Share this content

Your to-do list: The 12 tenets of superior social customer service

11th Jul 2013
Share this content

In many ways, social media has taken the customer/brand relationship back to basics. It’s taken it back to the personal, human touch that people used to expect before automated phone systems and ‘you’re being held in a queue, your custom matters to us.’ Thanks to social media, customers now expect you to act quickly and effectively (and publicly) to solve problems and answer questions on whatever channel they choose.

And brands are stepping up.

The best brands at social customer service use the channels their customers choose. Mostly, that’s Facebook and Twitter, although other channels are starting to emerge in the mix: Google+, Pinterest and Instagram are certainly worth monitoring for customer comments, and could become more important in time; and dispute resolution services (such as Resolver) are springing up. And then of course there are brands’ own channels: websites, review pages, forums and communities.

The term social customer service is arguably a bit of a misnomer. Good customer service is good customer service. No matter what the communication platform, you need to respond to issues and revolve them quickly. If a customer talks to you on Twitter, they expect you to be listening. Companies are moving closer to being able to provide a seamless customer experience across all channels. Your customer might Tweet you in the morning and phone you in the afternoon to see when a problem will be fixed. The day is coming when a customer picks up the phone and expects you to know about the morning’s Twitter exchange.

There’s a lot to consider when you move into social customer service:

  1. Set the right objectives and measurement. What is the goal of the community or social media page? (Improved customer satisfaction? Reduced overheads? Improved resolution times?) If you set clear objectives at the start, it’ll be much easier to measure success as you go.
  2. Monitor what people are saying about you. If you listen, you can catch an issue before it becomes a crisis, and you can resolve customer issues quickly. An error put right can lead to a more loyal customer in the long-run.
  3. Set priorities. Agree what posts need action, and in what timescale. Use a combination of listening technology and human analysis to spot the most important issues, and prioritise posts. Escalate the most urgent ones.
  4. Good social media management tools will help you get that bit closer to achieving a single view of a customer across different channels. They’re also useful for keeping a record of any interactions in case you need them for legal reasons, or for marketing data and insight.
  5. Integrate social media into your existing customer service. Too often, social media is considered a bolt-on to marketing, but increasingly customer service is an important part of the mix. If your customer service team works together over any channel, your customers’ experiences will be far improved. There is a tendency for people to think ‘I can only get good service by using Twitter’ (BT is often cited for this) and of course the service should be the same standard across the board.
  6. Train your team, and authorise them to act. There’s no point having a team to talk to people on Twitter if they can’t do anything to put a situation right. That means getting the right team in place at the start. You need interpersonal skills, of course, but also to be able to write, listen and – most importantly – act.
  7. Make sure your team can cope with the volume of posts. If you set up a Twitter handle called ‘wecare’, or ‘heretohelp’, you’d better be prepared to show you care, and can help. In the same way that you’d resource a call centre, think about seasonal fluctuations, busy periods of the day, holiday cover, out-of-hours cover and so on. Good management tools will help you identify patterns in behaviour so you can plan accordingly.
  8. Don’t assume your offline response times will cut it online. Best practice now says you have around 15 minutes to acknowledge a serious problem on Twitter, and an hour on Facebook. (Note: that’s not to resolve a problem, which obviously could take longer, but to post an acknowledgement so your customers know you’re working on it.)
  9. Accept criticism and if it’s relevant, act on it. Criticism can be really valuable if it tells you about a problem or issue that many customers might be having. Listen carefully, and never censor genuine criticism. But, sometimes, it’s best to walk away. Customers aren’t always right: sometimes they have a personal agenda, or are aggressive, or just venting at you. Recognise the difference between criticism and abuse, and never put up with abuse. Set clear rules for your community, and enforce them. Tell your social customer care team when they can walk away.
  10. Moderate content. You don’t want your brand to be associated with spam or bad language on your Facebook page, or to expose your customers to inappropriate content.
  11. Think about how you want to respond. For example, if you’re not able to reply to every request individually, you could group common questions together. You could also consider splitting out your feeds so you have a dedicated channel for customer service. That has the advantage of not clogging up your usual feeds with customer information, but be warned: not all your customers will play ball, so be prepared to interact on your normal channel as well. You might consider taking really long complicated discussions onto another, owned, channel, or resolving in a phone call.
  12. Talk like a human! Particularly when things go wrong, a personal touch can really make the difference to a customer who’s having a bad day. It’s much harder to be abusive to a real person than it is to an anonymous, corporate-sounding avatar. Show some personality – you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.

Tamara Littleton is CEO of social media management agency, eModeration. Her advice is based on eModeration’s Guide to social media customer service, available free to download from its website:  

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.