Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference?

Yes. (I know, you’re thinking “wow, she just came right out and said that with no hesitation.) I’ll say it again. Yes. And here’s why.

My family and I recently returned from a Disney cruise. The children had a wonderful time. They giggled, squealed, and chased beloved characters all around the ship. They dressed up in beautiful costumes and were treated like royalty. We all enjoyed excellent service from the staff aboard ship. They referred to the girls as “princess,” asked about our days, and even sang Happy Birthday to the girls (they’re twins, you see.) It was lovely.

But something happened prior to the cruise that… well, it clearly doesn’t negate the efforts of so many people working so hard on the ship. Our stateroom was impeccably clean, our servers were excellent, and the ship was so well designed. However one event kept entering my mind. What was it?

They never replied to my tweet. Yep. I had reached out the day before the cruise

Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference? Yes. www.sociallysupportive.com

Does Responding on Twitter Really Make a Difference? Yes.
www.sociallysupportive.com

asking for assistance because in all the mad rushing to get loose ends tied up before the cruise, I remembered that I hadn’t ever called to schedule the girls’ birthday decorations for the stateroom. Because, you see, with twins it’s a bit different sometimes. Reading the fine print on a decoration package can save hours of tears because there was only one toy included with the decorations. eek. Don’t need that when we’re all in the close quarters of a stateroom.

So I called them, and I explained my situation. The care agent on the phone told me that there was nothing she could do for two reasons: one, I hadn’t called within the required 3 days, and there would be no exceptions for any reasons; and two, they had no provisions for twins and I would not be able to purchase a separate, second toy. And no, there was nobody else to speak with that would tell me anything different. Well, I do understand that I was outside of that 3 days, and I can imagine they might really need 3 days to plan hanging up decorations in a stateroom. But, being a parent, I decided to swallow my pride, admit my mistake publicly, and see if perhaps I could get a reprieve from the online world in order for my girls to have those little decorations in the room.

I tweeted out to @DisneyCruise confessing my error and asking if anything could be done. No reply. Ever. I had wondered, being that this was our first Disney cruise, whether that was a sign of things to come. But it wasn’t. Everyone worked really hard to ensure that we had a fantastic cruise. We bought the children these bubble making toys that play music (parents could do without the music, btw if Disney is reading) and a wonderful woman named Keisha from Jamaica was working in the shop. Seeing the sadness in the girls’ eyes when we found only one bubble want after looking all over the ship for these things, Keisha called to her leader and had another shop opened to bring more stock to her store. Wow. I mean everyone went all out.

Are you wondering what the point is? Here’s the point. You can do an amazing job with an amazing crew and hit the mark on every point. But if you’re not answering on Twitter, you might turn your customer’s experience from “unrivaled, unprecedented, hands-down NPS of 10,” into “It was great. But it was weird that they didn’t respond to my tweet….” and then a whole long story about  how @DisneyCruise misssed your tweet.

I struggled with whether to write this post because it seems a shame to call attention to one missed opportunity when so many people worked so hard to deliver a truly fantastic experience. And I will post about how going the extra mile can really leave a lasting impression on your customers to highlight all that great service. But the lesson here was important enough to share and can help us all out as business. And I’m sure this resonates with many of you, because it happens to us all the time. Something is almost stellar, but this one thing is distracting and overshadows the rest. And that’s what this lack of response on Twitter was: a distraction from an otherwise stellar performance by so many hard-working people behind the Disney Cruise brand.

How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal?

How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal? www.sociallysupportive.com

How Can Online Customer Care Feel Personal?
www.sociallysupportive.com

We know from recent customer surveys that a resounding theme exists in responses from consumers who want to do business with companies that care about them. “Don’t treat me like just a number,” they write. Or, “I want to feel like somebody at that company cares about me.”

We also hear that digital interactions such as chat, social media and texting are cheaper and that customers actually want to engage with brands through these avenues. But, how do you deliver an interaction that feels personal without delivering a warm and empathetic human voice on the other end?

Good question. We know that eye contact, warm smiles and an open-armed stance show people in person that we are open to what they have to say and willing to work with them. In a call center environment the visual clues are missing from the conversation, so we teach agents how to enhance verbal connection by ensuring they wait to speak until the customer has finished, being very polite and repeating what they understood the customer’s need to be. We also encourage them to smile while talking, because believe it or not, customers can “hear” a smile (it’s really true, if you didn’t know. Technically, the tone of your voice can change a bit, you can form your words differently because of the shape of your mouth, etc.).

So…then what happens online? What should we be teaching our chat agents and our social agents to ensure that these online interactions feel personal? You can’t see or hear the consumer, there are just these words on the page with few context clues to draw from.

Here are some high-level concepts to share with your reps to ensure they are providing online service that will feel warm, memorable and inviting.

5 Steps to Personal Online Customer Support

  • Research: Before an agent ever interacts with a customer online, I recommend that you provide them with data around who your customer is, generally speaking. Usually upon hire, an orientation is given that explains the services your company offers and to whom those services are provided. For example, let’s say you are a computer parts retailer. You provide online chat for your customers in case they have questions about computer parts. your internal market research indicates that your customers are primarily from the U.S. and 60% male between the ages of 21 and 50. Because you are a retailer and not a wholesaler, you know that most of your customers are end user hobbyists and not businesses using your parts to resell to others. Providing this information to your agents before they ever engage with a customer is a great idea, because it helps them understand who they are talking to. They can guess that these customers would be interested in the much talked about latest software release, new advances in processing speed, etc. If your social media team were being trained rather than your chat team, perhaps you can research your Facebook insights in Business Manager to understand additional information about the customer.
  • Prepare: Once the agent is out of training and on the floor, it’s a good idea to be ready when that interaction comes. Online transactions have a bit of an advantage over phone calls in that some sort of data is usually passed to the agent before the customer is “live” with them. Perhaps your phone reps get a customer account delivered to their computer screen with the initial call, but you’re live at that point with the customer and quickly scanning to see what’s happening. In the online chat space, typically the customer has stated their inquiry in a pre-chat survey and is in queue waiting on an agent. Train your reps to take the time to fully read and understand the customer’s inquiry before they engage the customer. For social media, because initial response time expectations are a bit longer than on chat, you can take this a step further and see how far you can get resolving a customer’s issue before you ever reach out to them. Yes, your initial response time is possibly longer; however when you reach out to the customer, it feels as if the agent is engaged, prepared, and knowledgeable about the customer’s inquiry.
  • Listen: Ok, in the digital space it’s probably more accurate to use the word “read.” Have the agent read all of the words the customer has written to ensure that no assumptions are made. This is an easy place for online interactions to go from being helpful and satisfying customer issues, to being a huge waste of time for the customer. Thoroughly reading and understanding what the customer’s issue is avoids the agent taking time to solve for what they thought the customer needed help with, rather than what the customer actually wanted assistance with.
  • Ask: A colleague of mine once shared that he would ask three questions of a person before providing a single answer. This was to ensure that he fully understood the question before providing an answer. Brilliant, right? Let the agents know that it is a good idea to ask as many questions as necessary to ensure the answer they’re about to provide is truly the answer the customer requires. This pairs directly with “Listen” above. Skipping this step, in my experience, is the primary cause for customers feeling that only very simple transactions can be conducted online, and that for “tough questions” they need to call in. When executed properly, this step ensures that very complex troubleshooting can be conducted in online channels.
  • Share: Let’s not forget this one. The agent should share with the customer what should be done and why before getting started. Now, by “why,” I don’t mean that we should burden the customer with all the technical specifications that allow that agent to do the task. That’s wasted handle time and, quite frankly, the customer is not going to perform the transaction so we can skip all that and save everyone time. What is helpful is that after all the listening and asking of questions, we share the diagnosis with the customer. This is important because it’s possible that the agent has made an incorrect diagnosis. Sharing the high-level plan with the customer and asking if they are ready to correct the problem can prompt the customer to share additional details they hadn’t known were relevant before. This extra information could completely change the diagnosis, and might send the fix into a different direction. This step of sharing can again save precious time for the agent and the customer.

There you have it. Five Steps to Personal Online Support. What.. what’s that? Oh, right. Those steps above seem to be outlining how to have efficient and effective troubleshooting with a customer online. So, how is that personal, is that your question? Let me explain.

The reason customers report feeling disconnected during online interactions is because the agent isn’t listening to them, doesn’t share information, or doesn’t explain what they’re doing. Chat and social media interactions seem challenging to customers because there isn’t an ability to say enough words to get the agent to understand what the real issue is. The agent is trying to finish the transaction expediently since it’s an online channel, and this can cause a rush to figure out the customer issue. This rushing causes incorrect diagnosis, which, then, leads the agent to perhaps solve the wrong problem or be ineffective at solving the right problem. The customer feels like the agent doesn’t care because the agent isn’t sharing any information and doesn’t understand what they’re trying to convey. (phew, did you get all that?) Time and time again, reviewing thousands of online interactions over the years, this is what we see.

What does  feel like caring, personal interaction to people is, of course, saying hi, how are you, how is your day going, etc. And agents are already doing this. But what really, truly feels like caring is when people listen and people help. We’ll of course assume that your agents want to help and wish they had time to listen. By providing them with these steps above and the assurance that it’s ok to take their time to ask some questions, I believe your agents will thrive and your NPS scores will improve.

Have a look at your chat or text transcripts, or review your social media interactions. If you find this to be relevant to your situation, but are concerned about an increase in handle time,  I recommend you try a pilot with just a few agents. The handle time impacts will then be contained, and you can compare the results of the pilot group against those in regular population. Happy trials!

Why Provide Social Customer Care?

Why Offer Social Customer Care? www.sociallysupportive.com

Why Provide Social Customer Care? www.sociallysupportive.com

Businesses today more than ever are all about running as lean as possible. The digital space makes it easy for competition to pop up everywhere, and may times that means a race to be the lowest-priced option if all else is equal. So, it makes sense that leaders want to be sure something is necessary before spending limited budgets to begin a new project.

Social media customer care is no exception. Sure, you hear that competition is providing it, but where would you even start? That sounds expensive, and, well… it sounds hard. What are people even getting out of that? And why would you want to spend money to air your dirty laundry?

These are very valid questions, and the savvy executive will do good to ask themselves these questions. They deserved to be answered. So, here are a few answers to them.

