What is your company’s goal in using social media? Marketing? Building customer relationships? Expanding brand awareness? Was Customer Service in your list? As companies jump on the social media bandwagon in increasing numbers, many fail to recognize that their social media accounts will become one more channel – often the first – customers use when trying to get problems resolved. The companies that recognize this are using social media to improve customer relationships by dealing with problems quickly and efficiently. Companies that fail to recognize social media as a customer service channel often harm customer relationships and may ultimately lose customers. The top 5 steps for successful customer service in social media are:
1) Have a plan: Many companies make the mistake of jumping into the social media pool without having a written social media plan. Just as you wouldn’t launch a marketing campaign without having a clearly defined plan, you should not attempt to craft a social media presence without having a written social media plan. A basic social media plan should clearly state the company’s goals in using social media, should include a team roster defining roles and responsibilities for each team member, and have a content calendar plotting content focus on a quarterly or yearly basis. A good social media plan should continually evolve to adapt to changes in business and in the social media terrain. Because a good social media plan must be modified frequently, every social media plan should have a designated schedule for review and modification. For more information on getting started in social media, download my presentation, “Consistency in Social Media” from http://slidesha.re/b1afYx.
2) Monitor, monitor, monitor: Companies with the most effective customer service strategy monitor their social media accounts 7 days a week AND regularly run searches to catch references to their company that did not use the correct account name or that used an abbreviation or misspelling of the company name. Successful customer service requires setting up a monitoring schedule among your social media team members to ensure your accounts are being checked 7 days a week. Scheduling coverage outside of business hours is advisable when possible. Set up searches on the appropriate social media channel and/or use Google Alerts to find mentions of your company. Create searches using your company name and every possible abbreviation or misspelling. A great example of a company using this strategy is Constant Contact (Twitter: @ConstantContact; @CTCTHelp; Facebook: ConstantContact). Constant Contact monitors their social media accounts religiously and has multiple searches set up to monitor every possible iteration of their name. I once tried to solicit feedback on their services without showing up on their radar and found it impossible.
3) If you build it, don’t desert it: Many companies, especially those who didn’t have a social media plan in place, create social media accounts which they use for a few months, abandon, but fail to delete. Abandoned accounts create a sucking void in customer service. Customers post needs and issues to these accounts, not realizing they are no longer active, and become increasingly frustrated when they perceive their needs being “ignored.” Examples of companies with abandoned accounts include M&I Bank, Shabby Apples and many others.
4) Keep social media bidirectional: The mantra that social media must be kept social cannot be repeated often enough. If social media isn’t social, then it’s merely media and is no different from using mainstream advertising channels. Companies should not create a social media presence unless they are ready to engage and interact with their customers.
5) Have a written escalation plan: Every company’s social media plan should include a team roster that clearly defines each team member’s role in responding to customer issues shared via social media channels. The plan should also include a designated escalation plan that clearly defines when, how and to whom issues should be escalated if the primary social media team cannot correct the situation. (For the sake of efficiency, granting the social media team sufficient authority to address and correct most customer service issues is a good idea.) Staples (Twitter: @StaplesTweets; Staples on Facebook) and Comcast (Twitter: @ComcastCares) do a good job of quickly responding to issues, triaging them, and escalating them to the appropriate corporate office for resolution. It is also a good idea to take issues offline as soon as possible once they are escalated.
In summary, social media is becoming many customers’ primary source of communication when trying to get customer service issues addressed. If your company wants to remain competitive in today’s ever-changing business climate, you must adapt your customer service practices to embrace and leverage social media.