Part I: Is Your Company Really Listening?
As we continue to move toward the age of more advanced technology and less personal interaction with companies, the avenues of customer-centric communication are shifting from phone calls to Twitter tweets and Facebook posts. Just showing up to the party and being online is no longer enough for businesses as your customers want and deserve more. Today’s businesses are no longer able to ignore mentions on social media platforms and need to react, but in the right way!
Social media has become the battle ground for effective customer service that will make or break your brand’s reputation, especially online where word of mouth touches thousands — or even millions — within minutes. To help provide better insights on how to successfully implement social media customer care, I’ve developed a three-part series focusing on best practices to provide an exceptional experience, details on how consumers can receive the most efficient help, and how businesses can develop productive social media teams.
IMPLEMENTING ACTIVE LISTENING and POSITIVE CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT
We always hear companies say they listen to their customers, but how often do they say they actively listen to our consumers and react accordingly? Not too often, according to many reports.
Consider research from Buffer’s Courtney Seiter: 86 percent of social media customers would like or love to hear from a company regarding a complaint; and more than 1 million people view tweets about customer service every week, and roughly 80 percent of those tweets are negative or critical in nature.
But do you know what consumers really want? Raquel Welch had it right when she said, “You can’t fake listening. It shows.” In a pill, consumers want you to actively listen. It means you not only hear what your customer is saying, but you understand their needs and wants, and your team is also willing to help provide full assistance to the end – including a follow-up when resolved.
It’s also important to understand shifting sales in social spaces and working with your customers can help as some 43 percent of consumers say a direct response to their questions is most important at a social media site, and 31 percent expect the social media site to provide direct access to customer service representatives or product experts.
Upon engaging customers in social media, it’s essential to understand your brand’s voice and tone. If your company has a more conservative voice, be sure to address a customer in more of a formal manner. If you own a video game store, however, you may choose to respond informally. Either way, make sure you keep a friendly tone, don’t use aggressive or demanding wording and remember you’re human (and so is the customer).
From the satisfied customer who leaves comments like, “we love you guys,” to the irate one who crows, “this $%I# never works,” or the person who posts pictures of their butt (yes, literally multiple times) – I’ve seen it all!
The end goal must be to provide as helpful an experience as possible, to ensure the consumer leaves the social media space with a positive view of the company, and to impart the feeling that they were heard and helped fully. Thus, social media customer service builds brand awareness while enhancing consumer experience.
Here are a few tips to help get to the core of a customer complaint and improve on consumer experiences:
- ASK A QUESTION It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what the person is referring to in their initial comment. Ask open-ended (not yes or no) questions that allow them to elaborate with details.
- SHOW EMPATHY If someone is upset, the first thing you want to do is let them know you understand. You DON’T want to be sympathetic (feel pity or sorrow).
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY It’s okay to show that your business is run by humans, unless you’ve got some sort of business run by robots. (If that’s the case, then make sure you have the model with emotions.) Acknowledge that a mistake happened and that you’re there to help.
- OFFER SOLUTIONS This step flows perfectly from the previous one! Let them know what you can do to help.
- TAKE ACTION Better yet, don’t just tell them, actually follow through with your solution to help ensure their concern is fully addressed. This might mean replacing a product, scheduling a service visit or providing a refund.
- FOLLOW UP Once you’ve resolved the issue, it’s always nice to check back in. It gives an extra touch to show how much you really care, and the customer will be happy to tell you about their latest experience.
Now you have the basic tools to help build a successful social media customer care program. Please check back for the next segments: Steps to Ensure Your Customers Enjoy Their Social Media Experience and Steps to a Successful Social Media Engagement.