Ready or Not…Here it Comes
Social Media as Customer Service function is an area that is developing very rapidly. This presents a number of challenges for all types of businesses as many don’t have a Social Media strategy and, more specifically, they don’t have a specific plan for Social Customer Service. Our advice to clients is, if you’re not ready now you better get ready quickly. Since Customer Service is, by definition, supposed to interact with customers it becomes necessary to go where they are. You don’t need to do much research to figure out that “where they are” is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Benefits of Social Customer Service
The good news is that there are plenty of benefits, strategically and functionally, to integrating your Customer Service function and your Social Media campaigns. Following are just a few of the most common ones although it would be easy to make a much longer list.
- It’s Personal: Social Media gives you a very personal ability to interact with your customers and consumers that makes your business much more human and approachable. It makes you seem more real and caring.
- It’s Affordable: You don’t have to invest heavily to take advantage of the existing infrastructure. The mechanisms are already in place and there are dozens of free or inexpensive tools (e.g. HootSuite, TweetDeck, etc.) that help you manage across several Social Media platforms.
- It’s Complementary: Social Media doesn’t need to replace your existing phone, fax, email, website tools. It’s a nice way to fortify them with another option that enables you to close more communication gaps.
- It’s Efficient: The beauty of posting a response, be it a product or service question, on something like Facebook is that you don’t just answer one customer concern. You answer the same concern for many other customers as well. You’ll probably even find that your customers often help each other and you can simply offer additional support or direction.
- It’s Real Time: With the growth in mobile technology and all the available web tools your customers should never need to wait long for a response. You can monitor Social Media interactions very easily and it’s easy to receive and respond quickly.
Social Strategy for Customer Service
It’s pretty easy to recognize the benefits of getting social with your Customer Service. It’s important to remember, though, that there are some significant risks to such ready access. Before you just jump right in, it’s important to mitigate these risks by establishing some ground rules.
- Step 1: Define the Message – Everyone needs to be on the same page and properly educated. Before turning Customer Service reps loose on Social Media make sure they’re ready to be a positive force for your company and brand.
- Step 2: Establish the Focus – Not everything can be fair game. Customer Service personnel don’t suddenly become communication experts just because they now have direct access to a broad consumer base. It’s important to be flexible but make sure their flexibility is limited to those activities over which they’re responsible. Others may need to be passed on to Sales or Marketing.
- Step 3: Conduct Social Training – Put some basic training in place to make sure your Customer Service personnel have a general understanding of the Social Media landscape and the associated technology. They’ll figure some things out as they go but it’s essential they have a firm grasp on the basics out of the gate so they can properly engage customers.
- Step 4: Keep the Focus on the Customer – Be sure to keep things informal and don’t sound too canned. Do a lot of listening and make sure the focus remains on solving the customer’s problems and not blowing your own horn. You don’t want to take over the entire social conversation.
- Step 5: Have a Disaster Plan – Like any other area of your business, mistakes can happen. Be prepared to handle negative situations in a way that limits potential risk to the profile of your company or brand.
In general, it’s imperative that your Social Media strategy and your Customer Service strategy are aligned. The speed of the social landscape makes things happen very quickly for a company that isn’t prepared. Opening the door to Social Customer Service makes it more important than ever to maintain a live connection between Customer Service, Marketing and Sales.