5 Ways to Deliver Social-Friendly Customer Service: by Conversocial's Joshua March

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Customer Service
Social customer service is no longer a nice-to-have. It's a must. Successful social marketing has opened up the social customer service route, and there's no turning back. Consumers have responded to calls to interact with the companies they purchase from and are using social channels comprehensively. In fact, consumers and companies alike have embrace Facebook and Twitter as mainstream communication channels; anything your customers have to say to you, they'll do so in public.

Social customer service is no longer a nice-to-have. It's a must. Successful social marketing has opened up the social customer service route, and there's no turning back. Consumers have responded to calls to interact with the companies they purchase from and are using social channels comprehensively. In fact, consumers and companies alike have embrace Facebook and Twitter as mainstream communication channels; anything your customers have to say to you, they'll do so in public. Complaints and unanswered queries can have a major impact on brand reputation, and as your social presence scales, managing those queries is a real challenge. Typically, marketing and social media managers own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, created to push out promotions, yet aren't equipped to deal with those who speak back. Customer service teams are best suited to deal with complaints and questions. They already have structures in place to process problems, but what they don't have is experience in dealing with public brand communication.

Bringing social networks into your customer service mix is certainly not a quick and easy process. So how do you achieve it successfully? It starts with having the right team in place and training them on social interactions and etiquette.

Ideally, companies should create a dedicated team to deliver these new standards of service. Recruiting the right individuals should be a carefully considered process. Best Buy is particularly rigorous with hiring standards; its community connectors must have a minimum of six months internal customer service experience before they can apply, as well as strong writing skills. The company has created a team of 21 full-time "community connectors," who respond directly to customer service issues on Facebook and Twitter. These are all fully trained customer service agents.

But traditional channel experience alone isn't enough. Where relevant, social media managers should lead training for customer service departments on how Facebook and Twitter work. If you don't already have extensive social media knowledge inside your organization, it can be easy to make mistakes. Get outside training first, and then you can develop your own training as you develop your internal expertise.

Social customer service can't just be transferred in one swift handover. Initially, it's effective to have thorough approval chains for responses--just like any training process. Until your customer service agents are thoroughly versed in brand guidelines, it's not worth risking the bad PR. At Best Buy, for the first two to three months of a social customer service agents' tenure, managers review their public posts before they go live. It's important that the social customer service team can source information from the right customer service teams (for customer service departments that are already stratified by specialty) and combine this with training on how to deliver responses appropriate for the public domain.

Here are five ways to deliver social-friendly responses:

Be yourself
To be successful in social, you need to use a human tone of voice. Avoid corporate speak.

But...be conscious of syntax
It's challenging to convey tone and empathy in 140 characters, and multiple tweets can be taken out of context. Think about when should you link to a longer blog posts or separate article, or need to switch to email or other media to convey more information.

Keep the conversation online where possible
Everything that can be kept on public social networks should be. This is not only where the customer reached out to you, but it also allows you to show the rest of the world that you resolved the issue, boosting your public image. If any part of the conversation must go offline, try to take it back as soon as possible.

Remember that everything can be public
Be aware of what's default public and private (for example the difference between @messages and DMs). But more important, taking something "offline" now doesn't mean it will be private. In social media, anything private can quickly get posted publicly online.

Respond promptly and accurately
People expect a quick response in social. Comcast, for example, aims to get a first response to everyone within two to five minutes. But, it's better to be slower and accurate than to go too fast and say something wrong that can be spread very quickly.

Becoming social savvy takes time, training, and good management. Despite some industry leaders delivering great social-based service to their customers, for most, mastering the challenge is a work in progress. Conversocial conducted research into the performance of top retailers, finding that, on average, 65 percent of complaints and questions on Facebook were missed. There's a long way for businesses to go before they master social customer service, but following these examples should help many companies along the way.

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About the Author: Joshua March is
president of Conversocial

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION