I was asked to write a guest blog by Mike after entering in a Twitter debate with Virgin Media a few weeks ago. After reading his blog post about Virgin Media’s poor social customer service, I was shocked that they provided such poor online service. 28 days to respond to an email says it all really!
I’m a blogger and work as a social media manager and have learnt social as I go along, trying and practising new ideas all the time. I have put together a few guidelines that I have developed over the past year which may help you if you’re just starting to provide social customer service. I don’t believe there is a ‘right’ way of doing things; it depends on your business and what works for your brand. I hope you will find the following pointers useful and things to definitely avoid!
1) Don’t wait for customers to contact you directly. Track your brand name with a good social media monitoring tool and offer proactive help. I love this example from Tesco, who proactively responded to this unhappy customer in friendly conversational tone.
Tesco could have then followed this up with a Random Act of Kindness (RAOK) and actually sent this customer some Krispy Kreme donuts to cheer up him; this would really have gone above and beyond. You can read more about RAOK in this Trendsetting report from 2011, which actually features some work I did with Biotherm Beauty back in February 2011.
2) Be fast. 81% of Twitter users expect a response the same day and 30% expect a response within 30 minutes! That’s why a good process and team organisation is essential so you could respond quickly and with the right information. Taking these statistics into account, I recommend setting an initial target of acknowledging customer queries within 3 hours and resolving the same working day if they are complex. I predict customer expectations will increase dramatically so continually look to reduce that time all the time. If you are a financial services company as well, social media can really help to solve any grumbles before they become written formal complaints.
3) Integrate social media into your existing customer service function. In most companies, PR and Marketing teams do not have access to customer data. So apart from flagging to Customer Services, PR and Marketing teams are unable offer a great deal to help the customer if the query is related to their account. Start off small and train a few customer services staff who are enthusiastic and get social. Monitor all interactions and assign customer queries to them. Look to resolve the query on the customer’s chosen channel (social media) and do not discuss personal details in the public space. Always move to private message or DM if it involves checking customer data and if it becomes too complex you could offer to phone if the customer prefers. Once you have sorted the issue through private message or DM, take it back to the original tweet or comment. This shows you have actually delivered good service and doesn’t leave people on your page or channel wondering what the resolution was.
4) Offer value on the chosen channel. Make sure you actually offer to help in your response, don’t just copy and paste a call centre number! This is what Virgin did and it really irritates me when I see examples of this. If your customer chose that specific social channel to get in contact with your brand, there is a reason. Redirecting your customers to a website or contact number means they have to do more work, providing a bad customer experience. Escalating social customer service problems to other media is also time consuming – for both the company and your customers.
5) Follow up. Don’t forget to follow up after you’ve helped the customer – are they happy, do they need anything else from you? You can build long term relationships and brand ambassadors by providing good customer service. Social customer service focuses on solving customer issues so that they become ambassadors for the brand. This in turn drives tangible benefits to the bottom line which will be appreciated from above believe me!
If you struggle to get people to understand the importance of social media, I like this quote from Marcel Lebrun of Salesforce.com’s Radian6. He says “Think of all these communications as a social phone that’s ringing. Someone needs to pick up before they ring off and go elsewhere. Time is of the essence.” So don’t wait 28 days to reply an email, that inevitably leads to a frustrated tweet from the customer and then direct them to the call centre number which they are quite capable of Googling.
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- 18 Million UK Consumers Have Used Social Media for Customer Service [STATS]
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- Has Social Media Changed the Meaning of Customer?