Archive for November, 2011

November 16, 2011

6 Tricks for providing great customer service through social media

SocialMediaCustomerServiceSocial media networks are rapidly becoming the go-to place for customer service complaints to be aired and resolved.  People turn to social media because it often provides a more direct connection with an employee from the offending company, not just a conversation with a telephone-answering robot.

Recently, I received some bad customer service. Instead of calling the company and arguing with the sales representative who was rude to me, I turned to social media to see what the company’s reaction would be.

As a community manager, I know what it’s like to receive complaints from dissatisfied customers through social media. It’s important to approach each complaint with a level head and respect for the dissatisfied customer. It is the community manager’s job to have the issue resolved with a win-win outcome. Here’s my list of tips to consider when delivering customer service through social media.

1. Find the complaints and problems

You don’t know what you don’t know. Step one to solving any problem is identifying it. To do this, start by setting up Google Alerts for your organization and it’s products. Each time your organization is mentioned online, Google Alerts will send you an email with a link to the sites containing your keywords so you don’t have to be out there looking for every mention. Next, set-up your social media management tool (TweetDeck, Seesmic, Hootsuite, Sysomos, Radian6, etc.) to alert you (through push-alerts) of every tweet, facebook post, youtube video, blog post, etc. Now you can see the questions, comments, and complaints shared using social media as they happen and you are poised to react.

2. Response time is key

Be fast to acknowledge the complaint and assure the customer you are looking into it. This will often help extinguish the fire before it begins. Continue to converse with the customer by being open, accountable, and focusing on the solution. The last thing an angry customer wants is excuses.

3. Keep a friendly tone

The internet is often a sarcastic place, but when providing customer service remain friendly and sincere. Customers want to be taken seriously and have their concerns addressed. If they don’t get the validation they want from the company, they’ll continue to spread their negative message online. If you are looking for tips on responding to negative comments, check out these tips from the US Air Force.

4. Find the learning moment

Start by focusing on the facts. Reach out to the customer and find out as much as you can about the situation, why they are upset, and what you can do to resolve the matter. Constructive criticism is often masked by angry complaints from customers who truly love your business. These complaints are actually a great opportunity to learn from what they have to say. I have been in this exact situation as a community manager for Algonquin College. In one instance, a student who held the college in such high regard was shocked when he was treated disrespectfully by an employee. He expressed his displeasure on Twitter. I saw his tweet, reached out to him, and we eventually sat down for a coffee to chat it out. Fast-forward to today, and he continues to be one of the College’s biggest supporters (on and offline).

5. Solve the problem and give a reason for the customer to stay with your company

After you have resolved the initial problem, now it’s time to turn that customer into a brand advocate. By giving the formerly angry customer an incentive, you may be able to earn their return business and recommendation. The reward could be a discount, free service or product, behind the scenes access to your company, a meeting with a company leader, etc. Getting free stuff always works for me. On the flip-side, if customer service is a large part of your brand promise, you may want to consider an internal rewards program for employees who deliver the best customer service.

6. Amplify the praise

Most customers are appreciative of the work done by the social media community manager to resolve the situation. These satisfied customers often share their thanks online as well. Now you have a great opportunity to further amplify their endorsement; don’t just say “you’re welcome” be sure to retweet (or reshare) the message of praise with your own audience/community.

I expect to receive adequate customer service when I am doing business with a company. When the customer service is bad, I complain using social media; if the service is great, I share using social media as well- it goes both ways.

November 8, 2011

5 Tips for dealing with social media burnout

Social Media burnoutWe’ve heard it for years. “There are just too many social networks to keep up with them all.”  It seems like every six weeks there is a new network, or an update to an existing one, that takes time and effort to learn and get used to. Earlier this year, I felt this pain. With personal and professional community management responsibilities for Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Yammer, YouTube, Flickr, Google+, and my blog, I felt overwhelmed (unmotivated, at times) to give my accounts the attention they needed. I was able to work my way out of the rut by finding software that helped me aggregate and automate some of my interactions, taking breaks from social networks, and establishing some personal usage rules.  Here are a few things you can do when dealing with social media burnout.

1. Find a management tool

During the first onset of social media fatigue, I went out and found myself some third-party applications to help me monitor and interact with each of my accounts all in one spot. There are plenty of capable apps out there, ranging from TweetDeck, Seesmic, Co-Tweet, Hootsuite, SocialOomph, Ping.fm, etc. I now find myself using a freemium version of Hootsuite with some added help from Ping.fm. What I really love about these tools is the ability to shorten links, track links, schedule messages, and manage all your networks all from one interface. The strengths and weaknesses are unique to each tool. For example, if I need better push alerts for monitoring, then I open my TweetDeck.  Although I’m usually able to fulfil most of my social media needs using Hootsuite for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer, Foursquare, and WordPress.

When choosing your management tool, it’s a good idea to find one that has a solid mobile version so you can take it with you. I like using the individual apps for each network on my smartphone, but the mobile versions of tools such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite definitely offer a more robust, and inclusive, environment.

2. Remember, it’s OK to take a break

The world won’t implode if you walk away from Twitter for a week; so why don’t you give it a try? Stepping away from one of your many social networks gives you time to evaluate what you are really gaining from participating in these communities. I stopped using Facebook for about half a month earlier this year, and noticed that I was getting most of my career-related and time-sensitive social media content from Twitter and Foursquare. With this insight, I decided that I didn’t need to monitor my Facebook profile as closely. Now I use Facebook less, but the content is more focused. Instead of contributing EVERYTHING to EVERY network, I now focus my Facebook content on sharing more personal posts with those closest to me. On Twitter, my posts are more business-focused, and they are less about what is going on in my life.

3. Get back to your original goals

Take a moment and think about why you originally started using each network. Yes, goals evolve over time, and that’s good. The important thing here is to understand what you want to get out of each network experience and be realistic with yourself about what you are actually getting. If you are participating because everybody else is, it may be time to use the network differently, or to stop using it all together if you can’t identify a benefit.  Re-evaluate the social networks you are active in. If you are not getting what you want out of them, take a break. If you see no downside to not using that social network, perhaps it’s time to move on.

4. Shut it down

If you are going to stop using an account, don’t just abandon it. Shut it down. It’s as easy as that. Few things are worse than a corporate, or even personal account, that hasn’t been updated in months.

5. Set some personal guidelines

After you’ve taken the time to review your social media goals and re-evaluate what you want to get out of your social experience, it’s time to make some changes and stick to them.  The nice thing about this step is that there are no right or wrong answers here. It’s largely a trial-and-error process to get your guidelines just right, but you have to start somewhere. For each network, consider setting:

  • Time spent on site limits
  • Number of posts per day/week  limits
  • Number of times a day you check your messages/replies/mentions limits
  • Content parameters/guidelines (Do you really need to share that video of your cat on ALL of your social networks?)

All these can be quite flexible and can change based on network. If you are feeling burnt-out and just go back to the same way you were doing things, you will just burn out again. If you are feeling overwhelmed by social media, try a few of these tips for a month and see how you feel after 31 days – You just may get a breath of fresh air.

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