Brands use their social media platforms for many things:
- launching new products
- sharing interesting content
- generating buzz with compelling infographics
And some of them even use it for customer service.
In fact, 2013, over 62% of brands are responding to social questions. But is that a good way to go? Should brands use Twitter or Facebook to handle customer service messages?
After all, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in some nasty situations:
- see Home Depot’s epic fail at #8
- HMV’s unruly social media team at #6
- J.P. Morgan’s attempt at a tweetchat at #3
And the ultimate customer service fail—when an angry British Airways customer sent out a promoted tweet to complain about their customer service after the airline lost his luggage.
After seeing all that, what would possibly make you want to even attempt doing customer service through social media?
Not to worry. If your Social Customer Service team has these five qualities, you’ll be assured of making a big splash and achieving outstanding wins.
1 – Quick responses
“Social media customer service is all about convenience for consumers.” ~Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
The biggest reason a customer gets on social media is the immediacy it gives them for their message, whether it’s a complaint or compliment.
The only way to stay ahead of the negative customers and avoid major PR disasters is to have enough social media resources to respond to them quickly and effectively. If your business is 24/7, that means paying for round-the-clock social media coverage.
Action item: Have a social media plan in place to satisfy your customers, as well as a crisis plan to handle extraordinary situations like massive weather issues or higher message volumes.
While this isn’t an example of customer service, it’s a great example of how responding quickly (with a sense of humor) to a situation on social media can get you a massive customer response: Oreo’s handling of the blackout during the 2013 SuperBowl.
2 – A sense of humor
Having worked in customer service years ago, I know that keeping a positive attitude and sense of humor is essential for maintaining your sanity. It also helps the customers you’re serving, as that positivity infuses your voice and actions, and they’ll sense it.
They’re probably contacting you out of frustration, so the positive vibes help.
Here’s my favorite customer service interaction of the last few years from Netflix.
See how quickly this problem turned into an engaging brand experience?
Action item: Hire social media staffers who are customer service pros and enjoy their work. Look for people with high social intelligence.
3 – Make it easy
One simple quality for success to make it easy for customers to contact you. That’s why having a separate support Twitter handle or email address for support is essential.
Make it something simple to remember, for example [brand name] + support, or support@[brandname].com.
Do a quick search for “support” on Twitter, and you’ll see that everyone from large corporations like Nike (@NikeSupport) to online magazines like The Verge (@VergeSupport) have a support handle on there.
Why? Because it’s the first handle people will try contacting when they have an issue.
Action item: Have a separate support channel for your customer support teams.
4 – Be human
This quality is often overlooked by social customer service teams, but it’s slowly gaining acceptance. Customers want to know they’re speaking to a person behind the corporate logo. It’s one reason we love following celebrities on social media: we know it’s the genuine person behind the celebrity brand.
Replicating the in-person interaction of a phone conversation or real-life interaction gives you the best customer service results.
Personalize your Twitter bio with the names of people handling the account if you can.
If you can’t, have your staffers “sign-in” to duty so followers know who’s on duty. Telus Support is good at this.
End your messages with a name or the initials of the person responding.
See how Buffer does this in an interaction I had with them recently:
Show the face of the person on the social media account with a personalized avatar if possible.
Have your blog posts or community/forum posts written by a person, and not a general admin author.
These four actions will make you more approachable and human, and deepen the trust your customers have with your brand. Plus, having worked on the other end of the line, it’s always nice to hear someone say your name, isn’t it?
5 – Be proactive
By providing customer service to people who aren’t actually your customers yet, you’ll generate a ton of new leads. This is a tactic a lot of new companies use to generate buzz and leads; however, it can work for existing companies just starting out with their social media customer service team.
How do you do this?
- Set up a monitoring program to track questions and problems in the marketplace you’re in. Use TweetDeck or HootSuite columns to track Twitter, Google Alerts to track blog posts, and LinkedIn Search to find updates and group chats on the topic.
- Answer these questions through your social media channels. For example, you might reply on Twitter, write a How-To post on your corporate blog, or pin an appropriate image on Pinterest.
- Don’t necessarily mention your products or solutions in your answers. This may seem counterintuitive, but it serves a purpose. It shows your marketplace that you’re knowledgeable on the topic, and have good content to share on it. It builds social proof and trust with your audience, and subtly injects your brand into their train of thought.
Get Ready, They’re Waiting for You
If you thought social customer care was going to be a fad, or that it wouldn’t work, it seems that you may have to change your mind.
Brands from large corporations to small start-ups are setting up social customer care teams, and they’re handling a good chunk of their customer service calls through those channels.
Keep these five qualities in mind when setting up your team, and you’ll be ready for outstanding service and success. After all, your customers are already out there waiting for you.