Three Reasons (and a bonus) to provide social customer support

  • Customers Expect It. Even if you do not personally have a Twitter or Facebook account, that’s ok. Go to these sites and search for your biggest competitor. Is he there? If he is, then he has access to millions of eyeballs at a time when you do not. True, you might be advertising in another way or at another time. But think of it this way. If there was a cocktail party where plenty of customers with money were casually mingling, and businesses like yours could go and chat it up with those paying customers, you’d want to go, right? Now imagine that your biggest competitors are all there too. Did you just get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are missing a huge opportunity? Well, that’s healthy, because you are. What if none of your competitors are there? Well, if you show up, and they do not… who has the advantage now?
  • Lifestyles Demand It. I recently heard Richelle Carrol, Director of Social Servicing for USAA, discuss social media customer care on a podcast (Focus on Customer Service, hosted by Dan Gingiss and Dan Moriarty. Great show, highly recommend it.). If you’re not familiar with USAA, they are a financial services company specifically for military members and their families. USAA also happens to be known for brilliant customer service with sky-high NPS scores, right up there with the likes of Apple and Chick-fil-A. Anyway, Richelle recalled one interaction where a deployed soldier was chatting in with USAA to complete a transaction while being fired upon. Fired upon! She pointed out that might have been the only five minutes he had that day to take care of his life event. Now, not all transactions are that serious, for sure. But gone are the days when most wives were at home all day and could call the electric company between the hours of 8am and 5pm. Today, people are on the train, commuting to work. They’re waiting at the airport to catch the next flight. These times are not always convenient for speaking on the telephone; however they are perfect times to type your message from your smart phone to your service or goods provider.
  • Brand Differentiator. Speaking of that train ride, or waiting in the terminal. If I’m your customer, and I attempt to solve my issue while I’m waiting on my flight, then realize you’re not there, how am I probably feeling? Frustrated. Why can’t I chat or tweet or get you on messenger to solve my problem? Then, perhaps I’m curious. Is there another brand I could be working with that might offer this feature? Because I’m here to tell you that in my mind, as a consumer, that’s how I see social customer care… as an added feature. It also shows me that you care about me as a customer. About my time. And it says that you’re listening. Talk about differentiating yourself from the pack.
  • Bonus… It can be cheaper. Woah, wait… what’d she say? Yep. Said it. Say it again. It can be cheaper. Social media customer support has only really been a thing for less than a decade. The tools we have been using in the past to offer support have been borrowed from the marketing team, and really not set up to give us call center-type metrics. But in recent years, tools like Conversocial, Sprinkl’r, Engagor and Spark Central have come a long way in providing really detailed metrics. Some large companies are reporting average costs of $3 – $4 per social media interaction. And that’s for fairly complicated transactions. So, not sure how much your phone calls are costing you, but if it’s more than that, this might be cheaper. Plus, when you take the public nature of these transactions into account, you might save yourself interactions (What? What’s she talking about?) It works like this. Say you’ve released a new widget, and it has this new cool feature that everyone was so excited about so they ran out and bought the widget. Awesome. But, turns out the “on” switch for this feature isn’t quite as intuitive as the product team thought. Here come the tweets with questions. If you answer Sally’s question, and Bob’s, and Nancy’s, publicly on Twitter, other people can see both the question and the answer. Some people will just go to Twitter and search in the search bar to find the answer. And those people will see your answer to Sally, and Bob, and Nancy, and then they don’t have to tweet to you. So, you just saved yourself some interactions.

These are only three reasons and a possible bonus for providing social support. There are many, many others. Hopefully this gets you started as you think about getting into social customer care. Can you think of additional benefits specific to your company?

Visual.ly’s “14 Customer Experience Facts Marketers Can’t Ignore” [Infographic]

I like this infographic Visual.ly created. Though it’s mentioning marketers, the clear subject matter is how valuable your customers are, and the impact to a company’s bottom line if a customer doesn’t feel appreciated.

14 customer experience facts

Clean Up For Your Social Customers

Clean Up Your Mess image by pixabay.com www.sociallysupportive.com

Clean Up Your Mess
image by pixabay.com
www.sociallysupportive.com

 

Sometimes to make things right, you have to open things up and make a mess. Fixing can be terribly messy. Recently, my husband and I hired a handyman to do some home improvement work for us to get our house ready for sale very quickly.  My husband, who typically handles those items, remarked that though the man did acceptable work, he failed to clean up after himself. I looked around and realized he was right. There was still a film on the floors where the tile had been replaced, and where walls were sanded the dust had not been removed. It looked… well, it looked sloppy.

I thought about how, as a consumer, we really expect things to be put back in the condition they were before we contracted a service to be completed. Think about getting our cars serviced. How would we feel if our mechanic returned our vehicle to us with oil on the hood? Or what if when we went to a restaurant, the dirty dishes from prior patrons were left on the table? When we purchase a good or service, we expect full service.

