Social networking has become integral to the lives of many and to brands social media is just another way to talk to, and engage with their customers. To zoom in Kenya users of social media represent the most influential and economically able section of the population. This number continues to grow especially as access to the Internet’s tool of choice, the mobile phone, makes astronomical inroads even in areas considered remote. Ninety five percent of the Generation Y (which form the bulk of consumers) are members of a social network being their preferred media interaction. This completely changes the when, where and how brands need to connect and interact with this generation. Customer service is just one area where brands are really starting to take advantage of the online channel, given the large array of social tools now available to help them deliver great service. So here are a few tips you could apply in your business if you use social media for customer service.
Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
This happens mostly when a brand has hired an agency/ person to external to the organization to manage their social media presence. Should you outsource the managing of your presence please ensure the people handling the brand understand your business well. Send them updates in real time to ensure they understand exactly what you’re up to. During campaigns, launches and events ensure your digital team is in sync with what the experiential, PR and media agencies handling your brand are doing. Ensure your business too has the technical capability to deliver what it promises.
On Twitter I get replies that sound automated such as “we apologize for the inconvenience and someone is going to get in touch with you shortly” Duh! I want the problem fixed now! Shortly could mean hours, days or weeks to some companies! When responding to complaints kindly give timelines, avoid words like “soonest” ASAP or shortly; give specific timelines. Say in an hour, by 4 pm, by close of business today etc. Should it be a problem that requires dispatching a team of technicians or engineers; do advice the customer accordingly.
Integrate social media across the whole business
Social media should be viewed more broadly across a business and form part of an organization’s structure. Based on the different kinds of inquiries and complaints that you get from the varied users/publics on social media, it’s important to ensure that every department has someone to respond to certain issues that may require specialized attention. The best people to respond to a sales question on twitter are members of the sales team; likewise a customer service question on a help forum should be handled by someone from the customer services team.
Read & Respond
There’s a certain tendency to ignore certain inquiries, could be overlooked erroneously or otherwise. This sends a signal out there that the brand is unfriendly, busy to handle my inquiry or unsocial and uncaring. Every page has that group/people who just hate the brand, if your feel they are becoming a nuisance you may block them however at the beginning seek to win over their loyalty by handling their issues promptly. Some could be paid, may be attention seekers or are just serial complainers.
Make use of the responses
To avoid repeat questions in the future, frequent reviews of the types of questions received enables a brand to identify opportunities to develop its content; i.e. if lots of customers keep asking a specific question, it’s likely the brand isn’t sufficiently explaining, or promoting the answer to that question across its communications channels. Should such issues arise, you may consider using print and TV media for PR to clear out the issue, add more information on your site or air a commercial specifically to communicate/respond to certain issues that show most prevalence.
Provide useful links with information on your website
Once in a while it’s good to share links on your site that have information that could help solve the customer inquiry or complaints. This helps drive customers to the most up-to-date source of information (your website). Tracking these links will help marketers track just how many people are using the content to help answer their own questions.
Be prepared for a greater volume of questions
People asking on any platform (twitter especially) expect an almost instant response. Brands need to be sure they can deal with (and answer) any increase in the volume of questions. For a mobile operator you need a robust team on social to handle the volume of complaints that come in. Should you anticipate an outage/breakdown in your service, notify your customers/followers and give timelines when you expect the service to be up again. If you decide to use your social media presence to handle customer service kindly ensure it is well staffed by people who understand your product or service.
Have a strategy to deal with complaints and issues
Think about how the brand will deal with complaints in an open forum. There needs to be a balance between what a brand does publicly to be seen to be dealing with a customer’s complaint, and taking the complaint offline to deal with it in full. A tool like ChittyChat on Twitter gives you a chance to engage in a conversation in “private,” allowing you to communicate directly with them instead of using “mentions”. Rather than engaging the angry customer publicly you may DM or inbox them instead. You may also ask for their number so that you take the discussion completely offline. You may also engage the services of your brand loyal/happy customers to help you handle the ‘heat’ and hate by responding behind the scenes and managing your brand reputation.
The way a brand responds to customers will be noticed so offer consistent help to similar problems. It is important to train your customer care staff on handling customer complaints appropriately. Being consistent helps other users learn and help the brand build trust with its customers.
Be careful of setting a precedent
When dealing with a complaint, does your brand really want to offer a refund on a product in full view of thousands of people on facebook or on Twitter? Do you have a money back programme for customers that aren’t satisfied with the service they received or product they bought? The response you give to complaints in the public domain may set a precedent. Kindly ensure that you don’t create a loophole that people may take advantage. Providing official answers will help resolve more customer queries and reduce the number of ‘me too’ kind of questions.