10 surefire ways to improve your customer service via social media
Social media is a weird and wonderful concept. It’s a veritable emotional rollercoaster; a relentless blend of genuinely interesting people, mischievous trolls and heavy “banter”.
For businesses, platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have become essential components of their customer service and marketing strategies. According to research undertaken by The Social Habit (and cited here), 42% of people who make a customer complaint via social media expect a response within an hour. A further 32% demand direct action in as little as 30 minutes.
The game is very much up for businesses that still regard social media as a “nice to have”. Failing to interact with your target audience on these popular platforms can cause some serious reputational damage. The kind of damage that is nigh on impossible to repair.
How can businesses make the most of social media?
With customers becoming so demanding, smaller businesses in particular are really feeling the pressure. While a renowned brand with thousands of employees and a designated social media team working around the clock can easily deal with customer queries and complaints, companies with far more modest resources aren’t so well equipped.
You will have noticed that Love Energy Savings has undergone a major rebrand and part of this has involved shaking up our social media strategy.
Calling on our own experience and by picking the brains of other experts, we’ve come up with a handy guide to using social media for customer service purposes.
Here are 10 essential tips for you to follow…
1) Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be robotic
Tone of voice is important for every brand, and it’s something we take very seriously here at Love Energy Savings. All of our communications and marketing collateral carry the same friendly, approachable tone.
Some businesses will naturally have a more formal, corporate voice. While this can seem restrictive, it’s still important to speak to people as actual humans. It sounds obvious, but many brands are still making a real mess of things.
In 2016, there’s simply no excuse for using automated Twitter responses. A case involving American Airlines in 2013 showed how those that use automatic reply technology in order to save time and resources can come badly unstuck. People get annoyed if they encounter robotic telephone operatives when making calls, and generic tweets are just as bad.
Inject some personality into your replies – that’s what ASOS did when a customer lodged an Eminem-inspired, rap-style Facebook complaint.
The original complaint…
It’s amazing to think that a customer complaint eventually resulted in so much positive PR.
We’re not suggesting you go to these lengths to prove your social accounts aren’t manned by robots, but it goes to show that a bit of personalisation goes a long way!
2) Be proactive – don’t wait for complaints to come in!
If you’re anticipating problems - if you’re a train operator that is aware of impending delays, for example - make sure you post service updates as soon as you can.
This is always preferable to waiting for angry complaints to start flooding in. A lot of the time, people will react calmly to unavoidable delays if they are kept well informed about them.
Marina Kalika, a senior director of product marketing at TouchCommerce, told us: “Consumers today want information immediately. Therefore, by offering proactive information, such as service delays or order updates for example, instead of waiting until a flood of negative tweets come in, is a good start.”
3) Be quick – very, very quick!
There’s no hiding place for businesses that fail to respond quickly to social media queries.
We’ve already highlighted the lofty expectations of today’s digital-savvy consumers, and Facebook in particular has closed the net on brands that are slow to deliver. The average length of time that it takes for them to respond is pasted on their profile page for all to see.
Kevin Mullaney, Head of Digital at Flagship Consulting, told us that most consumers expect a rapid service 24/7.
“Brands should, and customers expect them, to respond within one hour of a complaint being left on social media. This doesn’t need to be the full answer to their question but an acknowledgement of the comment and when the customer can expect a follow up. Customers expect this level of response on weekends too so if your social media teams aren’t available 24-7 then make sure to specify when they are active in the profile’s bio,” he commented.
4) Show empathy and interpret those emojis
We hear you. With a 140 character limit and no sarcasm filter to speak of, it can be really hard to gauge the sentiment of some tweets.
Researchers are feverishly trying to develop “sentiment analysis” technology, but whether or not this will prove to be effective remains open to debate.
Responding to a sarcastic tweet in a serious manner, or conversely offering a jovial response to a serious grievance can be embarrassing and potentially damaging.
Kevin Mullaney added: “Social customer service is riddled with pitfalls because not only do you have to quickly and accurately respond to resolve an issue in public but you need to consider a customer’s emotional state and tone which could be very tricky in short, emoji-riddled social posts.
