10 Ways to Manage Social Media Customer Service with MAGIC®

Smart companies use social tools to enhance support

by Tom Larkin and Christopher Bishop

Customer service hasn’t been the same since Hasan Syed purchased a promoted tweet to complain about British Airways losing his luggage back in 2013. After his father’s bags were misplaced during a flight from Chicago to Paris, Syed paid for a “sponsored tweet.” Then, he broadcasted his frustration directly to British Airways’ more than 3,000,000 Twitter followers.

“Don’t fly @British Airways,” Syed tweeted. “Their customer service is horrendous.” After several days and numerous additional tweets and retweets, as well as having the incident picked up on Mashable, his luggage was eventually returned to him.

Expectations for Social Media have Changed

It’s a brave new world. Using email to log customer dissatisfaction is rapidly going the way of the telegraph. Social media is a key part of a 21st century help desk multichannel toolkit.

“The expectations of social have absolutely changed the nature of customer support and added a lot of challenge for large brands,” said Ryan Holmes, chief executive of Hootsuite, a social media management company. “The old expectation that someone would call a 1-800 number and sit on a line and wait doesn’t happen anymore. Customers need real-time responses.”

Despite a 2016 Consumer Experience report released by NICE Systems and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) stating that use of social media for customer service has declined over the past few years, many companies say they continue to reinforce their departments with social media specialists. Thousands of questions, comments and complaints still pour in every week via channels like Facebook, Instagram and especially Twitter.

Jonathan Pierce, director of social media for American Airlines, says that they have increased the number of staff to 26 full time employees – all focused on social media customer service.

So it is clear that social customer service is customer service. Period.

In fact, several companies are focusing on the social customer service space and providing support in that arena. Zendesk, a customer service and support software company, offers a great basic primer called Tips for Providing Great Customer Service on Twitter.

What can your organization do to make a positive impact on your customers in this new arena? Implement the following 10 Ways to Make A Great Impression on the Customer with your Social Media Service:

  1. Handle every complaint. Complaints are opportunities to create loyalty.

  2. Employ soft skills to demonstrate that you understand a customer’s emotional state and use the proper tone in a tweet or Facebook response.

  3. Give the informal nature of social media, smiley faces or emojis can be appropriate for conveying friendliness and willingness to help—take a cue from your customer (if they use them, then it is appropriate for you to use them as well)

  4. A formal statement of empathy or apology might be required before addressing the customer’s issue.

  5. Speed of response is critically important – the expectation is that social media turnaround times are much faster than email and, in fact, are getting faster.

  6. Keep in mind that the initial interaction is public! Aim to move volatile interactions to email, a phone call or a chat client.

  7. Don’t delete (or hide) comments or posts; the only exception is when comments are clearly spam or in violation of posted community guidelines.

  8. Be positive – don’t be defensive. It’s important to remember that the customer, even when angry, has reached out to you.

  9. Don’t feed the trolls: if a customer is intent on simply arguing and publicly defaming your brand, your best defense is silence.

  10. Avoid providing too much information – It is better to point to a knowledge base than provide a lengthy response.

Just as 21st century communication has shifted away from the historical “one to many” model and now consists of multithreaded conversations, so too has customer service evolved to now be public, immediate and interactive – driven by social media.

Smart companies are developing strategies to incorporate social into their everyday business. How is your company addressing this new model? Tweet your comments to @CommunicoMAGIC.

Tom Larkin is president, CEO and co-owner of Communico Ltd. and has more than thirty years of experience as a consultant, coach, facilitator and business owner. He is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® and is also a part-time professor at Fairfield University.

Christopher Bishop is a social media strategist who spent 15 years working in a variety of marketing and communications roles at IBM. He speaks and writes about the power of social tools to transform business processes.

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