Social media connects people in a way unrivaled by any other form of media interaction. Grandparents giggle at the latest Facebook picture of their grandbabies. Faraway friends offer advice on each others’ lives. College alumni curiously peek at their old roommates’ profiles.
But social media is not just for the casual public. It’s a playing field for businesses too. It’s a place where businesses can hang with customers and learn what they love. If businesses are really savvy, they’ll respond to customer complaints as well.
In 2012, Nielsen profiled their annual Social Media Report. They found that roughly half of US customers will post about a recent purchase or shopping experience online.
And businesses who dismiss social media from their customer service strategy suffer blows to their revenue stream. According to Conversocial, 88% of customers will decide against a brand if they don’t respond on social media. Don’t take your connected customers for granted. You’ll be glad that you nurtured those relationships.
You Make the First Move
While customers might come directly to your company about their problems, you can’t guarantee they will. They often complain publicly on social media to warn their friends about a terrible product or service. They’re not always seeking a solution, just a listening ear or approving gasp.
Because these customers aren’t coming straight to you, you’ll have to make the first move. Social Media Examiner recommends several tools you can use to help you monitor when someone mentions your brand. They suggest using tools such as Mention and Hootsuite.
Mention provides an amazing dashboard that allows you to find and respond to customers on social media live. You can literally watch millions of active mentions or get a daily list sent to your email. The tool Hootsuite lets you add streams that narrow in on a keyword, and you can search several platforms for your company.
Another social media tool is Topsy. With Topsy, you can search for brand mentions across the Internet. They have a focus on leader comments, though; so you’ll want to use this tool alongside others for sound coverage.
By focusing on the lead comments, you can zone in on problems with customers who have a large following. Then, your company will gain a host of admirers when you solve the leader’s problem.
Following and listening to your customer’s comments will give you valuable information. You’ll quickly see how often people talk about your company and whether or not they like your services. With such free insight into a company’s standing, businesses simply should not dismiss this tool.
Listening to your customers on social media will definitely help you improve your business. But you’ll wow any complaining customers if you reach out to them directly. Think about the opportunity!
If you choose not to respond, that customer will have friends wagging their heads and searching for your competitors. If you do respond, you’ll gain free publicity. You’ll have viewers by the hundreds or thousands watching how gracefully you straightened out a wrinkle in your product.
Buffer’s digital marketer Jay Baer gives several guidelines to successfully responding on social media. He recommends empathizing with the customer’s situation and sending an apology when appropriate.
No need to hammer out a live debate here, even if your company did nothing wrong. You’ll only succeed in drawing more attention to the situation. And I’m sure your company won’t appreciate your off-cuff remarks when they spread virally across the Internet.
Baer also says to forget the template responses. Customers want answers, not links to irrelevant FAQs. Even if you use a template, find a way to make it personal. Otherwise, you’ll come off cold, lacking the empathy your customers require.
Move Into Private Dialogue
Trying to discuss your customer’s complex problem in Twitter’s 140 character limit can become quite tedious. The last thing you want is a customer more frustrated than before. Plus, a slow online dialogue won’t help your workload. Know when to move the conversation out of public view.
Business author and consultant Micah Solomon says, “Contacting a social media critic to request an offline conversation is the digital equivalent of ushering a loud and angry customer into your office for a discreet discussion.”
By moving the dialogue from public to private, you can solve the customer’s problem more quickly. You can also ask for private information such as account or credit card numbers.
When messaging the customer in public, Jay Baer suggests responding no more than twice before moving the dialogue. Your company’s followers don’t need to see all the problem-solving live, and you’ll also avoid spotlighting any more ugly remarks the customer might say.
For the first message, respond calmly and professionally. Offer your help. Then, if the situation demands a little more digging, urge the customer to contact you via a private message. Clean and simple.
Keep the Customer Complaint
Score! You have reached out to a complaining customer online and discussed his problem privately. He adores your solution, and you both go your merry ways. Next, you hover your mouse over Delete on the dreadful remains of the his social media complaint. Don’t do it.
At first thought, keeping the customer’s complaint on your brand’s profile tugs against your business sense. But let’s remember that 88% of customers trust reviews as much as their friends’ and families’ advice. You can work this fact to your benefit.
Since many of these customers only trust online reviews if they deem them authentic, you’ll have to prove that your customer comments are. A profile streaming with 100% positive feedback shouts dishonesty. Let the negative comment stay.
Your followers have already noted your speedy response to the complaint. When you have solved the problem, mention your triumph publicly. Those directly involved may like or comment their happiness, and everyone will witness your success.
Ever received a company redo only to realize it’s just as bad as the first round? Yes, people will fall in love with your awesome response time and your personal attention to their problems. But customer service on social media is not all about the spotlight. It’s about each and every customer.
Social Media Examiner recommends checking in with the customer after the fact. They say you should message him a few days following your dialogue. By that time, the customer will have tested your solution and will know if it actually meets his needs.
If it doesn’t, he may feel deeper anger than before. He may be boiling, ready to burn the first customer service agent he can find. Or maybe he will shrug off his anger, resolving to leave your brand for good.
If you check in on this customer one final time, you might just save your company’s reputation. The customer will appreciate your care and will sing praises to his friends and family.
Offer Answers Early
Using social media for customer service doesn’t mean you should fold your arms until a customer complaint appears. Proactive posts go a long way in online platforms. Businesses should plan regular messages that help customers solve their own problems.
For example, if you’re noticing a common question about your new software update, write a short post about it. You could include a link to your company’s FAQ page too.
Also, consider a daily tip on how to use your product to its fullest extent. Especially if your software is new, customers might get confused with all the tools and gadgets you provide. Explain how to set up your software, navigate through it and use any helpful shortcuts. You’ll show your customers that you’re keeping them in mind, and they will appreciate the gesture.
Posting about relevant issues before customers start complaining does wonders. You’ve taken your customer service from reactive to proactive. You’re heading off the storm before it happens.
You’re also saving your service agents loads of work because they don’t have to answer the same question five times every hour. Maybe now you can spend more time weeding through the fan mail.
Social Media Is Your New Best Friend
For companies just trying to get their show running, social media might fall in somewhere behind janitorial interviews. But you might want to take the platform more seriously. Expanding your customer service to this media will make you stand out from the crowd.
Maritz Research surveyed almost 1300 customers using Twitter to complain about a purchase. They found that about half of the customers expected a brand’s response, but only a third actually received one.
Of the two-thirds who didn’t gain a response, 86% wanted one! While businesses understand their need for social media, they clearly haven’t mastered it yet. The followers are many for the few who conquer this online world.
Research proves that customers love connecting with their favorite brands. When Bain & Company surveyed 3,000 customers, they realized that those interacting with brands on social media actually spent 20-40% more money. These companies also nurtured stronger relationships, gaining an average Net Promoter score increase of 33 points.
Social media is a prime target for rising above your competition. While your competition is dallying in expensive billboard ads and paid web space, you can connect with customers online. Learn to use social media efficiently, and you’ll increase your sales and customer loyalty like never before.
Sarah George is a flower–sniffing, homemade–cooking wordsmith who loves pounding out breathless stories until they fill with life. In her spare time, she loves designing her home with thrilling thrift finds and challenging herself with a good workout.