For online services, think about reducing customer effort. The following three steps can help ensure we have “cleaned up our mess” sufficiently after our initial customer interaction on social media or in person:

  • Follow up with customers after an initial service request to make sure they did get the result they were expecting
  • Ensure the service was completed to customer satisfaction
  • Ask if customers have any questions or additional needs

So, get out there and clean up your mess. Just as with the handyman, the quality of your work will shine through if you tidy up after yourself when the work is complete.

Do I Have to Answer Every Question on Social Media?

Do I have to answer every question on social media? image by geralt. www.sociallysupportive.com

Do I have to answer every question on social media? image by geralt. www.sociallysupportive.com

For brands, having a presence on social media has become expected and necessary to thrive. Setting up that Twitter handle or Facebook page is relatively easy, and then you put out some content and do some paid media and try hard to stay relevant for your customers, which gets harder, and then there’s this content calendar and yayy, … now people are responding to you! Wait.. uh oh.. they’re asking questions.  Am I supposed to answer all these?

Yes, this feeling can be overwhelming. And to be honest, the answer really is different for every brand and every budget. But let me share a scenario with you.

Close your eyes. Imagine a retail store. It’s bright, shiny and clean. Employees are smiling and all dressed in crisp polo shirts with the company’s logo and they look all well-polished. A customer walks up to the counter and says to the man behind the counter “Hey, I’ve got a question about this here. Can you help me?” The employee, still smiling, sporting logo, stares silently, blinking at the customer. (ummm, awkward.) So, the customer tries again, “Sorry, maybe you didn’t hear me. Can you help me?” More blinking. Another customer walks up next to the first customer and says “I need to pay my bill.” The employee behind the counter turns to the second customer and says, “Certainly, I’m happy to help you with that, follow me.”

What just happened? Well, if you’re the first customer, what just happened was you lost all faith in that expensive, shiny store front and that logo that was attached to the chest of the employee who completely ignored you, that’s what just happened. If you’re the second customer, what just happened is an increased uncertainty about whether you will or will not be able to have your needs met at the store, because though you were helped, clearly the first customer was not. And, if you’re the employee, you probably felt slightly embarrassed that your face is attached to the logo that helped one person but not another. Wow, that’s a lot of feelings we just talked about.

How does this translate to social media customer support? Imagine you’re on Twitter, tweeting merrily, and you realize that your new tablet case has a defect and the fabric cover is peeling away from the plastic shell. “Dang, I just bought this!” you think. Then, realizing you’re already on Twitter, put faith in the universe and tweet out to the company, “help! my tablet case is defective.” You wait for a little bird to bring you a reply. Instead, crickets. You wait more. Nothing. So, you go to the company’s twitter page and you see that tweets after yours are being answered, tweets about “love this new pattern!” and “thanks for sponsoring our fun run!” receive “glad you like it!” and “hey, we love to help the community!” Well, what about you? You are a paying customer, you know, and… and well nobody’s listening to you! There’s the translation.

Both scenarios have to do with a lack of clarity around what the customer can expect from your company. The original intent of social media was to provide a space where people could interact socially. Businesses saw this as an opportunity to connect with consumers and convert them to customers, and many have had marked success. Customers have found this a convenient space to transact business. But not answering customers or answering only occasionally trains them that, though you have a presence on social, you are not fully able to transact business on social. It’s like a false storefront. So, what do you do? Set clear expectations with your customers. Decide whether you want to only be present on social, or whether you want to transact business on social media and make that your strategy. If you are a large business, you probably have the resources to staff people to answer inquiries either during certain hours or 24×7, whichever your audience demands. If you’re a small business and can’t afford staff but still want to transact socially, there are companies out there that will offer support services to you where they answer customers. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach by any means. The important thing is to develop a strategy and clearly set customer expectations, so they are sure of what they can and can’t do. Can’t afford to respond on social media? No problem. Just let your customers know what they can expect from you on social, and show them where they can go to get their needs met.

