How to Use Social Media for Customer Service as a Local Business
Social media can be the perfect way to talk to your customers in a personal, friendly and community-focused way. The relatively low cost of social media can make it an excellent marketing tool to share promotional messages, and (once you’ve explored it a bit) it can be very easy to use.
But some businesses also use social media as a way to manage and respond to customer service issues. A study shows that 56% of UK adults with a social media account use it to help get customer service questions and concerns resolved (Hootsuite, 2016).
The benefits of using social media as a customer service tool
1) You can demonstrate your excellent customer service on these channels in front of a huge group of people
Customers who get good service (even after a complaint) are much more likely to praise your business and share their experience on social media, which could also increase your fan base as their network will also have heard about the great service you provide.
2) It helps you manage and control where customers are talking about you
Nearly 1 in 5 customers in the UK use social media as the first place they complain about a business (Echo MS, 2015), so being present on these channels can be extremely useful.
There are plenty of websites – like Yelp or TripAdvisor – where you have very little control about how customers talk about you. Giving your customers the opportunity to talk to you directly on your social media channels means you can manage the conversation much more effectively and catch any major problems before they ‘blow up’.
3) You can easily track conversations and responses
The conversation between you and a customer is all kept in one place, rather than on an email, doodled on a notepad and discussed on the phone. This makes your response swifter and any future problems easier to deal with.
The challenges of customer service on social media
- If you don’t deal with complaints professionally, quickly and politely, it can really backfire; don’t forget, while it might be one individual you’re talking to, you’re doing it in front of thousands of other people!
- Customer service on social media can also require a rapid response: just over 40% of customers expect a response to a complaint on social media within an hour (even on weekends and after business hours) (Convince and Convert, n.d.). For some local businesses with small teams, this can be very difficult to manage.
How to make customer service on social media work for you
1) Be very clear on your response time.
Put it in your profile or page summary so it’s immediately obvious to your followers. If people know what response time to expect, they’re less likely to be frustrated when you aren’t able to respond immediately. You don’t have to have a response time of an hour; think realistically about how often you could check and respond to queries and use that.
2) Make sure whoever is responding to complaints has excellent customer service skills.
Being professional, friendly, polite and clear is essential to making sure customers feel valued and like they’re receiving a great service (even if they have a problem). Remember: the customer is always right, even on social media and even when you feel like their complaint is misguided.
3) Share positive customer service messages with your followers by liking, commenting, re-tweeting or sharing them (depending on the social media channel you’re using).
Sharing these messages reinforces the impression you’re providing excellent service, and helps increase positive feelings towards you. You can also pre-empt customer service issues by being open and honest with your customers; for example, if a product is out of stock, tell them – you’ll avoid complaints later on.
4) Try and move any negative complaints ‘offline’ or into private messages as soon as you can.
You don’t need to delete any complaints – just ask the complainant to email or send a direct message so you can deal with it more effectively and without the whole discussion being shared with your followers. (Don’t forget, on Twitter you need to be following a customer before they can send you a direct message.) It’s also important to move to private messages in case you need to gather personal information to track the grievance e.g. their email address.
Although at first it might seem a little scary using social media for customer service in front of such a huge amount of people, it’s likely that they are already there discussing and comparing your products and services directly against your competitors. The best thing you can do is join in the discussions to help combat any negativity, and start to get noticed for the positive things you do. cussions to help combat any negativity, and start to get noticed for the positive things you do. For more advice on using social media, specifically on Facebook, download our dedicated guide.
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