Editor’s Note: Here’s a story from our archives we feel is relevant even today and deserves your attention
No matter how prominently you display your customer service email address or phone number, customers are still likely to ask questions, share success stories, or file complaints on your social media channels.
Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus or Pinterest, consumers are interacting more and more frequently with brands via social media. Even if your marketing team and your customer service team don’t currently overlap, incorporating customer service best practices into your social media strategy is essential. Here are nine tips for offering exceptional customer service via social media:
Be fast. Social media moves at rapid-fire pace and functions 24/7. Establish standards for how quickly social media inquiries should be answered. At ONA, we have a company-wide policy of responding to all social media inquiries and customer service emails within two hours during normal business hours.
Be thoughtful. If a customer has a question or expresses a concern via social media, a caring, thoughtful response goes a long way in establishing that your brand has both character and personality. Dry, boilerplate responses read as such. They can obstruct an opportunity to build a real connection with the customer.
Always respond to problems. Customers appreciate brands acknowledging them. No matter how big or small the issue is, it’s essential to recognize the person and the problem, and to let them know that you’re listening and you care. You can always move the conversation to email or private messages if necessary — just don’t ignore an unhappy customer. The interaction also lets other customers know that you’re able and willing to fix problems. It sends a message that they can trust the integrity of your product and service.
Send customers to where you want them to be. If it’s an issue that can’t be solved in 140 characters, give customers a direct email address and be sure that someone responds as quickly as they would on social media. If it’s a press inquiry, direct them immediately to the person who manages public relations.
Share success stories. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. If you have happy customers, share their stories. If a customer shares a gorgeous product photo or has a great comment about your service, let potential customers know.
Cultivate brand advocates. If you find that there are people who are constantly interacting with you on social media and always have something great to say, move the relationship beyond social media. Rewarding brand fans with a feature on your company blog, a “thank you” promotion code, or just a note expressing your gratitude for their support goes a long way in building relationships. Happy customers are the best advocates your brand can have.
Double-check spelling and grammar. You don’t have a lot of room for error on social media posts: Most limit you to a sentence or two, along with an image. People will judge your brand and the competence of your customer service professionals in those few characters, so make sure they perceive you as quick and capable.
Be proactive in sharing product and company updates. Do you have a product that’s back in stock after a backorder? Introduced a new person to the team? Are you switching warehouses, or performing inventory counts that will result in a shipping delay? Let your customers know ahead of time, and be prepared to respond with answers to frequently asked questions.
Go beyond the product. Be a resource for your customers beyond just the products you sell. At ONA, our target audience is primarily photographers. We share a lot of gorgeous photos, photography tutorials, and profiles on talented photographers. As such, we’ve become a resource and place of inspiration for our customers — even after they’ve made a purchase.
Although social media often falls into the “marketing” bucket, it’s also a key means of providing excellent customer service. When executed well, customer service offered through social media can help turn brand fans into buyers and establish an ongoing relationship that leads to additional sales and unbeatable word of mouth exposure.
Tracy Foster is the founder of ONA (pronounced ō’na), an emerging company that designs and sells fine camera bags and accessories for photographers. Tracy launched ONA in June 2010.