 

 

2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support

2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support. Image by Pixabay. www.sociallysupportive.com

2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support. Image by Pixabay. www.sociallysupportive.com

Ah, what a year! As I prepared to write this year’s predictions, I looked back to my 2014 Predictions for Social Customer Support. I can say that from my own experience and in speaking with colleagues it seems that my predictions were accurate. Measurement is getting more precise and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are becoming easier to find. Many more customers are looking to social media before attempting to use more traditional contact methods. Companies are striving to respond faster, and when they can’t, customers are voicing their dissatisfaction. This has driven more volume, and additional staffing is required to keep up with this volume. Integration of data is easier to achieve, though still potentially costly.

As 2014 went along, I noticed something that you may have noticed as well: a distinct lack of new material being published about customer support on social media. From 2010 through 2013 there were articles and infographs and videos everywhere touting the importance of providing customer service in the social media space. Everyone was looking for the ROI, selling the ROI, selling tools, and convincing firms to join the movement quickly. Then, content seemed to decelerate in 2013, and slowed to a trickle in 2014. This led me to wonder, has the shine worn off of social media customer support? We had plenty of information explaining the benefit, urging action, and even providing some information on initial setup of a social customer care team. But the next wave of data, including early metrics and findings, was absent. Then I realized that the companies that started social customer support teams were busy learning and scaling and trying to understand the new data they were receiving.

So then, what now? What can we expect to come in 2015? Well, we know from other predictive data that companies will continue to add more funds to digital advertising budgets. We also know that customer experience is still top of mind for businesses, and they are using that data to inform internal product and process information, customer desire, and any opportunity to gain advantage in the marketplace. And there has been no visible slowdown in the number of requests for assistance coming through social media channels, or shortage of new platforms online where two-way communication is possible. Knowing that, here’s what I see coming our way in 2015.

5 Social Customer Support Predictions for 2015

  • Specific Metrics – Companies will learn from the data collected over the past few years and be able clearly glean traditional call center metrics like cost per transaction, response time, and handle time.
  • Large Scale Buy In (or Out) – Concrete facts in the form of traditional call center metrics may reveal a hard ROI based on costs to deliver social service, calls avoided at call centers, and the like.
  • Social Selling – This has been a touchy subject in the social customer support space, with most deciding that selling has no place in social media. But we may be ready to start offering suggestions for products and services where customers would truly benefit.
  • Staffing Trials – There has been discussion in the industry around whether it’s time to call social “figured out” and put it into general call center population, where reps can be added or removed from social media as volume occurs. This would make the companies that create listening and engagement tools who charge per seat very happy. It could also answer questions about staffing challenges and overhead costs. The risks can be high though, as less specialized front line reps are given access to represent the company on a very public stage. Companies may also find that when call volume spikes, social media volume spikes at the same time. This would limit the benefit gained from all that additional tool licensing and training expense.
  • Change – Yes, that’s right friends. The data we have been feeding to the C Level and other departments is powerful and has been getting noticed, if you’re doing it right. Companies will be making faster, customer-directed change to improve products and services. This should help improve customer experience and reduce customer efforts. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about in my book.

There you have it. I hope to see more of those infographs and articles that share specific insights on how social media customer support has really made a difference because consumers finally have a way to voice their opinions. But social customer support may not get the glory for these changes. For one thing, it’s not the only vehicle providing this feedback in many organizations. Customers are filling out online surveys and paper comment cards and those are working as well. For another, social media is really just a big magnifying glass that shows all the flaws a company has in product, service, policy and process, and provides opportunity for improvement. But if you have a front row seat like I do, you can have a great view of the change that social can bring about. That’s exciting stuff.

