Social media is undoubtedly a valuable tool for business sales and growth but it can also be just as valuable for customer service. Before we explore just how valuable it can be it’s important to define what we mean by customer service.
The definition of customer service is “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services” but what does that really mean? Far too often customer service is mistaken for complaint or crisis management or having to support a customer when there has been a problem. Traditionally that may have been the case but in today’s business world customer service is so much more. It is still very much about handling complaints and ‘dealing’ with a problem but good customer service is about the whole experience of a customer from the first minute they come into contact with a business right the way through to after sales support. Providing information before a purchase, offering support with a purchasing decision and ensuring that the buying journey is as easy as possible is all a part of customer service.
When you look at customer service from an overall journey point of view then it is easier to see how well it fits with social media. Whichever platform you are on, social media gives you the opportunity to communicate how great not just your products are but also how great your service is. The level of service (or lack of) could be a decider for some customers. All businesses compete with others who are similar. In a digital world our customers all have access to a large quantity of information and are likely to make comparisons before they make a purchase or sign up. Their perception of the service you provide will undoubtedly be a factor in that even to the extent of being willing to pay more if they feel that the level of service they will receive is important to them. John Lewis & Partners do this particularly well. As well as their well known price guarantee they also have one of the best reputations in retail for providing excellent service. Customers want to buy with the assurance that what they buy will meet their expectations and that the company they buy from will meet those expectations as well.
With that in mind, how can you best use social media for your customer service?
1. Be responsive
Being responsive on social media is absolutely essential for customer service. Not only is it expected by the platforms but it is also expected by your customers. If a customer asked a question, or complained to you, in real life you wouldn’t ignore them or walk away. On social media it can be easy to just ignore a problem and hope it just goes away but it rarely does. Not only does it anger the person complaining but it is also visible to other followers and doesn’t reflect well on you. If someone asks a question about your service or product not answering them shows lack of attention to a genuine customer. How does that reflect on your business? It also shouldn’t just be negative that you respond to but positive as well. Look at this recent post from Spotify on Facebook, for example. Lots of answers to their question but no interaction from Spotify – a wasted opportunity for showing that they take a real interest in their audience.
2. Be available
As customers, we have very high expectations of how quickly we get a response. In a recent survey 88% of customers asked said that they expected a response within 60 minutes. Be clear about your open hours and stick to your service standards. Being available is also about monitoring channels to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time to deal with questions or issues before they become a bigger problem. Monitoring all of your channels also means that you can be a part of the conversation and start to build a relationship with your customers and potential customers.
3. Be personal
Social media can feel very automated and inhuman. With the filter of a screen, it can be easy to forget that there is a real person on either side but using names or initials in replies can make a big difference to that. Not only does it feel like someone is taking ownership but it also makes the conversation feel more personal.
4. Isolate support with a separate handle
Many businesses have a separate support account that they can direct customers to. This can make it easier for a customer service team to manage support as they can focus on one account and customers commenting on the main page or account can be redirected. The downside is that it can become a very negative space where everyone has issues but if the team stays responsive and positive it can also showcase a company’s excellent service and support. Shopify’s support page on Twitter @ShopifySupport is an excellent example of this. They are quick to use the platform to raise potential tech problems but also really well to follow up. Their team respond quickly to questions and problems and use it to connect their customers to their wider community for support and inspiration.
5. Keep it private
Not everything has to be dealt with publicly and moving something to a private DM or email is perfectly acceptable (or necessary if sensitive information needs to be shared). Respecting privacy not only shows that a business cares about their customers but also moves it away from the public forum. It should, however, be acknowledged publicly. A polite response acknowledging that you are aware of the problem and that you have contacted them by DM, for example, shows the wider audience that you are handling it.
6. Build relationships with helpful content
Content is the cornerstone of good customer service on social media. You can put process and procedures in place to manage issues and support but great content helps you right from the very start of your customer’s relationship with you. Posts or tweets that cover frequently asked questions should be regularly shared. Short how to videos can help customers solve their problem themselves with out having to reach out for help. Useful information, like contact and delivery information, should always be easy to find and if you have a separate handle for service then this should be advertised on all of your channels and accounts so that customers can easily find out where to go. Content helps you to build a relationship with your customers by adding value from the first point of contact.
If you’re looking to deliver outstanding customer service, effectively handle complaints & negative comments, avoid potential PR disasters and would like to see some good & not so good examples customer service on social media, take a look at our half-day Customer Service on Social Media course. Called “Extremely useful” by the University of Cambridge and “Excellent” by the Institute of Food Research.