If you’re a small online business, then every single customer you have is paramount to the success and growth of your business. You need to offer the best service to your customers, and on days when things don’t quite go right, you count on your customer service abilities to save the day.
Today, the first point of contact for an average customer who wants to share a grievance about any product/service is not a customer helpline or a business mailbox but a social media channel such as Facebook or Twitter.
Hence, it makes sense for you, as a small business, to have a strong and effective social media presence and to leverage that presence to provide effective customer service to your patrons.
Given this unique new paradigm, here are 7 important pieces of advice on providing a great customer service experience using social media.
1. Choose the right platform
There are a plethora of social media channels out there. As a small business, you might not have the resources to hire a dedicated team to resolve customer grievances on every single social media channel. Hence, it is imperative that you are discerning in deciding which social media platforms are most important for your business.
Targeting the most popular social media platforms is usually the best advice, so start off with Facebook and Twitter. Both of these platforms are used by a large share of the online adult population. Twitter’s short-form platform makes it easier for your customers to air their issues, which in turn also makes it easier for you to address them right then and there in a concise manner.
- Get rid of the script
Social Media is a personal and direct platform, which demands that your responses to your customers are tailored to their specific needs or requests.
Eliminate scripted replies and responses from your customer service toolbox and promote the strategy of making every response to a customer as authentic and personable as possible. On especially bad days, scripted responses can put your brand at real risk of customer dissatisfaction and even internet trolling. This automated tweet by Bank of America is a great example of why personalization and human touch are necessary across social media platforms.
- Respond promptly
Customers value their time, therefore you need to make sure that if a customer has tagged you on a social platform, they are sent a response as soon as possible. The best companies respond in minutes. If you are going to make them wait, let them know how long the wait will be. This not only helps the aggrieved customer but also portrays your brand as responsible and customer-centric.
According to a study conducted by Edison Research, 42% of consumers who attempt to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support expect a response within 60 minutes - 32% expect one within 30 minutes!
4. Be proactive
You don’t need to wait for a customer to tag you in an angry tweet before you step in to remedy the situation. It is advisable to continuously monitor what your target market is saying about your products and services. Monitoring your brand name by using services such as Likeable Local, which offers social listening software, is key to staying ahead of customer complaints.
A study conducted by Accenture showed that 55 percent of customers who switched brands in 2013 would have stuck to the older brand if the company had contacted them proactively to let them know about ways to enhance their experience.
- Find the right time to strike the conversation
Though proactivity is important, it is also important to not go barging in on every single Facebook post or tweet that mentions your brand.
Netbase conducted a survey in which they found that 51% of consumers to be able to talk about companies on social media without them listening.
Look at each message from the customer’s point of view and you’ll be able to identify the right posts to target. Try to understand the real meaning behind the post while considering the context of the conversation.
It is advisable to only step in on a conversation when you’re confident that you can provide some value to the customer by either helping them or by assuaging their concerns.
- Steer the conversation to a private channel
It is extremely important that you respond to customers on the channel they first tagged you on. So if a customer mentions you in their tweet, respond to them on Twitter itself instead of trying to get a hold of their phone number for your first interaction.
However, people can often be rude on social platforms that offer anonymity. It is advisable to steer the conversation to a private setting after this intital interaction so as to prevent your public feed from catching any dirt they might throw at you.
Once you establish a brief conversation, try connecting with them on a private setting such as Twitter’s Direct Messages or Facebook’s Messenger.
- Stay positive
There might be a chance that even after you follow all these tips, some customers might still not be satisfied. In this case, you need to make sure that you don’t lose your calm - remember, things on the internet last forever.
In some cases people just want to get in a harmless little jab. If that is the case, you can use it to your advantage as in the example below:
However, if a customer is very dissatisfied, ask them what they want and then offer them ways that you can help them. Your responses on social media should never be negative or come across as excuses. If your brand is positive and conciliatory while the aggrieved customer is hurling verbal bombs, the effect of the customer complaint will be less severe.
If you incorporate these pieces of social media advice into your customer service plan, you’ll not only be able to garner a solid online reputation but you will also be able to use your social media presence to improve your marketing and sales performance.
Laura Buckler is a top-tier freelance writer who is frequently published on sites such as Upwork and Pure Residuals. She is also a writer with Essays Scholaradvisor. Laura leverages her years of work experience in social media marketing to offer a nuanced perspective on issues that marketers frequently face. Follow Laura on twitter.