February 10, 2016
In 2013, a Zendesk Omni-channel Customer Service Gap Survey noted that only 54% of interactions with a contact/call center will be through voice. The remaining interactions will consist of chat, email, and primarily social media. Since then, that ratio has only skewed further towards social media and away from voice. In light of these findings, it is and will continue to be essential for companies to own and operate official branded social media accounts.
That prospect comes with three key questions.
1. Who manages social media, the Contact/Call Center or Marketing?
2. What social media accounts should my brand participate in?
3. What are the best strategies for social media customer service?
Who Manages Social Media? The Contact/Call Center or Marketing?
Normally in business, there are clear walls to differentiate departments from each other. Accounting shouldn’t be meeting with clients and sales shouldn’t be handling the payroll.
In the case of social media, however, there is overlap. With social media, regardless of channel, companies are expected to both publish promotional material as well as interact with the customer base in real time. It requires personnel to be dedicated to publishing, monitoring, and responding to any consumer or customer who reaches out.
Delegating these responsibilities can be a challenge. Marketers and contact/call center agents each have their own distinct skill sets, and they don’t always overlap. Social media happens publicly, and a blunder from either side of the coin could be very embarrassing for the brand.
Instead of deciding one department or the other, think of social media more granularly. Divide responsibilities within the platform to the most qualified personnel. Restrict your contact/call center agents from creating posts, and block your marketers from responding to customer inquiries or feedback.
A division of labor is helpful, but clear communication between these two teams will be key. Make sure each department understands what is being posted and what kind of reaction the post elicits from the audience.
What social media accounts should my brand participate in?
Social media is a large place. There are dozens of platforms, each with their own niche and purpose. From Facebook to Foursquare, maintaining a strong presence on all of them simply isn’t feasible. Instead, we recommend finding out where your customers already are and meet them there.
Craft a customer feedback survey or revise your existing customer service follow-up procedure to include a question on social media. If the results are inconclusive, a safe bet would be to fall back on the top four sites.
- Facebook: Still the most popular social media platform out there, Facebook is a must have for B2C organizations as well as many B2B companies. Users can post videos, pictures, and status updates while maintaining a full robust profile of their hobbies, interests, and personal information.
Customer Service Opportunity: Customers are likely to mention your brand by commenting on your posts or simply posting about the company.
NOTE: Customers can send direct, private messages to a company page and the company can reply in turn. However, the company cannot initiate a private conversation with a Facebook user. These sorts of interactions will have to be made out in the open.
- Twitter: Twitter is a social media platform centered on brief 140 character micro-messages or “tweets.” Unlike Facebook, users do not have as expansive of a profile. The focus is solely on the tweet and active communication.
Customer Service Opportunity: From a customer service standpoint, users are able to quickly shout out a message to a brand for all the Twitterverse to see. Responding to these tweets appropriately is essential.
NOTE: Twitter has stated that they intend to do away with the 140 character limit. This was the main feature which differentiated Twitter from other channels. Without this limit, Twitter may morph itself into something else entirely.
- Google+: Google+ fills the same sort of niche as Facebook and has similar functionality. There are a few differences between them, but users interact with the platform in the same way.
Customer Service Opportunity: Like Facebook, customers can post directly about the company or comment on posts the company makes.
NOTE: Because Facebook and Google+ are so similar, it can be easy to discount Google+ as the less popular of the two. Though Google+ has fewer members, your specific audience may still be more inclined toward one or the other. Regardless of potential followers, however, an active Google+ page will contribute to the marketing department’s larger search engine optimization (SEO) initiatives.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is social media with a purpose. While other platforms are meant for communication, entertainment, and keeping in touch, LinkedIn is specifically for professional networking.
Customer Service Opportunity: The professional nature of LinkedIn makes this the perfect social media platform for B2B companies. Respond to your clients messages and posts in a polite and positive manner.
NOTE: LinkedIn also enables users to post job opportunities. Loop in your HR department or recruiters to expand their reach.
What are the best strategies for social media customer service?
While the manner in which your customer service team interacts with users on social media will be largely dictated by the brand’s personality and goals, there are general best practices to be followed on the customer service side.
- Respond to Everything: Good or bad, profane or silly, it is best to publicly respond to every legitimate post that is made regarding your company. A negative review is only made stronger by the company’s silence. The absence of a response looks to other users like an admission of guilt or a lack of compassion. Respond to every negative post even if all you have to say is, “We’re sorry to hear that you were not satisfied with our services.”At the same time, positive feedback should be rewarded. Thank your loyal customers for their loyalty and improve their impression of the brand even further.
- Don’t Delete Posts: It can be very tempting to simply delete unflattering comments from your social media posts. Don’t. While your audience may not notice it immediately, they eventually will. It will hurt the brand’s image and discourage future communication.
- Don’t Feed the Trolls: The one caveat to the bullet above concerns trolls. A troll is someone who posts deliberately offensive or provocative posts with the clear intent of eliciting an equally charged response. A sympathetic response will only escalate the situation, and an angry one is exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t feed the troll.It’s important to recognize the difference between a legitimately upset customer and a troll. Assess the validity of the comment by accessing customer records or otherwise attempting to verify their story.
- Respond Quickly: Things happen fast on social media, especially Twitter. If your team is slow to respond or to correct an error, it could be too late. Encourage your team to stay on top of your social media channels and set alerts in each channel to inform the administrator if customers interact with the account.
- Don’t Assume Consumers Know Your Social Accounts: A large percentage of tweets and posts about companies aren’t formatted correctly. There’s no rule to say that a customer has to tag your account when they want to say something good or bad. So, users often don’t. There are several social media tools out there that will help you sift through the millions of posts made on social media to find those potentially relating to your brand. Implementing one of these can make social media customer service far easier.
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For Further Reading
[Infographic] Cold Hard Numbers: Social Media Stats on the Customer Experience