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When 67% of consumers turn to social media for customer service support, and 87% of customers indicate that these interactions positively impact their buying decisions, integrating social media into your customer service support strategy becomes a no-brainer.
Consider this bit of wisdom from customer service expert, Micah Solomon, from his book, “High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service”: “Saying your business is ‘on the internet’ is like saying it’s ‘on the power grid’… doing business in a digitally informed manner should be comfortable enough for your business that it becomes background information.”
The same can be said for providing customer service through social media. From Priceline to JetBlue, the biggest brands are turning to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to resolve customer issues and proactively provide support – and so should you.
But if you haven’t broached the wild world of social media support, never fear. In this blog post, we’ll break down the habits of the pros and bring you their social media customer care secrets. Use these tips to strengthen your support strategy, and even generate a bit of positive buzz around your brand.
Nothing is worse for your brand’s image than a big fat complaint lingering on your Facebook page. While having excellent products and services goes a long way in preventing these issues in the first place, complaints happen. The best you can do is to prepare your agents to act quickly and appropriately. Here are three social customer service rules we’ve gathered from studying the habits of other companies, like Zappos and Maybelline New York:
If someone leaves a complaint, waiting even a few hours can sour their mood. As Micah Solomon states, “after just a couple hours not hearing from you, customers start to assume that a company’s never getting back to them.”
Check out this Facebook interaction between a particularly unhappy customer and Zappos customer support:
This customer is upset about a miscalculated delivery time – something that (as every ecommerce professional knows) can be out of your company’s control. However, the Zappos representative handled this with poise and grace. We can see by the time stamps that this back and forth between the customer and Zappos happened within the hour. Offer solutions promptly, and continue to respond until the issue is resolved.
Don’t limit your social care strategy to the big three social media giants: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You never know when a new blog or social media site will crop up and steal the show. Review sites and social apps come and go, but a complaint about your brand can leave an impression for a lifetime.
For this reason, it’s important can use tools such as socialmention.com and Google Alerts to monitor where your brand and product names pop up. Remember that you can engage with your customers and provide support on other social media channels such as Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Pheed, and Medium.
Example – Maybelline uses Snapchat to engage customers with make-up tutorials and answer product related questions through Direct Message. This a brilliant use of the channel; Maybelline representatives can field concerns promptly and privately, and also share product tips for best use. This can help mitigate complaints, and also gives customers a more gratifying avenue to express concern about defective products: through photo and video with near instant results.
Responding to a complaint quickly is only one part of the equation. It’s important to proactively offer a solution, or multiple: otherwise you could risk offending the customer. Even if you can’t directly fix the issue at hand, you can always offer the customer credit as an apology.
Example – A customer on a JetBlue flight had a malfunctioning television on their flight and tweeted about it. JetBlue immediately stepped in with a form of compensation, since fixing a broken TV mid-flight was not a possibility.
The biggest brands on social media are very aware of their competition, and leverage a public rivalry to their advantage. Excellent customer service through social media isn’t just about your current customers, it’s also about customers to be. With social media customer support, you can monitor hashtags and mentions to see how the competition has failed a prospective customer, allowing you to swoop in and save the day.
For example, if a prospective customer complains about your competitor’s shipping policies, why not shoot them a DM with a free shipping code on their first order with your brand?
It also never hurts to have a playful dynamic with your rivals on social media. The pros know that a public rivalry can keep their name at the forefront of prospective customers’ minds.
Example – This rivalry between Orbitz and Priceline is funny and sure to get attention for both brands, establishing their Twitter handles as customer support channels.
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A great way to show the world you value your customers is to WOW them with unexpected moments of “above and beyond”. This can catch people’s attention in a flood of content, boost your social media marketing efforts, and help you meet your customer service goals all at once. Check out these pro examples:
Example 1 – A customer jokingly requested that Morton’s Steakhouse greet him at Newark Airport with a porterhouse via Twitter. Instead of dismissing the tweet as absurd, someone at Morton’s saw this as an opportunity to go above and beyond – and a server greeted him at the gate with a hot meal.
