Several principles for social media customer service are the same as for other traditional channels, as Carolyn Blunt explains…
Make sure you answer – and promptly
If you have set up a Twitter feed or a Facebook page as a customer service channel, this is the same as publishing a customer service phone number or email – you are promising the customer that someone will be at the other end to answer their query. Once that promise has been made, there is nothing more annoying than not being able to get through to someone. If your social media channel will only be manned at certain times, make this very clear in your public profile and use your first and last tweet/post of the day to remind customers of your hours of business.
You also need to make sure you are answering quickly. Remember that Twitter in particular is seen as an ‘immediate’ channel, so customers expect a rapid response. I would say most people will wait a maximum of an hour before figuring there is no-one there to answer them and going elsewhere.
Use appropriate technology
The technology is out there to make things easier for you. You can use tools to scour Twitter for tweets that mention your company name or for other key words you may be on the lookout for. These tools will then allow you to queue interactions, assign them to particular agents, and measure performance.
Employ the right people
Regardless of the channel they are using, customer service agents need the same attributes – they need to be courteous, able to communicate well, build rapport easily and display an aptitude for problem solving. A passion for helping people is the key requirement, but for social media agents it can’t hurt if they are at least a little tech-savvy and are able to write well.
Take advantage of business insight
Collect spontaneous feedback that may appear after the interaction – and proactively ask for comments from a proportion of customers so you can get a handle on how effective social media is as a channel. Just as with other channels, the issue or problem will likely have originated elsewhere in the business – and the digital nature of social media channels makes it easy to share this with the rest of organisation, so make sure you pass key insights on to the relevant departments.
The beauty of social media is that it is a great broadcast tool. If there is a known issue that the business is dealing with, you can quickly let your social following know by tweeting about it – thus perhaps saving a lot of inbound interactions.
Make it personal
Avoid cut and paste responses or sending ‘holding’ responses. Use first names or initials as a sign off so customers know they are dealing with a real person. Use their name if you know it. Just as with a phone call, you need to be polite, avoid jargon, and avoid being argumentative or confrontational.
Offer a seamless experience
The rule of thumb is to try and solve the query in the channel in which it originated, but if you do have to move the interaction from social channels to a more traditional one, make sure that either the same person deals with the enquiry from start to finish, or that other members of staff are well briefed on the issue.
Social media is a channel like any other and you will need to measure performance – consider metrics such as: time to answer; number of resolved queries; number of escalated queries; how many queries switched to another channel; time taken to resolution. It’s vital that you are able to demonstrate to anyone who asks the value of your social media channels. Work out your cost to serve over these channels and compare it to traditional means of communication.
In many ways, social media is just one more channel in the customer service mix – a lot of the same rules apply. With careful planning, a mapped out strategy and basic customer service rules, it could become one of your most effective ways of communicating with customers.