More and more companies are using social media for customer service. Undoubtedly it has a lot of perks for customers, what with increased transparency and quick turnaround time. But it has a lot of business perils too. This brings me to a very important question –
Is customer service over social media a good idea?
Short answer: If you have the resources and persistence to handle it, yes.
Long answer: Read on.
Social media has changed the way brands connect with customers. Brands have been successful in taking engagement to the next level.
However, social media is a double-edged sword. It has made it possible for customers to rant, rave, hash and bash relentlessly, without mercy.
Customers have become more demanding. If you don’t respond to complaints in an hour or two, get ready to face their ire and fury. From not being responsive enough to blatantly ignoring customers, plenty of allegations will be leveled at you.
This is why it is very important to untangle social media and customer service. If you are using Twitter or Facebook, the first thing to get straight is, don’t let customer service hamper your social media marketing.
Here are a few ways to untangle social media and customer service:
If you’re using your main Twitter handle or Facebook page for customer service, the first thing to do would be using two separate accounts, one for promotions, deals, and other engagement, and one for customer service. Even Zappos, who in their own words are “powered by service,” do this and clearly demarcate their marketing and social updates from customer service, albeit leaving the two functions connected and easily discoverable.
If you have businesses in multiple locations, a good idea would be to have separate accounts for each location. For instance IKEA has IKEA, IKEA Miami, IKEA Brooklyn, IKEA UAE, and many more.
Different accounts allow you to manage the flood of activity in different regions in a timely manner, as well as have local representatives respond in native languages and handle the problems with more authenticity and cultural understanding.
At the same time, make sure you monitor all your social channels regularly. You don’t want to get so engrossed in answering questions on Twitter that you forget all about your Facebook customers.
The Website Connect
All websites and apps today have social buttons on their footers, headers or sidebars. The typical information found on the sides and corners is a phone number, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube icons, and perhaps a subscription button. Indeed, DIY website builders come with the option built in.
Now the biggest mistake made here is that the links go to the generic or main social media marketing account. I’d love to see someone trying this on their website instead:
Though it might take a few days for people to know about different accounts and get used to it, once it becomes common knowledge, it would be far easier for you to handle irate customers and keep the negative publicity in check.
Also, voicing this policy on your website makes it official, so you don’t come under fire for not responding to angry customers on your main page.
If someone complains to your main account, ask someone handling the service page to take the conversation over there. Most of the time, others won’t even notice the difference.
Brand Voice and Image
Have a clear policy on the tone of your messages on social media. For instance, if your brand personality is fun, young and informal, use the same tone when talking to your customers. Do not respond with a bland and boring corporate replies that will make you appear less authentic.
When it comes to social media, nothing is spelt out for you. Check out this conversation from Argos and how the casual “Yo” worked out in their favor.
Of course, this might not work over email, where hellos and first names would be more apt than bros and babes. This is the primary difference between customer service over social media as opposed to traditional or more established channels.
Be Polite and Firm
There will be times when a problem or PR issue might escalate with more and more agitated people jumping in with strong opinions.
If at any time you feel things are getting out of hand and you need to bring in seasoned customer service representatives to handle the matter, be very polite but firm and ask the customer to contact a senior manager or a customer service representative.
Try and take things private. A simple request like this will help you avoid many a showdown on social media:
“Hey Jane, there’s someone on my team who knows better about this and will set things right for you. Fancy a quick chat here? (Insert private chat link)”
At the risk of sounding repetitive, never ignore queries or complaints, and never lose your poise. And while you are at it, don’t make grammatical errors either!
There’s a Reason It’s Called “Social” Media
A lot of social media mess-ups can be avoided if you keep promotion, branding and customer care separate. The people from Tesco Mobile really nailed it. They knew there was no point in being goody two-shoes, patronizing or politically correct on social media.
They left that job to their customer service team and adopted a fresh approach by answering all complaints with light-hearted and friendly banter.
I don’t know why, but these replies from Tesco remind me of my little brother and his smart-alecky jokes. This is the “human connect” factor that brands have to harness over social media.
Instead of being knights in shining armor, saving the world one damsel at a time (or in this case, one tweet at a time), strive to be someone’s friendly aunt, quirky cousin or a sassy sister – someone they can connect with.
That’s why it’s called social media and not customer care media!
Frankly, there is no conclusion here. The paths of customer service and social media have been crossing for some years now and will intertwine in future too. Smart businesses must maintain dedicated teams and experts so they can efficiently unravel the knots between branded conversation and customer care.
Featured image credit: Pixabay