Customer Service and Recovery via Social Media
By Ana McFee, Marketing Manager at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL)
More than half of the world's population currently uses social media. People turn to the various platforms to connect with friends and businesses alike. They read stories that interest them, share news, and even investigate companies that they might be interested in buying from.
Social media, in many ways, has become the world's watercooler. This is where customers go to discuss the issues that matter the most to them. In a world where customers control much of the early process of the buyer's journey, including taking the initiative to uncover companies and product solutions that might help them solve their pain points, companies need to make sure that they are part of the conversation with customers across the social media platforms.
Social media: immensely public means of engaging with customers.
The information that you post on your company page and the comments that you make in response to questions or concerns will be public for anyone to see. At the rapid pace that social media moves, it is very likely that even deleted comments or posts will be captured by someone, making it nearly impossible to go back on a post once you have published it.
Therefore, social media needs to be handled by trained and experienced brand representatives who understand the essential role of social media in modern business, but also how to build a positive brand reputation through the platforms. When it is used correctly, it can provide a positive face for customer service and play a big role in bringing new customers to your business. Their key is understanding how the platforms operate and how to use them correctly.
The changing face of customer service and the role of social media
Engaging with customers through social media is not just about marketing. It also provides a new means for customers to interact with your brand and ask questions or get responses to problems they are having, without them having to place a phone call or wait for you to answer an email. In other words, social media allows you to meet your customer where they are, providing a means of rapid communication and engagement on the platforms where many people spend a large portion of their day. Studies suggest that a typical user can spend an average of 2 1/2 hours using the various social platforms each day. Providing customer service through this means offering convenience for customers.
Since customers are already on social media, this presents organizations with the chance to demonstrate their commitment to service and the customer experience.
Customers have begun to see that other forms of communication with brands can be cumbersome and frustrating, such as phone trees to reach a live person for a question on the phone or a potentially long wait for someone to get back to you via email. Social media offers the chance to seemingly cut through those obstacles and provide clear and quick feedback for customer questions.
As customers get increasingly accustomed to the rapid rate of communication that naturally comes with social media, they expect brands to respond similarly. In other words, the response team that answers customer communication on social platforms needs to understand the importance of regular and quick responses.
Not only does this present the customer with a positive experience, and thus provide the organization's brand with a little boost, but it also helps the customer feel a more personal relationship with the brand. They have communicated with a representative of the company in the same way that they often communicate with their own friends and family. This helps to lay the groundwork for positive associations.
The importance of monitoring and engaging with customers on social media
The importance of monitoring and engaging with customers on social media comes down essentially to meeting customers where they are and on the platforms that matter the most to them. At the core of providing customer service lies the idea of helping customers with the issues and solutions that matter to them, not what the company itself prioritizes. If customers have begun to expect brands to provide them with service and information through social media, then organizations need to meet that need.
As you engage with customers on social media, you also help to demonstrate that the brand cares about their experience. The followers of your page can receive your updates and the latest information about your brand in their feeds, which helps them remain engaged with your organization and keep your brand on their minds when they prepare to make a purchase.
However, since customers are on social media, you also need to make sure that you regularly monitor the posts produced. Creating Google alerts and social media alerts to let you know if people mention your company or your industry, in general, can help you track customer opinion about your offerings and your service, as well as that of competitors. Knowing what customers are saying can help you anticipate trends and provide better service and product development moving forward.
However, it also lets you know if someone ever does say something negative about your organization. You want to protect your reputation, and you cannot do that if you don't know how your customers truly feel about what you provide. News and events, including negative ones, can quickly go viral. A viral post that casts your business in a poor light could easily reach thousands of people. By monitoring social media and receiving alerts, you can see when these types of negative posts first appear and take the time to protectively and publicly reach out to the poster and work with them to remedy the wrong they feel they experienced.
Not only does this help to stop bad news from spreading further, it also helps to mitigate bad feelings from the poster towards your business. This lets others following the conversation know that you care about the customer experience and are willing to work to make it right for them. They feel more confident that their time and investment in your products and services will be valued.
