The Pain of Social Media Customer Service

I recently had a client tell me that their foray into social media marketing wasn’t what they thought it would be. They didn’t realize it would be full of complaints and problems. I was surprised by their perception of their social media marketing efforts.

From my standpoint as their consultant, I felt like social media was revealing the gaps in their offline customer service, presenting powerful opportunities to understand how their customers were responding to their product offerings and to revisit how they trained their team members.

What I saw as opportunity, my client saw as annoying and unjustified negativity.

While everyone is chasing the sale through social media, only a few companies really understand social media’s place in the marketing mix and customer journey. Social media can help you provide personalized, efficient customer service.

Social media lets you get into the head of your customer and within minutes turn them around from angry to impressed and grateful – or, at the very least, less angry.

Yes, social networks give your customers the unprecedented ability to voice their displeasure about your product or service. And people always seem to post more often when they are displeased than when they are happy with you. But knowing your customers’ pain points gives you the chance to relieve that pain, win them over, and foster not just customer satisfaction but also loyalty and evangelism.

How do you use social media effectively for customer service? Here are a few tips:

1. Establish protocols. Identify your internal decision makers who should be part of your internal customer service process and lay out the steps your social media team needs to take before, during and after engaging with a customer online. As you interact with more and more customers, compile the responses and what you’ve learned into an internal shared document and incorporate it into your trainings.

2. Monitor the Internet for all mentions. Use a social media dashboard such as Hootsuite to track mentions of your company online – both good and bad. but also incorporate monitoring tools such as Google Alerts, Talkwalker and to cast a wider net and pull in posts and comments pertaining to your company.

3. Respond promptly in a non-defensive, courteous way. Most people complaining in social networks want to be heard. Giving them an immediate response can help them feel like their opinions matter and that you’re listening. Use a neutral and respectful tone. Remember: You are communicating in public and other people are likely watching for your reaction.

4. Nail down remedies for common issues. Not every complaint or request is the same because every person is different, but when you find common issues cropping up, come up with a basic response or remedy that can be customized for any situation.

5. Craft and post FAQs for customers. Once you’ve identified the questions or issues most frequently posted online and you’ve worked through your internal document of questions and answers, edit it for public consumption. Post it to your website and link to it from your social networks. For additional reach, post it as a Note on your Facebook Page.

6. Track and followup as needed. Don’t let comments or complaints slip through the cracks. Immediately after acknowledgement, document what was said and done through an organized tracking system. Your system could be as simple as saving the relevant information in a spreadsheet.

7. Really use the data. Documenting complaints and remedies is not enough. Look for patterns to see where you may be falling short with your customer service and where you can improve. Look at social media complaints as invaluable market data that can help you build a better business.

8. Don’t take it personally. It is so easy to get caught up in the drama some people create online or to take every complaint as a personal attack. Take complaints seriously but don’t internalize them and let them upset you.

As long as you are are genuinely putting your customers first and are willing to continuously examine ways to improve your customer service process, you shouldn’t look at social media customer service as doom and gloom.

Comments – and complaints – in social media are lights shining on areas within your business that need your attention. Make sure you pay attention.

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