There used to be a fair bit of distance between a brand and its customers, but with the arrival of social media that gap has narrowed significantly. It seems consumers have all the power these days and are pulling the strings of brands and businesses – a huge turn-around from the way it once was.
Customer service is no longer a private matter – it’s now discussed openly on social media. And is the method of choice for most consumers who want to communicate with a brand or complain about one. That is why it’s more important than ever for brands and businesses to deliver a faultless customer service experience that won’t come back to haunt them.
Follow these tips to stay safe and protect your brand, whilst also giving your customers impeccable customer service.
Listen to your customers
It’s important that you really listen to what your customers have to say, on and offline. This is where social media gives you an advantage, as it makes it ten times easier. Listening allows you to evaluate your customers and understand the kind of issues being raised. You should always encourage feedback on any interaction, so that you know what you’re doing right and indeed how you can improve. By listening to your customers they will also feel valued and cherished, which is how all customers should feel.
Employ soft skills and use your best judgment
Providing quality customer service over social media requires extra special handling. You must be several things at once – timely, accurate, brief and friendly. You must also take care to correctly read the customer’s emotional state and respond accordingly. Emoji and sideways smiley faces might work in some instances, but in more formal situations where empathy and an apology are needed, they would be very inappropriate and would further aggravate customers who want to be taken seriously.
Do your research (A.K.A don’t stick your foot in it)
With all marketing campaigns, you should do your research and review them thoroughly. You don’t want to offend anyone, and you don’t want people to get the wrong impression. Don’t just jump on board a trending topic – do your research and always be mindful of things going on around you. Seemingly innocent tweets could be disastrous if read the wrong way, or are unfortunately timed.
Always respond to queries and complaints… quickly
Consumers often turn to social media to vent their frustrations. They also use it to get advice and ask brands for help. You must try to respond to these in the fastest time possible. Social media is instant, and so customers want instant responses, hence why they’re not calling you.
Seek out opportunities to rectify your brand’s image
You should also actively look for opportunities to make customers feel heard and in some cases rectify your brand’s image. Try responding to customers even if the user hasn’t directly tweeted or asked for your help. Answering brand mentions shows you’re paying attention, and that you really do care about the happiness of your customers.
You could also retweet some resolved support interactions or even “like” helpful interactions between customers. This would help sweeten the deal, and show others how great you are at solving problems.
Know how to handle social media criticism
No matter who you are, you’ll probably receive negative criticism on social media at some time or other. The key though is how you deal with it. You should accept the critique and use it as an open invitation to turn the customer’s experience around. Do this by ensuring the customer that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make them happy.
Know your reputation
Hashtag campaigns can work really well for a brand, but it’s wise to know yourself before you begin. Again, do some research as to how customers view your brand, otherwise it could end in disaster and create unwanted attention, especially if the hashtag becomes a trending topic.
Take McDonalds for example, their #McdStories tag has gone down as one of the most famous social media botch-ups a company has ever experienced. The #McdStories hashtag campaign intended to encourage positive stories of happy customer service experiences in McDonalds. But rather than stories of Happy Meals and 99p bargains, tweets about type 2 diabetes, and its questionable sourcing practices were instead banded around Twitter – a hashtag horror story they’ll never forget.
Although social media can be a great tool for brands, it can also expose you. And if you’re not giving 100%, it’ll soon get noticed. You must be vigilant and tread carefully in this hazardous arena, for you are at the mercy of consumers who, collectively, have the power to make or break your brand.
– Kathryn Kearns, Customer Service Guru
Kathryn Kearns is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru. She is passionate about retail and consumer trends, and how this is shaped and governed by advertising and social marketing. She also regularly contributes to The Fuss, Tweak Your Biz and Socialnomics.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net