How to provide customer service on social media?
When you create a strong social media presence, you need to be ready to manage customer service through these platforms. One study found that the brands that do not respond effectively to the service requests received through social media will see a 15 percent higher churn rate than the companies who see the value of social media in this area. To help you create the optimal social media service experience, we recommend the following ideas.
1. Remember the importance of speed.
Customers turn to social media because they expect it to be more personal and faster than sitting for hours on hold when making a call or having to wait for an email to receive a reply. One study even found that nearly a third of users on social media expected brands to respond to the questions they posed in under a half an hour. You need to make sure that your social media team is ready to perform regular checks of the page and then respond to questions and comments as needed.
2. Make sure that your typed tone matches the customer service tone that you want to convey.
As you read the message, consider the emotions that you believe the customer might be experiencing. For example, are they frustrated that they have not yet received a package that was supposed to have arrived the previous week? Are they curious about pricing structures and if the product will benefit them? Knowing the emotions that the customer experiences can help you monitor your tone in responding to match what the customer needs. Customers who speak in a light-hearted way with plenty of emojis might not respond well to someone in a very formal tone. Meanwhile, the person frustrated over shipping needs someone patient and understanding.
3. Effective social media also sometimes requires finishing up an issue offline.
Although you can begin the conversation on social media, if you find that the conversation has begun to incorporate more personal information, a customer's unique needs, or simply requires more information and conversation than makes sense for an online format, then the transfer to a phone call can be the right solution. Make this transition easy for the customer, however. If you can provide them with any type of direct number or extension to soothe their worries about having to deal with waits and phone trees - which was why they had reached out over social media in the first place - you can continue the positive experience you began and continue to resolve their issue.
What to do when you encounter a negative review or other interaction on social media
Encountering a negative review on social media is never easy. No one wants to see that their hard work and effort to please the customer has backfired and they have now left you a review that can damage your reputation. As tempting as it is to get upset and annoyed with the customer, this doesn't help to solve the problem and might actually make it worse. Instead, you may want to follow these steps.
- Calmly review the complaint after you have had the chance to step away from the computer and take a few deep breaths. See if you can find any kernels of truth in the words that might offer insight into how you can improve your business and customer experience. If you can determine the precise moment that the disgruntled customer refers to, such as a dining couple in a restaurant complaining about service they received on a particular day, you can also personally evaluate the events and interactions to determine the truth they might contain.
- If there is any truth to the complaint, evaluate the options you have to improve your service. If a customer received food that was cold at the restaurant described above, for example, examine your kitchen policies for a busy night and look for ways to make the food preparation and delivery smoother so that customer receives fresh and delicious food.
- Reach out to the customer in a balanced, professional way. Let them know that you wish they'd had a better experience when engaging with your business. The first message you send after such a complaint will set the tone for the rest of the conversation.
- If the situation warrants it, consider sending a coupon or other gift that they will appreciate. For example, a coupon for a free meal at the restaurant to soothe feelings about the service, a discount on the next purchase from a retailer, or just a refund for the particular purchase they made can go a long way to help customers feel confident in your business. Those who left the complant are often receptive to this type of peace offering, and it might even give you a second chance to please the customer when they return to use coupons or another bonus you sent them.
- As you engage with the client, acknowledge the problem they have experienced, and publicly let them know that you want to remedy it. If the conversation turns more in-depth regarding their precise situation, however, then transitioning to private messaging or a phone call may be for the best to protect everyone's privacy.
Social media has presented boundless opportunities for companies to engage with target customers. With the millions of people online across the various social media platforms, it offers an excellent means to get in touch with nearly anyone.
However, companies who seize the opportunity to interact with the customers online need to make sure that they understand the etiquette and potential drawbacks of the social media platforms so that they will be more equipped to manage the brand effectively.
Providing customer service in this public and rapidly changing way can help keep customers engaged and interested in the brand moving forward. If you are getting ready to employ more social media in your customer service department, see how this information and advice can help you make the transition successfully.