“Some situations require a friendly, empathetic response with an honest admission of mistakes, while others need to be much more formal and procedural. In some instances, the complaint may be so severe that 140 characters or a short response won’t cut it and you will need to take the conversation offline and away from public view to resolve an issue to satisfaction and any misstep or a lack of emotional intelligence can lead to prolonged negative sentiment on social.”
5) Don’t try to hide negative responses
No brand wants to receive negative feedback in a public forum, but the last thing you should do is delete complaints from your timeline (unless they are offensive, of course). You can read more about Twitter’s offensive comment guidelines here.
Removing genuine complaints will only serve to anger the person who has left them, potentially escalating the situation and making it much worse than it would have been if you’d simply held your hands up, accepted responsibility and offered a solution.
Having negative reviews shows that you are real. Mistakes happen - it’s how you deal with them that matters. A report by Reevoo showed that customers spend more than five times as long on a site that has bad (but trustworthy and genuine) reviews. They also convert nearly 85% more often.
6) Make sure you know exactly who has access to your social accounts
This can be messy. Do you know exactly which employees have access to your social media accounts?
Hell hath no fury like an ex-employee scorned, and if somebody who might have left your business in acrimonious fashion still has free rein to update your Facebook and Twitter feeds, you could be in all sorts of trouble.
You might remember this happening to HMV. Staff who were about to lose their jobs used the company’s official Twitter page to vent their displeasure, even going to the trouble of setting up their own hashtag - #hmvXFactorFiring.
As a busy company, you may feel that you’ve got bigger fish to fry, but you must have policies in place to ensure staff are removed from your social channels once they leave.
7) Carefully direct upset customers away from an open forum
Social media is the first touch point for many disgruntled consumers, as they know that the company in question must respond, lest they incur the wrath of the pitchfork-wielding online community.
However, businesses need to be able to direct these people to their own live chat facilities so that they can get to the bottom of the problem, offering a greater level of personalisation in the process.
Marina Kalika commented: “If a [person] has not received a delivery and has taken to Twitter to express their frustrations, the brand is able to contact the customer to reassure them via social media, and offer them the chance to seamlessly transition the conversation to their online live chat function on their website. By doing so, it takes the customer from an open forum, to a private conversation whereby a customer service representative can provide the answers they need and deliver one-to-one personalised support.”
8) Hire a Compliance Officer who focuses on brand reputation
As we’ve already mentioned, we’ve made a concerted effort to ramp up our social offerings here at Love Energy Savings.
Sufiyan Kala heads up our social department and he highlighted the point that having a designated Compliance Officer in place can help to ensure that all customer feedback is treated in the appropriate manner.
“We have policies whereby I’ll alert the Head of our Pre-Live Team, who will liaise with our Compliance Officer. The reason our Compliance Officer gets involved is because as a business we want to ensure every customer’s feedback (good or bad) is given the same amount of time in terms of investigation, liaison and, obviously, resolution,” he remarked.
This, Sufiyan told us, helps to build trust in the brand.
9) Shout about the good work that you’re doing
Speaking of building trust…
While negative reviews or comments will naturally cause more of a stir, you should never lose sight of the fact that your social channels are the perfect place to shout about customer service wins.
As you can see, we’ve got some fantastic TrustPilot reviews and we want to share these on Facebook.
We’re proud of our reviews, and these can reassure new customers that we genuinely do care about them.
Transparency is a critical part of your customer service offering.
10) Futureproof your social strategies
You might think that your social media strategy is watertight, but this is no time to get the victory cigars out!
It’s impossible to predict exactly how customers and brands will interact in five years’ time, but what we do know is that consumers are going to become even more demanding. A recent study by the Institute of Customer Service showed that the customer of 2025 will require a more personalised service.
As we’ve demonstrated, some brands have already nailed personalisation as far as their social interactions are concerned. It’s vital that others who still have a rigid, one-size-fits-all strategy catch up quickly.
At Love Energy Savings, not only can we save you money by helping you switch to a cheaper business energy supplier, we’re also adept at providing expert tips that will help your organisation to run more smoothly.
By following the tips and advice in this article, you’re sure to build a positive reputation among the online community. We’ve certainly reaped the benefits of devising a robust social media strategy, and hopefully you can too!