Social media has changed the rules of customer service. There was a time when if a customer wanted to complain, they’d have to dial the customer service number and then wait in a queue for 10, 20 or 30 minutes.
If they were a bit irritated when they picked up the phone, they were likely to be fuming by the time they got through to an agent.
This was partly due to the long wait, but also due to the fact that this set-up led to customers not feeling in control or valued in any way.
Social media has changed all of this – not only are customers in control of how and when they get in touch, but they can complain publicly, giving them power and influence as well as control.
It’s therefore not surprising that many businesses have concerns about social media customer service. However, getting it right has huge benefits, and not offering it at all really isn’t an option in 2017.
Five reasons to calm down:
1. Negative feedback
Complaints are an unavoidable part of business. Every company in the world will have at least one unhappy customer, but it’s what you do about it that really counts.
For instance, you might worry that if a potential customer visits your Facebook page and sees a negative comment, it will affect how they perceive your brand.
And this may be true, but if they saw a negative comment, followed by a friendly reply from your company resolving the customer’s problem, it might even have a positive effect for your brand.
2. Losing business to competitors
Another common fear is that due to the public nature of social media, your competitors will have access to a lot more data about you.
This means that your competitors will not only be able to monitor how successful your social media service is, but they could potentially contact and try to steal your followers.
However, it works both ways. Your marketing team will have access to the same information about them, and if you can build trust and loyalty with your existing customers, you can limit the damage a competitor could cause.
3. Social media becoming a distraction
In the early days of social media, it was primarily a way to talk to family and friends. As each network has developed, social media has moved into the working world, as a way to connect with customers and clients.
In the minds of many, social media is not necessarily considered a “fun” task – it’s just part of the job.
4. Social media becoming too time consuming
A major concern for many businesses is that they’ll spend most of their time “firefighting” – as in, a situation will get out of hand, the bad news will spread like wildfire and they’ll spend hours clearing up the mess.
While this is always a risk, the reason most incidents get out of control like this is because a customer’s problem was mismanaged or left unresolved. If you can address the problem promptly, with a well-trained team on hand to help, you should be able to put out the fire before it gets out of hand.
5. Thinking that your customers aren’t on social media
Lastly, it’s a common misconception that companies believe their customers aren’t on social media. There’s the myth that social media is only for the young and that if your business doesn’t solely cater for this market, investing in social service would be a waste of time.
In reality, around half of UK consumers offer feedback to businesses through social channels – 24% because it’s convenient and 16% believe it’s the most effective way of getting action from a business.
Five reasons to panic:
1. Not coordinating social media with other customer service channels
Social media customer service is a great tool – but only within the network of the other service channels you offer. If you can’t track a customer conversation as it hops from Twitter to the phone (and back again), you’ve lost any benefit you may have gained from offering a convenient social service.
Social media has now reached a point where consumers expect a brand to have a social presence. And more than that, they expect a brand to be active.
Avoiding social media altogether is probably the worst mistake you could make, followed by starting social accounts which are under-used. Your social media profiles should be an extension of your brand, as well as a useful tool for customers – so a profile that looks abandoned doesn’t reflect your business well.
3. Insufficient training
Just because an agent uses Facebook in their personal life, it doesn’t mean they’ll be able to deliver great customer service on the network.
Because social media has a universal quality, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of training. You need to establish clear protocols for dealing with customer communications and explore how phone service translates to social media.
For instance, not all problems are best solved over Twitter. Many businesses use the network as a way to let customers know their problem has been heard, before moving the conversation onto a more appropriate network for proper discussion.
4. Not being able to respond quickly
Social media is, by nature, immediate. For many, it’s a source of breaking news and updates from friends and family. As a result, there’s the expectation that if you contact a brand on social media, they’ll respond quickly.
You need to ensure you have the right technology to monitor social media engagement and the levels of staffing to deliver a service that’s efficient.
5. Not extending opening hours for social media
Social networks are filled with chatter 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trying to enforce 9-5 office hours on a network that never sleeps just won’t work.
Customers expect the opening hours to reflect the nature of the network. Replying to a customer complaint the next day with the excuse “sorry, we close at five” just isn’t good enough.
For more on this topic read our white paper How to choose your channels: designing an omni-channel strategy.