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Social media customer service: the golden rules

social media customer service best practicesResearch has revealed that the humble telephone is no longer the only go-to device for contacting a company. With digital devices always by our side – whether it’s a smartphone, laptop or tablet – many consumers find it far easier engaging with brands via their social channels.

More than 70% of consumers would choose another channel over the telephone if they knew their query would be resolved on the first attempt, Ovum research shows. At the same time, NM Incite’s State of Social Customer Service report unveiled that almost one-third of social media users prefer to connect with a brand through a social platform compared to the telephone.

In the public eye

There are three main reasons why a customer makes contact with a brand on social media: to ask a question about a product or service, to share a positive brand experience or review, or to vent their frustration. Unfortunately for brands, the latter is most popular, with a Guardian study finding that social complaints rose eight-fold between January 2014 and May 2015.

Brand engagement is no longer a one-way street; customers are now in control of how, and when, they communicate with you. And whereas a telephone exchange is extremely personal, if someone complains on your Facebook wall, that comment is there for the world (or at least, your followers) to see.

Given the public nature of social media interactions, it’s vital to regularly monitor, acknowledge, and respond to customer comments. It’s called ‘social care’; nurturing customer relationships through social media engagement – and here are the golden rules you’d be wise to abide by:

60 is the magic number

No one likes being put on hold when calling a company’s contact centre. In a similar way, time is of the essence when engaging on social media.

Take Twitter, for instance. Lithium Technologies uncovered that 53% of social media users expect a reply within an hour of commenting on a company’s page, with the figure rising to 72% when a user complains.

You should aim for a response time of 60 minutes or less across all social platforms. The faster the response, the more satisfied the customer is likely to be, and the less likely they are to voice their dissatisfaction further.

Start with an apology 

If you’re responding to a complaint, always start with an apology – “We’re sorry to hear you’re not satisfied with our service”, for instance. Accepting responsibility by saying sorry demonstrates that you respect and value your customers, which in turn will encourage them to continue using your services. The next step is to offer a solution to the customer’s problem – how are you going to make it right?

If you don’t agree with a complaint, don’t be sarcastic or combative in your response. Rather, offer an apology and help the customer to realise the error of their ways in a polite, non-patronising way.

Get personal

Avoid false, copy-and-pasted responses; these are likely to rile dissatisfied customers even more. Instead, make sure all replies are personal: address customers by their first name, and target their specific issues. The more human and genuine your response, the more likely the customer is to accept it.

Continue the conversation

Once you’ve responded to the customer, you needn’t carry on the conversation on social media. In fact, offering alternative methods of communication – such as an email or phone call – will prove to a customer that you’re taking their issue seriously and are committed to resolving it. It’s as simple as ending your reply with: ‘please email XXX with your order number and we’ll take a look at the issue immediately.’

Don’t delete complaints

If all press is good press, then all comments – both negative and positive – are good comments. If anything, complaints will enable you to identify weaknesses within your business model, so you can address them and improve.

A huge mistake would be to delete customer complaints from your profiles. Not only will doing this anger the customers writing the posts (and you can be sure to lose them for good), but other users will start to question your brand’s authenticity.

It’s far more conducive to keep complaints – and your responses to them – visible on your social pages, as visitors will be able to see that you take customer feedback seriously and ensure that issues are rectified.

Provided your responses are polite, personalised and delivered within an appropriate timescale, any customer complaint has the potential to be turned into future revenue. In fact, Lithium Technologies explains that if you deliver timely responses to users, 43% are more likely to recommend you to a friend or family member, 42% are willing to give you praise on social media, and 35% are more likely to buy from you.

Of course, there are many other advantages to creating a strong social presence: it helps to build brand loyalty, garner trust, and turn customers into advocates of your brand. Social care really is a win-win situation.

If you feel like you don’t have the time or expertise to effectively manage your social channels, why not outsource the task?

Find options for social media contact centre outsourcing.

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