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How to Use Social Media to Do a Better Job of Customer Service

How to Use Social Media to Do a Better Job of Customer Service

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: November 15, 2012 Updated: November 15, 2012

Ever emailed or called a company’s customer service department and got no response or a poor response to your comments? Did you instead post a rant on Twitter or Facebook until you got a response? You’re not alone – more and more customers are expecting brands to step up and respond to these posts.

According to a recent report by Gartner, by 2014, organizations that refuse to communicate with customers by social media will face the same level of wrath as those that ignore today's basic demand that they respond to emails and phone calls. “The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15 percent increase in churn rate for existing customers,” said Carol Rozwell, VP and analyst at Gartner.

The message is clear: You need to use social media not just as a marketing tool but as a systematic part of your customer service model.  Here’s how:

Align Social Media with All Levels of the Organization

For small businesses, customer service is so much more than one person or one team; it reaches across the entire business. From sales to marketing, billing to product development – these are all touch points for your customer, and it’s essential that each of these uses social media to ensure your business is customer-centric and taking care of online reputation management.

Try to involve whoever manages your social media presence in important weekly meetings so they are informed about all elements of the business while they serve as the voice of your social media followers.

Change Your Social Media Paradigm

Social media represents the human face, voice and ears of your business, but the fact is there are more brands that ignore comments on Facebook and Twitter than there are brands that respond. This is why using it as a customer service tool often requires a change in paradigm – and commitment. Here are some things to consider:

  • Recognize that your social media efforts are front and center to your efforts to retain and nurture prospects and customers.
  • Be strategic about social media and how you engage with fans. Don’t treat it as an aside to be taken advantage of when you need to promote your latest sale or event.
  • Monitor social media regularly throughout the day. Very few businesses actually do this.
  • Endeavor to respond to issues the same day, even if you simply thank your customer and inform them that you are looking into the issue. If you don’t, things can quickly snowball in full view of an audience of hundreds or thousands, including potential customers.

Set Rules that Define Your Response to Customer Service Issues

If you haven’t done so already, set some rules: who manages your social media voice and how should they should respond to negative comments?  Lay out a clear path for escalation and resolution.  This will ensure you or your social media leader is prepared to respond promptly when issues arise. This is especially true if you outsource this function or hire a junior level person to manage your social media.

Work out ahead of time a method for categorizing comments and develop a hierarchy for responding. For example, how will you handle a general comment or suggestion from a follower, versus how will you handle a genuine complaint? Does it require an immediate response? Escalation? And don’t forget to monitor some of the more serious posts further.

When to Respond

Being proactive about social media doesn’t mean you have to respond to everything. Just don’t overlook anything! Consider the following:

  • Not all comments are relevant or even solvable – For example, some folks who post public rants on your Facebook page may not actually want anything from you. They just need to get it off their chest. Such comments are often best ignored; you don’t want to add fuel to the fire.
  • Address legitimate complaints – If a customer has a specific and legitimate complaint (say, for example, the quality of a service or product didn’t live up to expectations), you need to address the issue publicly, promptly and in the same media it was made. Try to move the conversation offline, only after you’ve posted your initial response.
  • Look for positives in a negative comment – For example, if someone makes a complaint but also suggests ways you can do things better next time, acknowledge this, let them know you will share the suggestion internally – and follow through on this pledge.

For more tips on how to respond to criticism, including how to apologize, check out my earlier blog: 7 Tips for Dealing With Criticism of Your Business on Social Media.

Learn From Your Interactions

I’ve already mentioned the importance of bringing your social media lead to the business-wide conference table, but it’s also important to keep a record of customer service interactions. Again, this is part of the new paradigm. Think of it as the equivalent of monitoring a call and using it for training purposes. Share these conversations across the organization, and act on the critique and feedback.

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley