Category Archives: social media customer service

Quick Guide to Holiday Online Customer Service

hands of business manager typing online customer serviceIt only takes one bad online interaction to put a damper on the next holiday sale. On the flip side, it takes one fantastic social media message or comment to make the holiday season merrier for the customer and the company. According to a list of holiday shopping statistics posted by Constant Contact, the numbers of online purchases and online searches leading to in-store visits are increasing. The stakes are higher than ever for creating an exceptional overall online experience for customers—including customer service.

Reaching the goal of 100% customer satisfaction during the holiday season can seam surreal. It’s the busiest time of the year for many companies. Staff members are stretched thin, both in terms of time and budget.

With all that being said, it’s not unrealistic to provide excellent customer service that boosts sales and brand loyalty. Use these tips to effectively deliver the online customer service that makes the holidays more festive for everyone.

Monitor social media messages.

The biggest mistakes companies make is a lack of awareness about the messages themselves and the importance of responses. On Facebook, one of the most popular social media sites, companies can get badges for quick response times. Beyond social media sites, customers value—even expect—-a quick response.

To meet those expectations, monitor social media messages closely (or contact a marketing firm that can assist with monitoring). Use an e-mail (that is attached to the social media account) or social media monitoring program to promptly and efficiently monitor messages. Whenever possible, add accurate location hours so customers know when to expect a response. If it is not possible to get the information at the time of the message, let the customer know when to expect an answer to their question.

Choose the customer service provider wisely.

Online customer service is not a task that should be assigned to just any staff member. An error in judgment can cost any company sales, both on individual transactions and in negative reviews. Negative reviews can play a significant role in customers’ purchasing decisions. According to Search Engine Land, research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision.

As such, responding to e-mails and social media messages should not be delegated to any staff member or intern. The responsible party should be available to answer customer inquiries and knowledgeable in customer service. If there is a lack of available staff, consider outsourcing social media marketing to the experts.

Respond promptly.

Online customer service should not be a task that should be tackled once a day or irregularly. Customers expect a prompt response. On social media, statistics say most customers expect companies to respond within 24 hours on social media in general (and faster on some social media sites). For that reason, online messages and comments should be monitored closely. If the answer to the inquiry is not immediately available, let the customer know that their message has been received and the timeline for a resolution.

Ditch the canned responses.

Nothing can kill the holiday spirit like a canned customer service response. If a customer comments on a social media post, answer like a real human and don’t hesitate to ask them to communicate privately. Canned responses to every comment, such as a repeated “thank you for your comment, blah, blah, blah…” can backfire, especially when the initial customer comment is negative. This approach can anger the customer, making the customer experience a negative one.

Offer an easy solution.

The holidays are a busy season. Make the customer’s experience positive by making the resolution easy and expedient. Unless the resolution requires an in-depth conversation, avoid making the customer call; try as much as possible to communicate with the customer through their preferred method of communication (i.e. social media, e-mail, text message, etc.) A positive customer experience over the holidays can leave a favorable impression that lasts long after the festivities are over.

4 Ways Everyone Can Tell You’re a Social Media Rookie

social media roookie mistakesThis post comes with a disclaimer: we’re all still learning about social media. Everyone is; social media is constantly evolving, and new strategies are being developed every day. That being said, you don’t have to look like you’re new to the social media “game,” even if you are a rookie to social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. So how do you avoid walking around with a metaphorical “I’m new here” sign on your back? Avoid these common rookie social media faux pas:

You only share content about you

Don’t confuse social media marketing with traditional advertising. This is more than just a space that says, “buy, buy, buy!” Creating a valuable social media presence is all about giving value to your customers, and not just on selling. That means sharing content, graphics and information that your customers find valuable, including but not limited to information about your company. Use the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts, tweets, etc. should be valuable (even fun depending on your company’s voice), and 20% should be about you.

Don’t be afraid to share content from other sources. If you are a pet store, share tips, articles, and memes that your customers find interesting. Add in pictures of pets that come into your store, fun pictures of your employees (with their permission), sales happening at your store, and notification of community events you’re involved in. The result is a social media presence that your customers find relevant and interesting, building their trust and bringing them in the door.

You have a million different social media pages, BUT…

The BUT is that you’re not good at any of them. A tell-tale sign of a rookie business is a mishmash of social media pages that don’t have relatable, regular and relevant posts specific to the social media site, the key to a solid social media presence. They’ve jumped in with good intentions, but 1) don’t have the knowledge of what to post to that specific social media channel or 2) tons of social media pages but no time to post to those pages.

What’s almost worse is when a business links two social media pages and automatically cross posts. The result is a long Facebook post that Twitter users can’t even read because it’s too long; a LinkedIn page with short Tweets that obviously weren’t intended for LinkedIn and don’t give LinkedIn users value. It’s disastrous. Every social media site is different; create posts and tweets for each platform, even if you’re sharing the same content.

How do you avoid this particular social media black eye? Plan ahead. Choose your social media channels strategically, and focus on those channels. Knowing what social media site fits your brand (check out this infographic to match your customer demographic with the right social media platform) is almost as important as what you put on those social media channels. Are you a bridal shop? Consider Pinterest, which is a visual social media channel with a strong female user demographic. A business focused on B2B marketing? Consider LinkedIn, one of the leading social media platforms among professionals.

You don’t have to confine your social media presence to one social media site, of course. But if you do have a presence on several sites, know your social media site and their audience or hire a social media marketing company that does. Finding your niche in the social media world is as wonderful as a compatible marriage. It’s a match made in heaven, where your business achieves results—and your audience gets the content they want.

Feast or famine social media presence

Ah, the famous “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” error. Or, in this case the “your intentions are bigger than the amount of time you have.” These rookie businesses post when they have time, post a lot, and then….post nothing. You’re not going to keep your audience’s interest with this fast or famine approach to social media. Be regular; the definition of regular is different on each social media platform. If you can’t give regular social media updates and blog posts, outsource to marketing experts. It’s better to have updated social media channels than irregular posts and dated information. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing.

You don’t respond

This is one of the worst mistakes a business can make on social media: not responding to their customers in a timely fashion. Remember, social media is a two-way forum. If your customers ask a question, or leave a review, you need to respond quickly. Studies have shown that your customers’ expect a response on social media, and that they are responding a response within an hour (or two at the most). That doesn’t mean you need to stay awake all night responding to customers, especially if you put your business hours on Facebook. It does mean that you need to reply as quickly as possible, even if the review or inquiry has a negative tone.

If you get a negative review or comment, don’t ignore it. Instead, use this as a chance to listen and provide excellent customer service. Deleting a negative comment only angers your already angry customer and makes it look like you have something to hide. Your customers are taking the time to engage with you, now it’s your turn to return the favor. If you don’t have time to post and respond to your social media inquiries, hire help to make sure that you meet your customers’ (and potential customers’) expectations.

Remember, not to treat social media marketing like it’s an isolated effort. Integrate your social media marketing into your marketing plan so you have a clear, consistent voice in all your marketing efforts—and the excellent results of a well thought-out, strategic marketing plan. Don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions about digital marketing; watching and learning are two sure ways to lose that rookie label.

6 Rules for Delivering Excellent Customer Service on Social Media

online customer service
Can your company deliver excellent customer service online?

We’ve all done it: while researching local companies delivering x product or service, you click on one of their social media icons on their website to find out what past customers thought of their service. You browse through the complaints, the inquiries, and the glowing reviews to find out if that company was the best at delivering the product or service—and customer service—that you expect. After all, who wants to work with a company that doesn’t respond when you need them—and respond well?

Turns out, we’re not alone; a recent study from BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers read online reviews from local companies (up from 88% in 2014). The advent and evolution of social media gives them the opportunity to check up on you on a neutral platform, and talk back; almost 42% expect a response within an hour of posting on a company’s social media. To be sure, customers have set their expectations high, and there’s a good reason for you to deliver: studies have consistently shown that customers choose a product from a company that delivers good customer service even if the price of the is more than a competitor. The bonus is that they’ll also leave positive ratings about your company because of that service, which other potential customers notice and use to make their purchasing decision.

Is your company ready to meet their high expectations for online customer service? Delivering excellent customer service on social media cannot be delivered flippantly without a plan. How are you going to be notified about your customers’ inquiries? How are you going to respond to positive and negative reviews? Who is going to be in charge of the responses? What kind of training do they need? Every company is going to respond to these questions differently based on company culture and staff expectations; however, you can use these general rules to deliver the service that your customers expect, and deserve.

Respond promptly

You don’t have to be online 24/7; this would be difficult for most companies, especially smaller businesses with less resources. Be very clear about your company hours, and respond promptly within those hours, or as soon as possible the next morning. Make sure you have set your notifications so you know when a customer has posted to your social media sites, and create a smooth system so you can respond quickly—without having to go through an arduous process of management approval before posting. Managers, make sure you choose a staff member to deliver the customer service you trust; just because your intern is online all the time, doesn’t make them an ideal candidate for handling delicate customer inquiries. If you’re not available, or don’t have the staff on hand to deliver prompt customer service, don’t be afraid to outsource your efforts; a company with experience can deliver the customer service your customers expect—without you having to invest in the training.

Don’t ignore the negative

An online brand we follow had a customer who was not happy. His floor was not covered by warranty after it was damaged, and no one at the company was responding to his social media comments. For days afterward, the customer responded to every social media post with a rant. The company did not respond to the long complaints, and the rants grew worse.

The lesson: respond to the negative and positive comments. If you need more information or an in-depth forum to respond to their complaint, don’t be afraid to message the customer or ask them to message you so you can continue the conversation. Don’t assume that every angry comment means that you can’t win; you can still resolve many situations with excellent customer service. Believe it or not, you’ll also win their business again with this strategy.

If the customer inquiry is the fodder for an online crisis (such as a complaint about an employees’ rude or inappropriate comment), make your manager or CEO aware of the problem as soon as possible and involve them in the response process. Develop a plan for a possible crisis in advance; you don’t want to get caught “with your pants down” in a crisis situation.

Can the canned responses

One day when perusing my social media feed, I noticed a friend’s post. He shared a post from a company’s Facebook page written by a customer about a squeezable food product. The customer was unhappy because he found mold in his product (gross!), and he openly put the complaint on the company’s social media page. The company responded, but not before many, many other customers commented that they had the same problem with the product at one time or another. The company responded with a canned response to each complaint: “Please contact us with your issues at…” which fanned the fire; soon customers were commenting back to the company, “Aren’t you going to respond instead of copying and pasting the same reply to our complaint?”

Be human

That brings us to the next part of delivering customer service: type like you talk, and know your company’s voice. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sound professional, but that does mean your customer service response shouldn’t sound like a robot is responding. If your company is a pizza company with a younger audience, and a fun voice on social media, don’t be afraid to respond in that same voice; but don’t make fun of your customer or belittle their complaint. If your company has a B2B clientele, your response should sound more professional, but should still sound like a real, live human is there and ready to help.

Make it easy

Your customer shouldn’t have to work to get a resolution to their issue. Don’t make them jump through significant hoops or even have to pick up a phone. It is okay to ask for details in private messages and to ask for their information if you need to send something to them to resolve the issue; it’s not okay to start bombarding them with sales emails if they don’t ask (or give permission) for them.

Go above and beyond their expectations

Don’t assume that a bad customer experience equates to a lost customer. A few years ago, we ordered roast beef for a birthday party from a local shop. They said the order would be ready on Friday. When we called to make sure our order was ready on Friday, it wasn’t. The owner of the business called the next day with a sincere apology, reassurance that the order was ready for our party, and an offer to bring the order to our home. When he arrived, he brought extra of the order, and made sure we understood the cooking directions. Because he went above and beyond for us, we’d order from him again—and you can create the same favorable experience for your customers, even after a bad experience. Don’t think that because the interaction is online that you can’t deliver the same excellent customer experience; today’s social media is yesterday’s phone for many people, and your key to delivering excellent customer service.