I immediately tweeted at the company's Twitter account relaying my vexation with its menu’s vague messaging. Despite my 140-character attempt to address the issue, I received no response. This is an example of poor, modern-day customer service.
The birth of social media has given businesses of all kinds a unique opportunity to improve their relationship with consumers. Long gone are the days of hand-written complaints and private 1-800 phone calls. People flock to Facebook, Twitter, and the like to vocalize their complaints, read by countless online consumers.
To help combat instances like mine and leverage your social media presence for exceptional customer service, here are 3 ways to turn your social media accounts into contemporary customer service stations.
1) Monitor Every Online Account
The number one mistake many businesses make is setting up their social media accounts and treating them as one-way communication platforms. While promoting your business online through social media is a quick and effective way to start a conversation about your brand and spread your content and messaging to masses of online audiences, you can’t let the conversation rest in your followers' hands. You need to monitor your social media presence and stay active in the discussions that evolve. Don’t set up a Twitter account and neglect to monitor your @replies, direct messages, or various mentions of your brand, products, and services. When I tweeted at the restaurant chain, I should have received a response. Don’t lose customers this way. If you hung up on an irking customer complaint phone call, the world may never know. If you ignore a customer complaint in social media—the world will know.
Marketing Takeaway: Be an active voice in online discussion. Monitor what people are saying about your company and be sure to address both positive and negative messages. Show your fans, followers, and customers that you're listening and that you appreciate their feedback and commentary.
2) Own Up to Your Mistakes
We're only human, and it's very human to make the occasional mistake. The important thing to remember here is to avoid pretending like it never happened. The social media-sphere is always occupied, with an innumerable amount of eyes scanning it at any second. If you post something that contradicts your brand's message, belies what you intended to say, or was simply a case of not thinking before you speak (or in this case, type), don’t just delete it. Instead, clarify your message immediately after. Furthermore, address other company-related issues using your social presence, even if they didn't stem from social media in the first place. Accept that you were at fault, let your audience know, and apologize if you were offensive. It will make you real to them, because anything perfect is usually too good to be true.
Furthermore, if someone blatantly complains with a public comment on your Facebook wall or a tweet at your business, don’t ignore it. Think about why that incident upset them, and apologize for that reason. If your business was truly at fault, try contacting them over email or in a less public forum and discuss the issue deeper there. When dealing with upset customers online, be as sincere as you would if someone was calling your 1-800 number to file a complaint. Remember that you're speaking on behalf of the entire company.
Marketing Takeaway: Always listen to your audience and address their issues. Understand that everyone makes mistakes, and the best you can do is own up, apologize. Try to avoid making those mistakes again, and truly listen to your followers—you might learn that there are certain widespread problems that your business needs to address.
3) Chat It Up
Customer service shouldn't just be about controlling complaints, but also about answering the lingering questions keeping your customers from using your products or services to their fullest potential. When confused about how to do so, these customers want answers right away. To meet this demand, some businesses have begun hosting live online chats with their customers. When a customer lands on a support request form, an option to speak with a company representative appears. This allows the user to speak directly and with the business and get their questions answered quickly.
An effective way to execute this is to ask users to first provide a brief description of their problem. From there, your business can select the most knowledgeable person to address that question. Within seconds, a live chat will commence, and your friendly and informative nature will foster trust in that customer.
Marketing Takeaway: Create an effective way for your customers to contact you quickly. Whether it's something as creating a customer support account for your business on Twitter and linking it to your website's support request page or creating a live chat feature on your website, your customers will appreciate your commitment to making them successful. Make it as simple and intuitive as possible for customers to reach out to you and get the attention they deserve.
These are just three ways businesses can help use their social media presence for effective customer service. How else do you think businesses can help improve customer service online using social media?
Image Credit: Techy-Hub
Originally published Oct 12, 2011 9:00:00 AM, updated March 21 2013