses and customers alike. J.D. Power published data showing  more than two-thirds of all customers who contacted a company via a social network did so for customer service. It is no surprise that companies have learned the benefits that come with a public display of customer service excellence.

Despite the attractiveness of leveraging social media as a customer service channel,  companies that have tried often deliver disappointing results. As an example, another study reveals that more than one-third of consumers who have tried to use social media to get help were disappointed.

Unlike traditional situations where customers privately interact with companies via either telephone or in-person visits, social media dialog occurs in public for everyone to see. Although this can present valuable opportunities, they may also lead to damaging negative publicity. Read the following dos and don’ts for great social media customer service.

DO

1. Respond quickly

Customers want immediate results. In response, you offer expedited shipping options, same day shipping and similar perks that compress the gap between order placement and fulfillment. Why stop there? Customers also want to receive prompt replies to their inquiries.

Did you know more than 40% of customers want to receive a response within one hour of contacting you? In fact, one third of your customers want to receive a response in 30 minutes. Even if you need more time to achieve a final resolution, a quick response to customer contacts to achieve a high level of satisfaction.

2. Be Polite and Empathetic

While online, people often speak more candidly than they might in face-to-face conversations. When an irate customer rants all over social media about a problem, you understandably might want to fire back in a similar manner. Don’t. Always use a respectful and empathetic tone when using social media for customer service.

When others see you and your team maintain a professional attitude under pressure, they will have confidence in your commitment to them. When an irate customer speaks via social media, accept their concerns as valid and guide them to possible resolutions.

A customer first attitude will make it much easier to find a mutually satisfactory resolutions. When this happens, your brand will shine.

3. Add a Personal Touch

Get personal with your customers, prospects and leads and you will endear them to you, your company and your brand. People want to feel important and valued, and allow that desire to guide their buying choices. Use names and personal details while interacting with customers and you will build long-lasting, profitable relationships.

With its Happiness Heroes initiative, Buffer sets a standard that every firm can follow. The brand’s cheery customer service specialists always sign their messages with their first names, helping to humanize the brand. As a result, the company has built a reputation as being friendly and helpful, leading to loyal customers who freely promote the brand.

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Another way to add a personal touch to your social media customer service effort is to write well. When you and your team take the time to properly spell words and construct grammatically correct sentences, you appear professional and communicate that you value your audience.

4. Admit You Made a Mistake

Sometimes your company will make a mistake and do something wrong. Win the hearts of the social media world by admitting the problem and apologizing. When you interact this way, you connect with customers who understand that “stuff happens.”

Rather than ignoring complaints or playing a blame game, take responsibility for mistakes that your company has made, take steps to make sure they never recur, and then take steps to make things right. When you take an open, honest and transparent approach, your customer service effort on social media will earn a solid reputation for your firm that will translate into sales revenue and profits.

DON’T

1. Let the Issue Linger for Too Long

In the hope that problems disappear, some people will either ignore or delete negative social media comments. Never let an uncomfortable situation cause you to run and hide. Doing so sends the wrong message to the public. In spite of the discomfort or embarrassment you feel when something goes wrong, you must promptly and positively respond to inspire confidence of the community of social media users.

Of course, every prompt response might not result in a positive result. In fact, some conversations involving complex issues can seem to drag on forever. In such circumstances, consider inviting customers to an offline channel where you can work together without exposing the extended saga to the world.

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In fact, after two interactions in public, moving to a private message other than social media might help create a positive customer experience and promote the reputation of your brand. By limiting the “dirty laundry” on your social media profiles you do yourself a favor while offering improved opportunities to affected customers.

2. Neglect Customer Feedback

Your exposure to the social media community gives you access to almost unlimited feedback streams that include both suggestions and criticisms. All such information comes to you free, at no cost, so make sure you and your team pays attention to it.

Some companies fail to spend the time or attention necessary to digest all the feedback left for them on social media, but they do so to their detriment. Even more so, businesses that acknowledge feedback and fail to act upon it hurt themselves. Act upon the information you receive via social media, even when it seems negative. Use it to improve your business.

3. Send Them to Another Channel

You’ve already learned about the damaging effect prolonged discussions can have on your brand. Aside from that, you need to accommodate your customers on the same channel that they choose to initiate contact. For example, if someone reaches out to you on Facebook, don’t immediately tell them to call your customer service telephone number.

Customers have a reason for contacting you via social media, so you should accommodate them on their preferred channel as long as possible.

4. Rely on Canned Responses

Automation has snagged many headlines in the marketing and tech world, but sometimes automation can cause major turnoffs. When you use social media for customer service, give your audience the luxury of interacting with a human being. If you lack the time to respond to comments, enlist the help of your staff. When your staff lacks the time, consider employing some remote workers to engage your customers.

Canned responses give your brand an inhuman, austere character and can quickly lead customers to wonder whether they will ever receive the attention they crave. A seemingly countless number of brands have tried to cut corners with automated responses and they have paid the price. Learn the lesson and rely on human, personal interactions instead.

Social media has forever changed the online landscape. Through it people interact with friends and their favorite brands. In contrast with companies that have made mistakes, learn from the above dos and don’ts to give your brand an edge over your competitors, and your firm a promising and profitable future.

Author byline:

Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon