“The only constant is change.” “Change is necessary for progress.” Whomever you attribute those quotes to, they are certainly true. And social media is a good example—it is constantly changing. There are new features, new apps, new combinations of ways to communicate…and new layers of complexity for brands engaging with customers on social.
It used to be good to have a presence on social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Vine, to start with—but that isn’t enough anymore. If a brand is on social media, it should be engaging with customers, fans, critics and anyone else who “talks” to it. Customers are becoming more stringent in their expectations of social media customer service. Some social platforms are responding, changing their guidelines and upgrading technology to support those changes.
And that got me thinking—what are some best practices for social customer service? So here are my Top 10 Ways Brands Should Conduct Customer Service on Social.
1. Go Where Your Customers Are
Granted, this seems basic…but it’s a solid foundation. It’s not as valuable to have a presence on Instagram at the expense of Twitter if most of your customers are Tweeting. If you must pick and choose because you can’t adequately cover all social media, do choose the ones that will most benefit your brand and customers.
2. Engage Whether the Post/Comment/Feedback/Issue is Positive or Negative
Brands are just as likely to have positive comments posted as negative ones, and it’s good to respond to both. Definitely engage with negative comments or issues to help resolve them, but also thank or share positivity. It may broaden your brand’s reach and it certainly helps burnish your reputation.
3. Remember that Others are Listening…
Not scary Others, mind you, but social media is a public forum—that’s why customers use it to get the attention of brands! Maintaining brand communication standards is important, as well as demonstrating brand values such as responsiveness, cordiality, friendliness, professionalism…whatever your brand wants to be known for.
4. Be Quick! And Accurate
Customers expect fast responses to social inquiries—sometimes as fast as one hour. Obviously some inquiries require a quicker response than others, but it’s a good idea to respond with a general message such as, “Thanks for contacting BRAND. I’ll look into this and follow up shortly. Thanks! ^RP” This shows someone is paying attention and can calm a tense situation. Then be sure to follow up!
5. Move the Conversation to a Private Channel When Appropriate…
Engage publicly but if a question or issue involves sensitive or personal information—account details are a good example—move things to direct messaging or private messaging. Public engagement is good but not when it potentially puts a customer at risk.
6. …But Always Wrap-Up Where Things Started
After the issue is resolved or moved along via private channel, post a response or message back in the original forum or chain thanking the customer, offering follow up details or wishing them a good day. This shows others who may be following that it’s handled or in process, demonstrating the brand’s responsiveness.
7. Train, Train and Train Some More
It’s more important than ever to be sure customer service agents are trained, prepared and ready to interact with customers—because social interactions are usually public interactions. Most of the customer service “rules” are the same as a phone or email customer interaction, but it’s important to reinforce the rules our parents taught us about good behaviour and courtesy to others. It wouldn’t be good for your agent to be the one stirring up issues instead of handling them!
8. Make It Clear When Your Social Channels are Staffed (if it isn’t 24/7/365)
It may not be obvious that customers generally expect brands to be available through social channels all.the.time. People understand that phone hours are generally “normal” business hours but social is active all the time…so brands must communicate their availability on social. Extended hours are a good idea if budget/staffing allows.
9. Personalize the Providers Offering Personalized Service
It’s much more pleasant to interact with someone you know is a person and not a chat-bot. it can be as simple as inserting initials or a name at the end of a message, encouraging customer service reps to announce themselves when they are on duty, or have a photo of each agent/the team. Personalizing your brand with actual people is a good thing.
10. Be Happy, Be Engaged and Be Genuine
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: customer service is about people. It’s just as easy to have a positive, upbeat interaction as it is to have a negative one. Be aware of your attitude and how that is being presented on social. Friendly, happy, caring, genuine are always good.
What do you think? Have I left out something you think is essential for successful social customer service? Happy to engage and discuss.
Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.