Social media has fundamentally changed the way in which customers communicate with businesses. In the past, when a customer had a complaint or a problem, they would likely write to the business privately, or call them directly. Today, however, they contact companies through social media and make their complaints public.

Many businesses see this as a major challenge, because their response is open to public scrutiny and needs to satisfy everyone watching, rather than just the individual customer. In reality, however, sticking to some best practices can make social media a positive customer service tool, which enhances a business’s reputation.

Pick the Right Platforms

The first step to having a strong customer service strategy on social media is to identify and utilise the best platforms. While the likes of Facebook and Twitter can be great for retail customer service, they might not always make sense for every business and other options, like LinkedIn and Pinterest may be more valuable.

Think about where your customers are likely to be, consider where your competitors have an online presence, but do not feel pressured into having 10 social media accounts when two or three will do. Remember, you have limited resources and every platform you use will need to be closely monitored.

Swift Response Times

One challenge companies need to step up to is the demand for a swift response. Indeed, research from Lithium Technologies found that 72 percent of people who make a complaint on Twitter expect a response in less than an hour. When expectations are not met, 60 percent will take action against the company, such as public shaming.

However, the rewards for delivering strong retail customer service over social media are great and this starts with response times. If businesses do reply to complaining customers quickly, 34 percent of those customers are likely to buy from that company again and 43 percent are likely to recommend their products to friends and family.

Use the Right Channel

When customers reach out to you on Facebook, they expect you to respond on Facebook. This may seem like common sense, but according to J.D. Power and Associates, only 44 percent of customers are actually given this courtesy. This is likely the result of companies trying to deal with issues privately.

While it is acceptable to move to a different channel to resolve the problem, your first contact should always be made on the same channel, so that the person definitely sees it and so that on-lookers see you acting. One way to prevent issues is to use customer service courses to ensure staff are adept at using all of the different social media channels your business has invested in, so that they do not default to using the one they are most comfortable with.

Think About What You Say

Finally, you need to give careful consideration to what your customer service team actually say on your various social media platforms. Of course, the information staff are taught through customer service courses should be put into action, meaning staff should always remain polite and professional, knowledgeable and try to actually resolve as many problems as possible.

However, there are other considerations too. Most social media interactions will be public, so you need to take great care to avoid sharing private information or anything else which does not belong in the public domain. Moreover, anything that is said will reflect directly on your business, so think about your brand values before replying. Finally, it is perfectly fine to manage your customers’ expectations by including customer service operation times and days on your platforms so that your customers know when to contact you online.

Many companies see social media customers as unreasonable, or at the very least highly demanding, but it is important to remember that in many cases Facebook and Twitter have replaced instant forms of communication, like the telephone. In reality, social media is an ideal chance to publicly showcase your customer service abilities and brand values, and the rewards for meeting customer expectations are more than worth the effort.

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