Here’s how social media affects the customer service experience

What holiday shopping feels like
What holiday shopping feels like. Via weloveit20.tumblr.com.

As the holidays approach, customers demand more and more of businesses, often becoming aggressive when products and services are not to their liking. If approached correctly, social media can be a blessing when it comes to soothing stressed consumers, providing an outlet for customer frustration as well as offering solutions to problems on both the customer and company end. This is a great chance to shine when it comes to customer service!

There are pros and cons to almost any tool these days, and social media is no different. Companies, businesses and organizations can leverage social media to their advantage when it comes to customer service but only if they are willing to take the risks and approach situations quickly, appropriately and accountably. Keep the season merry and bright with these considerations about social media.

 

It’s fast

The up side: Problems can be addressed more quickly, making customers feel valued and heard.

Organizations can immediately respond to notifications on social media channels, and it is in an organization’s best interest to do so. Especially when customer service phone lines are tied up or when offices are closed, social media is something that more and more customers are turning to in the event of an issue or emergency. Those quick responses garner customer respect and can smooth a few ruffled feathers before the conversation about their problem even begins.

The down side: The problems might not be able to be fixed as quickly as they are addressed.

Even when an organization representative can get back to a customer in record time, the customer’s issue itself may not be so easily resolved. Because their social media message received immediate attention, customers may then expect their problem will be fixed just as quickly, leaving them frustrated if that is not the case.

The take away: Extra lines of communication are always a good thing, enabling better feedback, understanding and a quick method of responding. Authentic replies build better good-will toward the organization which has the potential to offset frustrations that may arise. And, there’s a good chance the organization’s response can clear up the problem without further action, anyway!

 

It’s removed

The up side: It’s easier to be polite and organize your thoughts through text.

Written notes allow both the customer and the organization representative to plan out what they want to say, and frustrated tones are easier to leave out of text than speech. This means that the customer and the organization can have more productive conversations with less defensiveness.

The down side: Anonymity provides protection for bad manners, and some mediums (like Twitter) may be too limiting for thorough explanations.

Often, commenters will hide behind their keyboards as they sling insults and slanders at organizations or its members. There are some people that are more interested in tarnishing a reputation for past hurts than actually seeking a change in their service or product. In those cases, communication through social media offers few solutions beyond giving the customer the most positive impression possible.

Channels like Twitter that limit characters can also lead to misunderstandings as both parties try to appropriately abbreviate what they’re trying to say. It isn’t long before communicating through those social media channels feels more burdensome for both the customer and the organization than other methods of communicating, like a phone call or an email.

The take away: Always, always, always put your best foot forward in social media conversations. Manners, empathy and authenticity should shine through digital interaction—not irritation, condescension and apathy. If the organization reaches out with positivity, the customer will be more likely to respond in kind.

Use social media as a tool for starting a conversation—if the problem is too complex for the medium, offer other methods of communication such as a phone call, email or— depending on the organization—a face-to-face meeting. Organizations should use language that is accurate and precise but not confusing to the customer to ensure that the situation is handled appropriately and to both parties’ satisfaction.

 

It’s a public forum

The up side: Customers have the security of accountability on your part, and well-handled situations make the organization look good.

The promise of publicity helps to keep both customer and company honest in social media interactions, which means the customer may already be more relaxed than if he or she were to approach you over the phone or through contact forms. Organizations can take that natural security and turn it to their advantage by responding professionally, setting a precedent for the general audience about how they handle ALL forms of communication.

The down side: Bad reviews or organization mistakes can be broadcast to a wide audience and gain momentum.

If you build it, they will come. Once it’s clear that social media is an effective way to reach the organization, customers will jump on board, for better or for worse. Especially in the case of actual wrong-doing or fault on the part of a company or company representative, being called out on social media can snowball into a barrage of bad reviews and disparaging comments.

The take away: Organizations should respond publically to any queries on social media but promote a private method of communicating, like messaging, in order to have a more authentic conversation with the customer that is also less harmful to the organization brand. NEVER reveal a customer’s private information on a public medium or act rudely toward the customer. Your audience doesn’t know what may have happened in the past—make a good impression in the present.

 

Customers should not be punished for reaching out to an organization, no matter what attitude that customer adopts. Make social media work for your customer service strategy by responding quickly and politely to questions, issues or complaints, and don’t forget to reward positive feedback with a “like” or a retweet! The audience will be taking note of how the organization reacts to these situations, so always stay professional in public and private interactions!

For more on TAG’s social strategy and best practices, visit our website!