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How to deliver exceptional customer service in social media

How to deliver exceptional customer service in social media

By Pete McGarr, managing director, Tempero

Social media can appear daunting to many because of its inherently unruly nature. The speed at which information can travel and the fact that all communications are laid bare for the world to see increases the level of risk and opportunity in equal measure.

Our advice is, embrace it. Fundamentally, customer service is a very important part of the brand experience and social customer service is a great opportunity to enhance your customers’ experience with your company. 

Ask yourself: if my customer engages me in social media, how will that make their experience of my products more fun, more useful or more social? 

So what are some of the key points to consider when moving into social customer service?

1. Listen 
Listening to customers might appear an obvious place to start, but it is also the most important. Listen to what customers are saying about your brand, product or service. What are the main positives and, more importantly, negatives? What platforms are they talking on? What is the general volume of conversation? How does this correlate with your CRM and call centre data? 

All of this will help inform you of the resource required for day to day management, the tone of voice required and feed into any wider FAQs that can be easily accessed by your social customer service managers.

Listening isn’t just there to help inform at the beginning, it needs to be on-going in order for customer service responses to be proactive and to help identify potential issues early. This way you can nip problems in the bud before they spread. 

At Tempero, our analysts create live dashboards for our clients. The dashboards act as nerve centres for numerous sources of customer data and provide a constant source of insight and performance management.  Crucially, they provide a shared platform for everyone concerned with customer satisfaction to refer to and set goals.  

2. Create an appropriate communication style
Social spaces may not be corporate environments, but you still need to use them in a professional manner. In order to find an appropriate tone of voice, you need to discover or define the human voice of your brand. Listening research will help inform a suitable tone of voice but it is also vital to spend time revisiting the values of your brand and to be clear and simple about the personality you want to convey. 

Consistency is a challenge. At Tempero we help our clients to keep the brand tone of voice rules simple and invest time immersing our agents in the brand through workshops and offsite experiences. 

If possible, avoid the copy and paste approach as it can give an impression of disinterest – ultimately people want to hear from people. Human contact is what it’s all about. Social channels enhance the ability for customers to talk about their experiences and excellent human contact with a brand is rocket fuel for customer advocacy. 

3. Timely responses
While the vast majority of people won't expect an instant reply, especially late at night or at the weekend, they do expect to be acknowledged. 

You can score points or defuse an angry complaint by replying within the hour – even where a query is complicated and a simple answer isn't possible, post a holding reply informing them that you’re looking into their problem. This responsive approach demonstrates to both the customer, and to anyone else viewing your reply, that you are taking the customer seriously, and doing your best to help. One word of caution here: you MUST do what you say you're going to do. If you say someone will call the customer later, this must happen. Breaking a publicly-made promise is more damaging than not responding at all.

Ultimately, customer expectations are still being defined but many will be pushing their luck as far as they can. So a good rule of thumb is to align your service with that of the expectations of a reasonable customer and then aim to surpass that by 20 per cent. 

4. Follow up and track
This is an operational point. Make sure that you work out a bulletproof shift handover process, and that records of customer interactions are managed within a single thread, until resolution. 

Putting customers through the same process twice because of poor organisation will infuriate even the most reasonable. Make sure you select software that allows you to track every customer contact and analyse this data in detail. 

5. When things go wrong
‘Be prepared’ and ‘don’t panic’ are the two main pieces of advice for when things go wrong – which they will. The open nature and speed at which social media moves means that things will inevitably go wrong at some point.

It’s common for people to rant and do whatever they can to get your attention – especially on social channels such as Twitter – and every brand experiences this, so be ready to respond appropriately. The key is to follow your usual processes when responding to any other normal customer query; an irate customer shouldn’t get special treatment. Stay calm and reasonable and don’t hide the comment or conversation from the social media channel. Traditional customer service rules apply; listen to the issue, give the user more than one solution where possible, and ensure the choice of language used is conducive to a calm resolution. 

One of the most common customer rants is that they receive a disparity in service between different channels, so make sure that your customer service policies are consistent and justifiable. 

6. Performance management and resource planning
Set yourself response targets and keep track of when it becomes difficult to meet them. Understand the reasons for spikes and learn from resource problems. A flexible resource solution is the best way to work so that you can shrink and grow the team in anticipation of customer volumes. 
Tempero can offer this model, whether this is managing the whole service or just providing overspill support. 

For social media training, contact the experts at The Knowledge Engineers who can help you to achieve social media success.
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