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.

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