Let’s start with a riddle:
If a customer directs a question to your social media account and no one’s around to answer it – does it still make a sound?
Yes. And it makes a big one.
Nielsen’s 2012 State of the Media reports that more than half of consumers now use Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels to give feedback, ask questions and register complaints with their favorite (and not-so-favorite) companies.
So if you’re not answering questions and responding to comments about your brand or business – who is?
Truly effective customer service begins before the first question is asked or the first tomato is launched at your brand page. Every business, no matter how unsexy they may seem, needs to own their social media space and have a customer service plan at the ready. If you don’t respond, trust us, someone else will.
1. Start out by asking “How can I help you?”
You should be thinking about this question all the time – when planning social media posts, when promoting your brand, and especially when responding to customers. If you keep coming back to this question and really consider it across all channels and situations, you’re going to be in a good place. So put it on a Post-It note, write it on your hand, set a calendar alert every 15 minutes – whatever you have to do to keep it top of mind.
2. Discover the needs of your audience and map those needs to execution (aka Give the People What They Want).
Actively listen on social media and jump in conversations wherever relevant. What are customers saying about your business? Are they complaining that your website is hard to view on mobile? Are they praising one flavor of cupcake you sell as the best thing ever? Once you discover their needs, work to meet those needs. Optimize your mobile site. Offer an online coupon for that favorite cupcake. Give the people what they want.
3. Hire a community manager with a customer service background, or provide them some comprehensive customer service training.
Before we landed as Community Managers at Moosylvania, many of us paid our rent as call-center operators, waitresses, and one especially memorable stint as a 5-star CSR at Blockbuster Video.
While those jobs weren’t as glamorous as our gig at the Embassy, they certainly trained us to be in-tune with customer needs; allowing us to diffuse difficult situations and provide top-notch service quickly.
4. If you don’t have the budget to implement a customer service strategy, it’s time to reevaluate your budget. All the Facebook ads and promoted Tweets in the world can’t save your ghost ship from sinking.
A real, live human being needs to be checking in every day. While pretty product images and funny cat photos are great, that’s not why customers are coming to you. How can you help them? If you give them something of value, even if they don’t purchase from you the first time, they’ll remember you. You help them, they remember you, they tell a friend, you gain a good reputation, and people will gravitate to you.
How is your business using customer service in the social media space? What are your favorite examples of brands doing it well (or not-so-well)? Share them with us on Twitter.