In the US social networking now accounts for the most time spent on a particular online activity, with the average person spending 37 minutes a day on it. As more and more people interact with social media on a daily basis, it is little wonder that it is becoming a favourite channel for customer services communication. The beauty of social media is its two-way immediacy. The minute someone posts a comment on your page you are alerted so you can respond equally swiftly.
Many small businesses have embraced social media and it’s become an integral part of a businesses online presence. Indeed, out of the 4.8 million small businesses in the UK nearly 23% earn over £1000 per annum through connecting with customers through social media platforms. Providing a top class customer experience as part of your social media presence is essential as businesses are increasingly recognising that customer services should no longer be just focused around telephone and email.
- 92% of customers in the UK have left one business for another in the last year due to poor customer service.
- 71% of customers who have a positive customer service experience via social media are likely to recommend that company
- If consumers receive good customer service via social media they are likely to spend 21% more
- Social networks account for the most online activity in the US with an average of 37 minutes a day.
- 33% of users prefer to contact brands using social media than the telephone.
- Failure to respond via social media channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers
- 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service
So as a small business are you confident you are following best practice when it comes to dealing with customer intereacions via your social media platforms?
7 Best practice tips for managing customer service online
Customers need to feel that you take their concerns seriously. Of course a prompt response to any customer service issue whether via email, telephone or letter is essential, but with social media speed becomes even more important. The very ‘immediate’ nature of social media is reflected in the time customers will expect you to respond. The speedier the better, particularly where complaints are concerned.
For example econsultancy note that; 53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour. However, if a customer is making complaint to using Twitter, it goes up 72%.
Acknowledging comments as quickly as you can will score your business brownie points in your customers eyes. Whereas a slow response may reflect poorly on your business.
2.Dealing with negative comments.
Nobody likes handling negative comments but they are part-and-parcel of customer interaction. Dealing successfully with adverse communications is an essential part of successful customer service. Unlike telephone and email, when you are responding to negative comments on social media they are out there for everyone to see. Don’t be tempted to ignore them as then the situation can mushroom out of control. When responding to a negative comment on social media:
- Apologise upfront. Start with an apology as it shows you take your customers concerns seriously.
- Be transparent. Don’t try to hide anything. Be upfront and honest about the situation, even if it is your mistake.
- Don’t pass the person from pillar to post. Commit to dealing with the customer by supplying your name and a clear offer of help
- Remain calm, polite and professional. No matter how disgruntled your customer, remain polite at all times without getting defensive.
- Take it offline. When it’s appropriate, take an issue offline to deal with. For example, have a look at IKEA’s Facebook page. As you can imagine the very nature of IKEA’s business and its size means it gets a lot of adverse comments posted on its social media platforms. So when its appropriate they take it offline as in the example below.
3. Clear and helpful information
In the same way customers visiting your website would expect to find information about your business, so to should your social media presence. Remember your website isn’t necessarily someone’s first experience of your business. Think about what information customers might be looking for. For example:
- Completed profile pages: Make sure your businesses about us and profile pages are fully completed across all your platforms
- Clear links. Have clear links to useful customer information such as to your website, FAQ page and contact us page.
- Post helpful information. Post regular helpful customer services information such as delivery dates, opening times and service updates. This is particularly helpful during holiday periods such as Christmas when there may be a change to normal service. See the helpful example below from online retailer notonthehighstreet.com .
4.Learn to prioritise
It’s human nature to put off the things we find least enjoyable, and dealing with customer complaints probably falls into that category. However, as we mentioned earlier, the very immediate nature of social media means you have to respond as quickly as possible customers – that means no putting off dealing with the more difficult customer communications. Learning to manage your social media presence, particularly in regard to customer service is an essential skill. Learn to prioritise how you respond to particular customer interactions.
Prioritise comments that require immediate attention for example, customer complaints, account queries, product issues, sales queries. Other more ‘proactive’ responses such as thanking someone for their feedback, commenting on a post and general queries regarding your business can wait a little longer.
Setting a response target for particular issues can be helpful. Of course it will depend on your business and how much manpower you have but for example, you could aim to respond to high priority queries within 30 minutes and more general queries within an hour. But don’t wait too long to answer any query as you don’t want to turn what started out as a general query into a complaint due to your slow response.
If you aren’t the only one dealing with with your business on social media, then you need to ensure you have trained your staff to how to respond appropriately the varied customer interactions.
Good communications skills are essential. How your staff deal with complaints and interact with customers is direct reflection on your business. Make sure you spend time ensuring staff have the key skills required to deal effectively with customers. For example excellent written skills are essential. Poor spelling and grammar won’t give customers much confidence in your business.
Make sure your staff understand the tone you want to set for your business on social media. Obviously it depends on your business and your customers, but even if you take a more informal approach in social media interactions, you and your staff must always remain professional. Making sure your staff understand the balance is important.
6.Personality – humanise your business
Social media is a great way to build your brand personality and bring a human touch to your business. When someone posts a comment, likes your page or shares something, thank them and where appropriate open up a discussion. Here are a couple of good examples from IKEA and Boden:
Both Ikea and Boden set the right tone – friendly and not overly formal – keeping with the spirit of the posts.
It’s good to show customers that they are dealing with real people so always add your name in, particularly if you are responding to a customer query or complaint.
7.Embrace customer feedback
Don’t underestimate the great opportunity social media offers your business. It’s a great way to get a feel about a particular product or service and so therefore postively encourage feedback from customers even if it is negative. Showing customers that you value their opinions shows them just how important they are to you. Here is another great example from Boden. Actively thanking customers for their feedback on a new collection even though the feedback is not hugely positive.
As more and more people use social media a channel for customer services, taking an integrated, multi-channel approach to customer care will ensure that you have covered all your bases and are offering your customers the best possible service.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of social media customer service so please do leave a comment.