How customer service techniques will improve your social media strategy

Defining a social media strategy can seem daunting, especially if you are completely new to the world of Twitter, Facebook, et al. However, it helps to think of...

Defining a social media strategy can seem daunting, especially if you are completely new to the world of Twitter, Facebook, et al. However, it helps to think of these new ways of communicating with customers as channels, just like the others you are already using in your contact centre.

social customer service strategy

You wouldn’t set up a new customer service phone line and then sit back and just ‘see what happens’. In the same way, you need to clearly set out a strategy for these new channels of customer communication.

There are several principles for a social media strategy that are the same as for traditional customer service, some of which I have detailed below:

Make sure you answer – and promptly

If you have set up a Twitter feed or a Facebook page as a customer service channel, this is the same as publishing a customer service phone number or email – you are promising the customer that someone will be at the other end to answer their query. There is nothing more annoying than not being able to get through to someone once that promise has been made. If your social media channel will only be manned at certain times, make this very clear in your public profile and use your first and last tweet/post of the day to remind customers of your hours of business.

You also need to make sure you are answering quickly. Remember that Twitter in particular is seen as an ‘immediate’ channel, so customers expect a rapid response. I would say most people will wait a maximum of an hour before figuring there is no-one there to answer them and going elsewhere.

Use appropriate technology

The technology is out there to make things easier for you. You can use tools to scour Twitter for tweets that mention your company name or for other keywords you may be on the lookout for. These tools will then allow you to queue interactions, assign them to particular agents, and measure performance. You may receive many more queries through these channels than you were expecting, so make sure you are equipped to deal with them.

Employ the right people and provide regular training

Regardless of the channel they are using, customer service agents need the same attributes – they need to be courteous, able to communicate well, build rapport easily and display an aptitude for problem solving. A passion for helping people is the key requirement, but for social media agents it can’t hurt if they are at least a little tech-savvy and are able to write well.

Regular training is crucial, as social media is changing all the time and you need to make sure your agents remain engaged. Ensure you have company policies and procedures in place, just as you would for telephone and email customer service, to keep employees on the right side of the law.

Take advantage of business insight

Collect spontaneous feedback that may appear after the interaction – and ask for it from a proportion of customers so you can get a handle on how effective social media is as a channel. Just as with other channels, the issue or problem with likely have originated elsewhere in the business. The digital nature of social media channels makes it easy to share this with the rest of organisation – so make sure you pass the insight you are getting on to the relevant departments. Make sure that business issues are fixed – if the same problems keep reappearing on Twitter or Facebook, the company will begin to look incompetent.

Be proactive

The beauty of social media is that it is a great broadcast tool. If there is a known issue that the business is dealing with, you can quickly let your social following know by tweeting about it – thus perhaps saving a lot of inbound tweets.

Are there queries that come up time and time again? Consider a text/video FAQ that you can publish as a first port of call.

Make it personal

Avoid cut and paste responses or sending ‘holding’ responses. Use first names or initials as a sign off so customers know they are dealing with a real person. Use their name if you know it.

Just as with a phone call, you need to be polite, avoid jargon, and avoid being argumentative or confrontational. Remember most of what you do will be out in public, so remind agents that they should only type things they would be happy saying out loud to a room full of people.

Offer a seamless experience

The rule of thumb is to try and solve the query in the channel in which it originated, but if you do have to move the interaction from social channels to a more traditional one, make sure that either the same person deals with the enquiry from start to finish, or that other members of staff are well briefed on the issue.

Measure performance

Social media is a channel like any other and you will need to measure performance – consider metrics such as: time to answer; number of resolved queries; number of escalated queries; how many queries switched to another channel; time taken to resolution. It’s vital that you are able to demonstrate to anyone who asks the value of your social media channels. Work out your cost to serve over these channels and compare it to traditional means of communication – I’ll bet the financial director will be pleasantly surprised!

In many ways, social media is just one more channel in the customer service mix – a lot of the same rules apply. With careful planning, a mapped out strategy and basic customer service rules, it could become one of your most effective ways of communicating with customers.

I’m going to be exploring this topic further this April in a free webinar called 10 Lessons that Social Can Learn from Traditional Customer Service on 3rd April 2014. You can register here.

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