Tip Sheets for Social Customer Support Reps

EXCLUSIVE - Waffle House grill cook cheat sheet

EXCLUSIVE – Waffle House grill cook cheat sheet (Photo credit: nickgraywfu)

Have you ever lost your cell phone, and realized that you don’t know anyone’s telephone number by heart anymore? Thank goodness for cloud storage, so your new phone can magically have all the data you need at your fingertips. It’s just much easier to get done what you need to do when the data you need is right there.

The same is true for your customer support staff, social or otherwise. Providing a tip sheet, or quick reference guide, is the easiest way to ensure that your team has the most important information right at their fingertips. This helps them project a confident, well-informed image to your customers and helps them feel more self-assured and knowledgeable. The smarter they feel about the product or service they’re discussing, the more they’ll feel comfortable talking to customers about it.

Here are just a few ideas of things that could be helpful on a tip sheet:

Cheat Sheet Items

  • Mission Statement – It doesn’t have to be fancy, It’s just a good idea to make sure the team sees the big picture.
  • Quality Standards – Which tasks can I complete that look like good service to our customers?
  • Priorities – If many things start to happen all at the same time, which should I do first? Which should be put off?
  • Contact Information – Let the team know who can get what done, and how to reach those people.
  • Emergency Information – List instructions for emergencies.

Social Customer Support Cheat Sheet Items

In addition to those above, add these for your social team:

  • Hours of Operation – When are posts expected to be answered?
  • List of Monitored Channels – Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? YouTube? A comprehensive list helps ensure nothing is missed.
  • SLA – Desired time to response for each channel. This is particularly helpful with multiple channels
  • Thresholds for escalation – Let your team know how they can tell it’s time to escalate.  (X number of posts on the same topic in X hours need to be escalated)

Each business is different, but generally these categories of information can get even new or temporary employees through challenging situations.

Keep Your Social Media Customer Support Staff Informed

Knowledge will make you free

Knowledge will make you free (Photo credit: tellatic)

You know that feeling when you are shopping for something, and you get to talk to an employee who has all the answers your looking for? And then gives you more information you didn’t even know you wanted? I love that feeling. I tend to buy more from people like that.

Informed staff can provide more than just information. They convey a sense of confidence and faith in the brand, and can put customer fears to rest. There are many areas of information that you can share with your team to ensure happy, trusting customers.

  • Product/Service Information – It’s critical that your team is fully knowledgeable on all product and service information and pricing. If your staff can’t answer questions on your own goods, it can cause a lack of confidence in the ability of the brand to deliver.
  • Mission Statement – A well-written company mission statement tells an employee many things, including the main goal the company hopes to achieve and an indication of the way in which the company hopes to achieve that goal.
  • Brand Voice – Each brand develops its own voice in the marketplace. Correctly training on the tone and tenor that suits your company will really help your team stay true to that voice. Consistent brand voice helps your customers feel confident in that brand promise.
  • Corporate News – Customers have easy access to plenty of news and information about your company. Providing that same information to your staff ensures they appear well-informed.
  • Insider Information – When possible, inform your team of changes before the general public is made aware. This allows them to keep their expert status.

These few steps can help your company look buttoned up and prepared to assist customers with all their questions and concerns. And, aside from creating confident customers, a great side effect is that your employees will feel confident too. That’s great for morale. So, ask yourself what you can do today to get your team prepared to answer the questions customers may be asking them tomorrow.

Using Social Media to Teach Customers

Classroom Chairs

Classroom Chairs (Photo credit: James Sarmiento (old account))

One of the benefits of developing relationships with your customers via social media is the opportunity to provide education.  Customers don’t really want to call you with their questions and concerns; honestly some customers may even prefer to look up the answer for themselves rather than ask you on Twitter or Facebook or other social channel.

The barrier to self service can be a lack of awareness that self-service materials exist or how to locate them. Say you run a dry cleaning service, and you’ve decided to provide helpful information on fabric care and cleaning (I don’t know, I’m making this up. Go with me here.) A customer tweets at 8:30 am panicking over a stain on her suit she’s been trying to get out since 7am for her 9:00 am meeting.

Here are 3 steps to raise awareness and educate customers:

  1. Solve the immediate need –  Step in and tell the customer there is no need to panic. Give quick instructions on how to remove the stain within her current constraints (meeting in 30 minutes, drugstore 2 minutes away, apply these chemicals and voila, stain gone in time for meeting.)
  2. Provide additional information that could help next time (Suzie, here’s a link to our site where you can get information to solve your stain issues in the future)
  3. Advise of relevant services your company provides (Also Suzie, our facility at 9th and Main opens at 7am and will take care of stains for you on-the-spot [pun intended] for a tiny fee. We hope you’ll think of us next time).