Example 2 – Christina over at A Mommy Story was staying at the Gaylord Opryland resort back in 2012. She fell in love with the clock radio in her room, which emitted soothing spa sounds that gave her an incredible night’s sleep. She reached out via social media about the clock radio, hoping to get her hands on her own model. Unfortunately, the Gaylord Opryland responded to tell her these clocks were not for sale to the public:
Not content to buy the look alike that lacked the soothing sounds, Christina let the disappointing exchange linger to the back of her mind and went about her business. But the hotel wasn’t content with offering her a link to a similar clock. Instead, Christina went back to her room to find a surprise gift:
The clock of her dreams was sitting on her dresser, with a card next to it which read: “Christina, Thank you for following us on Twitter. We hope you enjoy these spa sounds at home. If you need anything, please let us know. Sincerely, Elizabeth, Nick & Tori.”
This exclusive treatment, which probably didn’t cost the hotel much time or money, made a huge impact on Christina and inspired her to share her story online. It also boosted Gaylord Opryland’s social media presence and proved that they take customer care seriously.
Example 3 – You may be surprised by this choice, but celebrities are their own brand, with records and products to sell. When Katy Perry met a loyal fan, Jason, while ordering a drink at a Chicago Starbucks, the barista and huge fan couldn’t help but give the star a quiet compliment. Flattered to meet such a big fan, Perry gave him a handshake and a shout out later on Twitter.
Positive attention can really go a long way in wowing a customer. Research by Dr. Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, found that people whose work was acknowledged, versus those whose work was ignored, were motivated to work significantly longer than the others. The power of acknowledgement in keeping us motivated is incredibly strong – so keep your customers motivated to do business with you. After a social care interaction, send out a compliment on social media. You’ll brighten their day, even if you can’t afford the pricier WOW options above.
For the pros, running a social media marketing campaign and establishing an active customer service channel are one and the same. Social care isn’t just about responding to complaints. It’s also about showing disengaged followers that real human people are on the other line, ready to answer questions and concerns. The last thing you want is a wasteland of a Facebook or Instagram, which can dissuade customers from looking for support at all.
To encourage engagement, use hashtags that incentivize customers to chime in. Create polls and pose interesting questions. The job hunting site for millennials, The Muse, is well-known for its successful social media and content marketing campaigns. You can see here how they use this ability to inspire customer engagement through Twitter:
This poll encourages customers to reach out to The Muse through Twitter for help with their job search, and The Muse can use this data to figure out what their customers really want – setting the company up for support wins in the future; not to mention, it boosts their Twitter page as a customer support channel.
Good social media customer service starts with making followers glad to see your post on their feed. Pro brands understand this, and wield this secret to their advantage: you catch more flies, or customers, with honey.
Take for example, the story of Shane and Samsung Canada. Shane, a big fan and loyal customer, went to Facebook and offered up a drawing of a dragon in exchange for the latest model of the Galaxy phone (which at the time had yet to be released to the public).
At first, Samsung responded with a creative and light-hearted denial: a drawing of a Kangaroo on a unicycle. As a result, the request went viral, and Samsung Canada not only sent Shane the phone, but customized it with his artistic creation:
Another great example is the sense of humor displayed by Smart USA. A Twitter user, taking a crack at the size of a Smart Car, made a joke that a bird dropping would total the compact vehicle. In response, Smart USA figured out exactly how many bird droppings it would take to render one of their cars dysfunctional:
Social media customer care is an art form that takes commitment and creativity. Luckily, you can use the pro tips above to help your team master it. What’s essential is to keep an eye on your customers, your competitors, and to have fun! The pros stay active on social media, and see it as important as any other customer service channel – and so should you. Reach out to your customers promptly, offer solutions, and find ways to go above and beyond for your followers. Remember, social care is mandatory for brands that want to flourish for years to come.
If you’re still not convinced on the importance of social care, check out our blog post: 9 Unmissable Reasons Why You Need to Care about Social Media Customer Service.
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