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The five unwritten rules of social customer service

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9th Sep 2016
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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.

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.

Here are five essential tips for you to follow…

1. Be quick – very, very quick!

Kevin Mullaney, head of digital at  Flagship Consulting, believes 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 comments. 

2. Show empathy and interpret those emojis

With a 140 character limit and no sarcasm filter to speak of, it can be really hard to gauge the sentiment of some tweets.

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 notes: “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.”

3. 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. 

4. 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.

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, senior director of product marketing at TouchCommerce. comments: “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.”

5. Hire a compliance officer who focuses on brand reputation

Sufiyan Kala heads up our social department at Love Energy Savings and he highlights 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 remarks.

This, Sufiyan told us, helps to build trust in the brand.

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By dvassall
25th Sep 2016 18:28

Number 1 is very, very relative. Depending which survey you trust, if only listening to the same 2-year old saying of customers wanting responses within an hour, or relying on your own customers' feedback. Furthermore, the most recent research by Jay Baer says exactly the opposite: customers don’t care too much about speed as they do for an actual response. So the best practice is to acknowledge customer's query no matter how long it takes.

Number 3 is actually one of the big no-no's for social care, what customers want is an audience. The better you address their complaints in public the most impact you'll have in strengthening advocacy and loyalty, by showing publicly that you care. In my experience the only case to move customers to private channels when we ask personal information to process the case, to protect tier privacy.

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By chrispy
01st Mar 2017 19:45

Hello,Phil
As is relevant to point 4 of your post-I'm not sure if you know the whole story about the owner of Pigalle restaurant and one of the customers who had an open discussion in Facebook some time ago...Funny and Sad at the same time.Very true about "Don't try to hide the negative responces".Here's a nice infographic with data whish shows how important are the online reviews for the customers today.I don't think that the companies should have so many public profiles in almost all famous available medi,if they can't properly respond.However-l don't think the Facebook Pages should be used instead of the designated call centers , yet...

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