We know the spirit of social media is all about community and helping, and not so much about cold selling. However, in this case, Suzie knows that rather than spend 2 hours fixing a stain, she could save the panic and just head on over to 9th and Main next time.

River Pools and Spas has created a blog and educational section to help educate customers about buying and installing in-ground pools. Providing this information to customers, regardless of their intent to buy from your company, not only establishes them as an authority on the subject, but also goes a long way to creating a relationship of trust before consumers have ever stepped foot into their showroom.

Now, take a look at your business model. Could you do something similar?

Fix the Process

English: It's a simple picture of a magnifying...

English: It’s a simple picture of a magnifying glass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you ask me, social media is like a magnifying glass, or those 10x magnifying mirrors women use to apply makeup in the morning. If you’ve ever used one of these, you know that you might feel like you need a good therapy session afterward.  Every problem, every blemish, everything that you’re already so self-critical of about yourself is made larger than life and reflected back at you.

Every flawed customer interaction can be magnified and served back to you as customer complaints on social media. And savvy executives are watching their own social spaces (go, you savvy execs out there!). This real-time access to customer experience and opinion is just what  companies have needed. But, if you’re running customer care for these spaces, oh boy, get ready.  The pressure is on to answer customer complaints, and fast.

Companies can rush to silence complaining customers by providing relief to just those customers that voice concern; however, without real change, those complaints will just continue to arrive on corporate social media properties.

So, how do you get to real change? Investigate, determine root cause, and correct. For example,  if customers complain about products arriving late, certainly help those customers that complain first, but then also dig deep to find causes and find out how often it happens. Do you have a call center? Chat reps? Do they get the same complaints? How many? And for how long? Was a policy or process change enacted around the time that the complaints started? Or has the process always been this way? Is there a reason the process has to remain in its current form, or is there a potential change that could produce an improved customer experience?

All this investigation requires an organizational culture that can collaborate and is open to change. Launching social media was a pretty big change a few years ago, so if you’ve been around a while, chances are you have a culture that can withstand some policy investigation (I hope). All this detective work takes some time, usually on the part of your social customer support team. First, they have to dig to the root of the issue for the initial customer, and then, they have to ask for other departments to pitch in and provide data on past complaints. Some departments may not want to share that they’ve had a number of complaints on an issue, but if the culture is really about improving customer experience, and you approach the request right, you might be surprised to find that the department is glad someone else noticed there was an issue (“finally” might be a word you hear once or twice).

So, if you’re up for it, give it a try. Be nice (No finger-pointing. We’re all in this together!) and use all your social charm inside the company to see what you can get done. It feels really good when you know that future customers won’t have that same-old issue anymore now that you’ve used the data from social media to solve a nagging process issue.

Sound Advice from Entrepreneur Magazine

Social Media Outposts

Social Media Outposts (Photo credit: the tartanpodcast)

Entrepreneur Magazine posted this article by Jason Fell last month titled 4 Quick Tips for Using Social Media for Customer Service. He provides some sound advice on delivering customer care through social media.

His first tip is to keep a separate Twitter handle for support issues. I think this is a great way to not only separate out customer support inquiries from marketing efforts, but also provides an excellent opportunity to create a brand for your support. Branding your company’s help handle shows consumers the company takes customer experience and satisfaction seriously.

Before purchasing something new, I frequently seek feedback online. One great way to check the state of an organization’s customer service is to visit Facebook or Twitter to see what the public is really saying about a brand. I’ve found it true that any customer service flaw a company has can be greatly magnified on social media.

Secondly, he speaks to the importance of first contact resolution. I fully recommend this whenever you can pull it off. It can be tricky, but if you put some detective work into it, many times it’s possible to figure out who the customer is, find that account information and just reply back with an answer to the problem. It’s a bit tough if location information isn’t given, but I think it’s worth the time to give it your best shot.

Fell’s third tip deals with crisis. Crisis can be tricky. I would argue that unless your crisis impacts all or a great majority of your customers, consider benefit of broad proactive communication against the cost. If you can specifically geotarget a proactive post to impacted parties, I recommend it. But overuse of broad updates could start to be construed as spam to those unaffected. It would be a shame to have good corporate intentions result in a pile of messages to unimpacted customers that could serve to erode faith in the brand’s performance. I also say if you have a limited number of customers impacted by the crisis, though it may be painful, you might want to try answering each individual social inquiry, regardless of whether you have a proactive tweet or post out there. This, of course, depends on staffing constraints, but if you can reply with short, personalized responses to all the incoming questions, it can look much more responsive. I do acknowledge this is sometimes just not possible.

I fully agree with Jason’s point that training is a must-have. Traditional call center conversations take place on the phone where information is shared in a dyadic setting. Social customer support happens in a very public place. Thorough training and communication of expectations can really make the difference between simmering down a social site to boiling one over in short order.

Check out the article, I highly recommend it. I’m also interested in your thoughts.