Recently, someone who read my post on BizSugar asked the question, “Do you think that the majority of the small companies have allocated energy, time, and resources for online community management?”
I responded with, "I believe it may be an afterthought for a lot of companies, unfortunately. In our experience, some organizations only take it seriously once customers complain. And, even then, they do not often adjust their resources to be proactive about community management. A company that values customer service—and understands the importance of online service via social media—will reap the most rewards. Social media, as a whole, is still vastly misunderstood. Lack of online customer support is one unfortunate consequence of this."
While other means of providing customer service (telephone, email, website contact forms) remain essential, social media is becoming the go-to method for communicating with brands for many people. In a recent compilation of social media customer service stats, HubSpot shared that 54 percent of customers prefer to get customer service via social media rather than phone or email. And that percentage is undoubtedly even higher among Gen Zers (who make up more than 40 percent of U.S. consumers) and Millennials (65 percent of whom believe social media is an effective channel for customer service).
It’s platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that more and more customers and prospective customers will use to share their positive and negative brand experiences AND ask questions and seek assistance.
Let’s explore some tactics for strategically using social media for customer service.
Guidelines help ensure everyone understands expectations about response times, navigating negative feedback, directing difficult questions to the proper resources, tone of voice, terminology, and more. It's not enough to have verbal guidelines; document them and share them with everyone who will be responsible for monitoring your social media channels. Also, consider including some templates that your online customer service team can use as a starting point when replying to frequently asked questions.
It's critical to have someone your customer service team can go to for guidance and information when they field questions or problems that they're unsure of how to handle. Appointing a support lead person will also free up some of your time because your customer service staff will have another trusted, knowledgeable person to consult when they need direction on how to proceed. When selecting the right person for the role, think about whom you believe has the required knowledge of your brand, communications skills, responsiveness, resourcefulness, and reliability.
Many well-known brands maintain a separate social media account to manage customer support requests. For example, Intuit QuickBooks keeps a main Twitter account (@QuickBooks) and has a separate customer support account (@QBCares). Notice how the company includes its support account handle in its main account's profile so that customers can find it easily? Other prominent brands that do this include Amazon (@amazon, @AmazonHelp), Uber (@Uber, @Uber_Support), and Target (@Target, @AskTarget).
Having a support account can help keep customer issues separate from social media marketing efforts. It may also make it easier for your customer support team to recognize and respond promptly to questions, requests for assistance, and complaints.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, however, that if your company is already overwhelmed with keeping up with its existing accounts, this tactic may not be for you. I can’t stress enough how vital it is to be present and accessible on all of your social media business accounts. Setting up an account and then failing to respond to people who comment or message you there will hurt your brand.
Although social media monitoring mostly involves watching and responding to the questions and requests posted on your accounts, it shouldn't stop there. You can further improve your ability to serve customers and prospective customers by casting your net wider. By searching specific hashtags and keywords on social platforms, you can find opportunities to solve problems and answer questions for people who haven't yet connected with you on social media.
Too often, businesses keep their social media efforts in a silo, separate from their overall goals and objectives. They track likes and shares but pay little attention to whether those numbers correlate to improving brand awareness, increasing sales, boosting profit, or strengthening customer loyalty. To get better insight into social media's effectiveness in helping you reach your business goals, track meaningful metrics—for example, the number of customer service-related questions you handle on your social platforms daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Also, record the outcomes (such as upsells, customer retention, new customers, verified sale, etc.).
The customer service tips in this article are a natural progression from what I shared in my last two articles:
Brands cannot do community management well without keeping the customer service component in mind at all times. I realize that it may seem daunting and difficult—in truth, it can be! But it's far from impossible if you have a sound strategy and leverage the right resources. If you need help getting started, reach out to me to share your challenges and explore how the #Strella team can help!