Waiting Takes Too Long for Customers

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Yes, you read that right. Waiting is hard and it takes too long. It’s boring. Have you noticed lately that waiting feels much more difficult than it used to? We do all kinds of things to avoid waiting. Today we tweet out our question or post it on Facebook in an attempt to avoid waiting on hold with companies. We go online and click that “chat now” button instead of walking into the store for assistance. We do not want to wait. For things like automotive repairs that cannot be completed online, UGGGHH! We have to actually go there? I hope they have wifi so I can watch something on my iPad. If not I’ll just have to scroll through Facebook on my phone.

I know, this conversation causes many people to start talking about the “good old days” before people were so connected and could sit still for a while patiently. I remember those days, and they were boring. We also had far fewer items on our to-do lists, if I remember correctly. But regardless of our positions on whether we should behave in this fashion, the reality today is that we do.

So, what do we do about it, as business people trying to please our customers? Maybe try one of these things:

  • Decrease wait times – Make every attempt to decrease your wait times. Perhaps increase staffing, decrease length of interaction (whether in person, on the phone, on social or chat)
  • Increase fun things – Even if you’ve decreased your wait times, increasing fun or distracting things will make wait time seem shorter. In person, provide a television, wifi, coloring books or games for children. On hold, play a local radio station or hold info-tainment (factual entertainment tidbits). Steer clear of bland hold music if you can.
  • Let me wait from afar – Have you called Delta lately? If they have a hold time, you can press a button to have them call you back when they’re ready for you. Then I don’t really feel like I’m holding. Or, like restaurants, give me a pager or text me when it’s my turn.

These are things about the customer experience we can control to create a more positive interaction. Some cost more than others. Hey, if a box of crayons helps my customer smile, then maybe it’s worth the price!

Review: Ashley Verrill’s “How Experts Would Fix 8 Twitter Missteps”

Recently, Ashley Verrill of Software Advice wrote an article titled Social Support #Fail: How Experts Would Fix 8 Twitter Missteps. I’ve included a slideshare for your convenience.

[slideshare id=32041022&doc=howexpertswouldfix8twittermissteps-140307100259-phpapp02]

Verrill pulled tweets to 130 socially active brands with negative sentiment that mentioned “customer service” in the post text. She then selected sample tweets and asked experts in social customer care how they would answer differently. After reviewing the article and the slides, I noticed one common theme in the company’s responses: complete lack of a personalized response. In some cases, the companies didn’t respond at all.

Total lack of response is equivalent, in my mind, to a customer coming into your retail location, asking you a direct question, and you ignoring them as you walk away, with no explanation given. I believe this causes the same feeling for customers in person or online. We would never do that in person (I hope. Otherwise we have bigger challenges to overcome.) and so should never do it online. The only exception would be ignoring blatant trolls after initial attempts to provide resolution have failed.

Responding with an irrelevant or unhelpful comment is almost as bad, if not worse, than no response at all. At least a customer can give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you missed the post or were so busy helping others that you couldn’t respond in time. When your response is to simply say “we received your feedback,” or to direct customers to another channel for service, you are essentially saying “our presence in this channel is strictly to drive you from the channel of your choice to the channel of OUR choice.” Customers came to you for support on Twitter or Facebook because that’s how they prefer to communicate right now. Your superior customer service could mean the difference between a customer being yours and a customer being theirs. Many times, it’s just as easy to provide good customer service as it is to try to avoid providing it, so if you’re going to answer on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, providing the best possible customer service directly in that channel right from the beginning could really help you stand out among the competition.

“Regardless of whether companies want to acknowledge it, consumers are going to use social media to complain and provide feedback on their experiences. Yes, in previous years it’s true customers didn’t necessarily expect to get a response, but that is no longer the case. An increasing number of consumers today expect a response, often times within a few hours (or less). Just look at this tweet from Ann Gregory: ‘@AskTarget maybe try helping @stacyreno resolve her issue?’ I’ve seen these kind of interactions over and over again. When you consider the propensity of these messages to travel further, faster in the social space, it’s easy to see how ignoring social customer service requests can be detrimental to your online reputation.” – Ashley Verrill, customer service researcher at Software Advice.

