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Social Customer Service: Best Practices

  |  April 16, 2012   |  Comments

The next time you ignore a tweet or Facebook comment you might regret it.

In today's competitive landscape, customer service is more important then ever. Conversations now echo across sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media neighborhoods. It's leveled the playing field, enabling businesses of all sizes to interact directly with customers like never before. And because the voice of the consumer has never been more powerful or influential than in today's marketing paradigm, it has the potential to spread virally in an instant.

Do Companies Understand This?

It appears they do not. Consider these stats from Customers Rock:

  • Over 58 percent of tweeters who have tweeted about a bad experience have never received a response from the offending company.
  • 55 percent of consumers expect a response the same day to an online complaint - yet only 29 percent receive one.
  • 43 percent of consumers say that companies should use social media to solve customers' problems.

These stats clearly address how customers are no longer happy with old-style approaches. If you want to satisfy your customer's needs, you must have a customer support program for your digital social channels.

Today, your company now has the option to not only take a phone call, but examine a tweet, Facebook post, blog comment, forum post, and so on. Your team can drill down into it, see who wrote it, and respond accordingly. As we move on in discussion, do not expect social media to replace member services/customer support. Instead, look for it to increase your overall customer satisfaction and offer incredible value for time to come.

Social Media Customer Service Issues

Customer service issues within social media will likely fall into three categories, as pointed out by Jason Miller in an April 27, 2011 blog post on Social Media Today.

  • Product issues: Customers experiencing difficulty with a product or service.
  • Suggestions for product or service improvements customers would like to see in the future.
  • Better ways to market, sell, support, or communicate with customers.

These are typically general in nature, but expect much variation within each category. In addition, social media users tend to be more passionate in their responses, an action that can be typical when "writing" out a request, as opposed to actually "speaking" to someone. It's important to be ready for almost anything, overly positive or negative, and be ready to respond appropriately.

How to Respond to Issues

When responding to issues with individuals, it's key to respond quickly and cordially. And in some cases, you will need to "kill them with kindness" in an effort to offer an experience that exceeds their expectations. If a customer has a serious issue with no quick resolution, offer an email address or direct phone number to quickly take the conversation offline.

How to Measure Success

Success can come in a number of ways, but without showing it to the appropriate parties (managers, C-level, etc.), it can easily appear that nothing happened. It's important to measure success of any effort by defining metrics that reflect the overall strategy (e.g., costs, savings, service improvement, etc.). The blog post, "Utilizing Social Media for Customer Service," also lists other success metrics here.

Make it a priority to review progress and make adjustments accordingly. Sometimes the little things can easily go overlooked in larger programs such as this.

Keep in touch with your audience and get their feedback once a month, possibly through an online survey distributed out to various social channels that ask how your brand is doing in regards to customer service.

How to Ensure Dedication and Transparency

Solving these issues in real time through your brand's social channels shows that your brand is dedicated and transparent to your customers. Credibility gained from an effort like this is near priceless. However, it's not easy for every brand to set up a program. Depending on your level of commitment and overall structure size, this could easily take a full-time individual(s) to handle the overall daily workload. And because social media is an "always on" environment, this is magnified greatly.

Do your best to manage and implement accordingly, and if you can't go full-scale across all of your social channels at once, start with the "main threats" and work down from there. At Ancestry.com, we have a full-time person in the member services department dedicated to social media support across five international territories, covering a total of nearly 20 social channels to keep coverage on daily. When you can get to this level and keep that light flickering on the front porch that you are there to answer questions and address issues, you can expect some incredible public feedback that will reflect positively on your brand. And of course, it also helps us improve our customer service, which is something we continue to try and deliver with every customer touch point.





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Nick Cifuentes

Nick Cifuentes is the global social media director at Ancestry.com, the world's largest online resource for family history, with 2 million paying subscribers as of July 2012. An industry veteran, Nick has worked in digital media and marketing since 2004, functioning in strategy, copywriting, analytics, search, planning, online media, and social media. He is a frequent guest writer on various industry blogs, and publishes his own blogs as well, including one focusing on digital media, and another on his side passion, ultramarathon running.

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