Posts tagged ‘small business’

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.

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September 1, 2011

Seller Beware: What your business needs to know about Social Coupons and Community Buying [Interview]

One of the best take-aways from the Social Capital Conference this summer was the connection I made with Vivian Chang, Owner of BlendCreations.com (contemporary jewelry designers). Vivian had used a series of social coupons to drive business development, and I wanted the dirt. Of course, the main reason she decided to offer a social coupon for BlendCreations.com was to attract new customers, but it turns out that there are some other unexpected results you should think about if you are considering offering a social coupon for your business.

Vivian agreed to a quick interview to dive a little deeper into her social coupon experiment. During our conversation, she touches upon the quality of customer these sites attract, having to honour expired coupons, tips for other businesses considering social coupons, and more. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

Q1 – What was the perceived benefit, and actual outcome, of offering a social coupon?

The perceived benefit was reaching a large, new customer base in cities where we had never had much exposure. While this was true — we did get an increase in traffic from the targeted cities — the resulting number of sales was disappointing. In hindsight, it’s not surprising because our product is quite niche. Remember, not everyone in the Groupon customer base will be interested in your product.

Q2 – Tell me the worst part about offering a social coupon?

Getting the less-than-ideal customer. This would be someone who is a bargain hunter, who has saved up enough referral money to spend the minimum value on your deal. These people often have no intention of buying again. By using ‘referral money’ (the kickbacks that many social coupon sites give customers for referring others), it further devalues the perceived value of our product.

Q3 – Was there anything unexpected that other business owners should know?

It’s easily overlooked, but in Canada gift certificates cannot expire. So a social coupon is essentially selling a discounted gift certificate — it has a monetary value that the customer has purchased. Once the social coupon has expired, the deal price is no longer valid, but the customer is still entitled to use their coupon for the amount they paid. In other words, if the coupon was $10 for $20 worth of merchandise, once the coupon expires, the customer can still use their coupon for $10 worth of merchandise. In that sense, you still have to deal with honouring expired coupons.

Q4 – Would you do it again?

While our experience was “okay” — we did not lose money in doing social coupons — we have decided not to continue this type of marketing. Part of the reason is that there are just so many social coupon sites out there. The novelty of the social coupon has kind of worn off for the average consumer, so getting your deal noticed in a sea of a dozen or more daily deals is getting harder.

The other reason is the prevalence of the “bargain-hunter” — someone who has no intention of repeat business —which makes it hard to want to do more social coupons since it can be the same bargain-hunters who repeatedly only buy with a steep discount. In many ways, doing more social coupons would result in exposure to an audience who has either already seen us, or is only interested in us as a ‘bargain’ and not as a business they’d otherwise patronize.

Q5 -Would you encourage other small business owners to offer social coupons?

I would encourage other small business owners to go in with their eyes wide open — read the fine print and calculate whether or not there is a good return on investment. Make absolutely sure that selling a large number of social coupons does not actually cost you money. Also know that you are going into a social coupon as a marketing venture and not a way to make money off each sale.

About Blend Creations Contemporary Jewelry Designers

Blend Creations seemed like a fitting name for a contemporary jewelry line when husband & wife team Eric Jean-Louis and Vivian Cheng decided to partner in an artistic business venture. Together, graphic designer Eric, and industrial designer Vivian, combine their divergent design approaches to create a contemporary jewelry line that is clean and modern in aesthetic, yet also blends their respective cultures in East meeting West. Find out more at BlendCreations.com.

August 3, 2011

The value of Facebook friends and Twitter followers [Infographic]

I came across another great infographic this week, this time from focus.com, comparing the cost and benefit of using social media. We are all looking for ways to successfully integrate social media into our professional lives, and/or convince those in our organizations who control budgets to invest in the medium.  Figures like these will add a bit more potency to our arguments when we are after a commitment of human and financial resources. Here are a few things I liked/noticed about this infographic:

1. It disputed some common myths. Social media isn’t free. This is the obvious one, but it bears repeating. It also challenges the idea that “if you join a social network, people will interact with you”. In reality, it’s not the fact that you have setup a Facebook page for your business that counts; your success will ultimately depend on the type and quality of your content, along with your user benefit.

2. The puzzling gap between customer engagement and customer service. One would think if customer engagement ranks #1, customer service would be close behind. In fact, customer service is the absolute last place finisher. Customer service is one of the greatest strengths of social media, I wonder why it ranked so low in this survey.

