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Social media has become an essential ingredient of good customer service, but there are some aspects that are specific to certain businesses, and need to be adapted as such. From choosing the best channel and lowering response times regardless of the nature of feedback to keeping a consistent tone of voice and making social customer service a company-wide activity, your company will have to make a lot of choices. However, once you’re done, you’ll end up with a customer service that’s ready anytime for any type of reaction from the people using your service or product.
Pick the Right Social Media Channel to Address Your Customers
It’s no secret that each social network caters different needs, and that people use each of them for different purposes. To find out which channels are the most adequate for your business, learn about the psychological principles that govern each social network, find out what your customers expect, and deliver that using the most adequate way.
Instead of being superficially present on many social networks, companies should rather identify the best channels and focus on those. Here is a you can calculate engagement levels to see if your social media efforts on a particular channel are paying off:
Alternatively, you can use this method:
On top of that, it’s important to provide a personalized experience, so that customers aren’t left with the impression that what they got as a reply to a serious inquiry is an automated response.
Last but not least, remember that one of the goals of using social media besides providing exceptional social customer service is driving traffic to your website. In that sense, use Google Analytics to zoom in on the referrals your site receives from social media platforms. You will find out not only the contribution of social media overall to your website traffic, but also how each social media platform performs in terms of visits, pageviews and other parameters.
Response times should be low for both positive and negative feedback
As Jay Baer pointed out on the Convince & Convert blog, 42% of consumers who complain on social networks expect to receive a reply in less than an hour. Even if it’s negative feedback that they’re providing, addressing their problems in a timely manner could determine them to reconsider their position.There are companies that have managed to reduce response times drastically, some averaging 19 minutes between an inquiry from customers and a reply from their behalf.
Karlijn Vogel-Meijer, Social Media Manager at KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines), has put together a 150-member social media team that provides 24/7 customer support in 14 languages. All this started back in 2010, when an immense ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano put a stop to air traffic in Europe. Granted, you don’t need an emergency situation to provide social customer service around the clock, but the need is often emphasized on such occasions. Considering that KLM is mentioned more than 60,000 times on social media each week, the need for a responsive team is quite obvious. Of course, the industry a company works in will affect the urgency of its response.
Stay professional and maintain the same tone of voice
Choosing a different tone of voice each time you communicate with your customers will lead to nothing but confusion. Even if customer service is the duty of a large team, you should make sure that all team members have a similar approach in communicating with the customers and in solving their problems.
The best advice in that sense, especially for larger organisations that want to plan out their social media activities, is to have a playbook. The document can range from a few pages to more extensive documents. Some of the best practices include: explaining the importance of social customer service, pointing out the characteristics of each platform as well as the differences between them, explicitly stating the dos and don’ts, revealing the attributes that are part of your company’s voice, etc.
Rely on active listening to perfect your products or services
If you decide to turn a deaf ear to what your customers want or need, you’ll end up not having any customers at all. Nothing denotes a company’s indifference towards its audience like the lack of customer service, or the unwillingness to listen to their complaints.
Moreover, customer feedback can be used for perfecting your company’s products and services. Imagine the reaction your customers will have when they notice that you’ve been listening to their requests all along. By doing this, you’ll manage to tailor your offer to match exactly what your customers need and expect from your company.
Make social customer service a company-wide effort
It’s impossible to be a customer-centric company if catering to the needs of your audience is the job of a single department.
Once you’ve collected feedback from the people using your products or services, see what particular areas of your company could use some improvement, and make sure that employees from all departments are involved in making things work. On the other hand, if you’re receiving positive feedback, make sure that the entire company is aware of the strong points, so that they can be implemented in other departments, as well.
Provide ongoing support to go beyond mere customer service
Don’t put a stop to the relationship with your customers once you’ve finished resolving their issues. Make sure that they are continuously aware of your company’s care for them, and that you adapt customer service constantly to match their needs.
Some of the effort needs to go into training your employees to be aware of the latest trends as far as social customer service is concerned. In other words, they should always be aware of the best channel to use for communication (as this is something that can change in time), the competitors’ response time and any changes in the tone of voice.
Invest in your employees’ customer service training and treat them the way you would like them to treat your customers. Basically, there are 2 types of training: on-the-job training and off-the-job training. We suggest you provide both.
On-the-job training refers to employees improving their skills while actually performing their daily work activities while off-the-job training has to deal with attending training courses held by specialists in the field of social customer service. Two training sessions every year should dramatically improve the quality of your customer service and the morale of your employees.
In what concerns customer service, the main areas that your employees’ training should focus on are: developing clear communication skills based on empathy and understanding, making use of positive language, developing the ability to 'read' customers, knowing how to handle surprises with calm, etc. Your employees should also be encouraged to really listen to customers’ feedback, take notes and then make sure that it’s implemented into future products and services.
While there are many other practices you should consider while deploying your company’s social customer service, the six ones presented above are meant to give you a head start. After identifying the best social media channel to use for communicating with your audience, maintain the same tone of voice to avoid causing any confusion, and respond in a timely manner. Listen actively to what people have to say, and use all that feedback to improve your products and services even further.
Above all, make sure that the entire company is involved in finding solutions for your customers’ issues.