3. The value of a friend. Finally, the numbers that really talk are the ones around the dollar value of a Facebook friend or a Twitter follower. Consistent on both platforms is the fact that customers who interact with a company in the social space are likely to spend more money on that brand. The gap is so significant that some brands post a 100%-300% jump in sales when you compare the amount spent by Facebook friends and non-friends.

Here it is, let me know what you think:

May 18, 2011

Social Commerce: How social media can boost your business [Infographic]

Some interesting statistics on social commerce in this infographic from spinback. Many of these conclusions are expected, but it’s great to have some more numbers (specifically dollar figures) behind the notion that most social media engagement can help convert “shares” to sales. A few highlights:

  • 90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know
  • 67% spend more money online after reading recommendations
  • 3.2 unique visitors to your site per social media share

You want people talking about your business, online – simple, right? Once you start to encourage/empower these conversations to help boost your business, you need to make sure you are in a position to participate. Have an action plan in place that allows you to share/amplify the positive posts, and reach out to and address the negative ones. Positive posts give you that valuable third-party credibility, etc., while negative posts almost always provide an actionable piece of business intelligence. Reach out to that dissatisfied customer and address their problem.

What do you think?


April 26, 2011

Social Media for Business – The DOs and DON’Ts [Infographic]

Here’s a great infographic from The Steel Method that features a few very simple, but very valuable, do’s and don’ts when it comes to using social media for business.  Before we get to the infographic, I have a few more DOs to add to the list:

Be sure to use multimedia. Photos and video are a great way to vary the way you deliver your message and engage with your audience. You don’t always need to be the one creating the content about your company;  you can share what others have created and posted online if it is on message. I often use the “favourites” option on YouTube to aggregate relevant content to appear on my channel and share it that way.

Promote and cross-promote your social networks. You need to let people know about the social networks you are active in. Promote your official accounts on your website and also on your other social media networks. I am often using Twitter and Facebook to promote new videos on YouTube or new sets on Flickr. Another trick is to link your Facebook and Twitter accounts so they can update each other. Or if you use a tool like HootSuite, you can add LinkedIn, WordPress, and Foursquare into the mix.

Establish a reporting and measurement system. Maybe this is implied in the “create measurable goals” section, but it bears repeating. Be sure to set up a reporting system so you can establish benchmarks and be able to track the progress towards your goals. This lets your executives know that you are on track, and also lets you know if you need to make any changes along the way to achieve your goals.

Now for the infographic:

February 16, 2011

Social media for small business: How Twitter and Facebook stack up [Stats]

I came across another infographic worth sharing. This one is from postling.com on how small businesses are using social media. A few things caught my eye:

1. The more a small business posts to their profile, the more comments and replies they get. This makes sense, right? But the level of comments/replies drops dramatically when a small business can only muster a few posts each week. When a small business posts 8 or more times a week, they average over 10 comments/replies a day. This number plummets to 0.3 comments/replies a day when posting 7 or fewer times during a week. When users see this active participation in social media by the small business, they engage; but if they feel the organization is “speaking TO them” rather than “speaking WITH them” they are clearly less interested.

2. More small businesses have Twitter accounts than Facebook profiles. Twitter barely has the edge, but I wasn’t expecting that.  The simplicity of the Twitter platform may be appealing to small business owners. It is easier to understand, easier to set up, and easier to use. The real advantage Twitter has over Facebook is that Twitter is much more public and open. By this I mean Twitter is easily searchable, instantly archived by search engines, and it is organized around topics, rather than people you actually know. You can only sell so many cupcakes to the people you went to school with, or work with, so Twitter’s ongoing outreach to new potential customers is very attractive.

3. I question the assertion that Facebook is a better referral tool. Twitter is all about sharing links. How often do you see a tweet without a URL and think “somebody forgot to add the link?” There may be an issue with the methodology on this stat, as the infographic only takes into consideration referrals from one type of link shortening service (bit.ly). This completely ignores organic links and all of the other URL shortening/tracking services. Most notably, it ignores owl.ly and ht.ly URL shortening services, which are coincidentally offered by one of postling.com’s chief competitors (Hootsuite). I just don’t think there is enough data here to say Facebook is THAT much of a better referral tool than Twitter, if it’s even better at all.

Here it is. Let me know what you think:

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