The article shares 6 types of mistakes to avoid. Here are those mistakes and my thoughts on each:

  1. Don’t Leave Your Customers Hanging – This refers to not answering customers at all. As I wrote above, I couldn’t agree more. They asked a question or made a statement they expect you to respond to. Nobody likes to be ignored, and customers don’t want to pay you to be ignored.
  2. Don’t Tell Customers to Do Something When They’re Upset – Agreed. Providing customer support in social media began as a way to meet your customers where they are, which extends convenience to them and reduces their level of required effort. For example, if a customer says “You lost my luggage, help!” and your response is “email us at lost@lostluggage.com to let us know,” you’ve missed something. They just did notify you. Why don’t you email your company for the customer? Otherwise, you’ve created an additional layer of unnecessary complexity in your own organization.
  3. Don’t Just Respond – Tell The Customer You’re Here to Help – This one is tricky. You must first actually be prepared to provide assistance in this channel before you tell the customer you want to help. For example, if someone requests an account credit, I would recommend that you say “I’m here to help” only if you really intend to help. That being said, I think that if you’re answering on a channel, you should empower your team to resolve issues, right then and there.
  4. Choose Your Words Carefully – Yes. Especially on Twitter. I recommend you carefully consider how to let the customer know you care, you can help, and plan to do something that will help. As a customer, I want to know that sending you a DM will actually result in problem resolution. I want your request for my DM to show me it’s worth my time and you are empowered to make things right.
  5. Don’t Forget to Close the Issue Publicly – This is so important. On a telephone or in an email, dyadic (one-to-one) conversations are clear, and we know when resolution occurs. One of the benefits of social media, though, is that when done correctly, a greater audience has visibility to the issue, the support and the resolution. This potentially saves another customer from having to contact you. You can solve an issue one time for multiple customers. Also, prospective customers can see that you follow through on your promise to deliver solutions.
  6. Ask the Customer for a Chance to Rectify the Experience – When your customer is upset, try asking “What can I do to make this right?” This does a couple things: it shows the customer you are interested in a collaborative solution, and it also takes the customer from a position of venting to a position of considering options. The customer then feels compelled to reciprocate your collaboration and tries to think of something to make him/her feel whole again.

Have a look at the article and the slides to gain insight on how experts say they would have responded. Experts responding include Kim Garst, Shep Hyken, and Dave Evans, all of whom I follow on Twitter.  Happy reading!

Patience Pays in Social Customer Support

40+216 Faces
bark / Foter / CC BY

When a customer is upset, and needs something, expects something, is angry about something, it can be stressful. Sometimes the fiery words you are reading can cause your own anxiety level to increase. the  can also cause an urge to act quickly to squash the negative energy coming at you. This urge for quick reply is natural, but can be counterproductive.

With agitated customers, sometimes the best thing to say is… nothing. Wait. Be patient, and listen. This can be done in person, over the phone, or electronically. Allow the customer to vent and say all of the things they need to say before you respond at all. On longer form platforms like forums and Facebook this is pretty easy. The customer is typically done venting by the time the post is published. However on Twitter,  you can’t be so sure. Give it a minute to see if another post pops in. Responding too quickly there can seem like an interruption. On the phone or in person, I recommend just… being silent. Active listening sometimes suggests head nodding and little sounds that indicate you are indeed paying attention. I find that when customers are really angry, pure silence provides room for them to really get it all out. Whether we are the true cause of the angry outburst or not, it really is a nice gift to another person to just allow them room to vent and be unhappy. Another positive side effect of listening to the customer’s full monologue before offering assistance is that you get a complete picture of what the actual root cause is.  A customer may begin discussing one single issue that causes frustration, but then lead into several other events and before you know it, you’ve arrived at the bigger issue.

So next time a customer pops open a giant can of “What-for” on you, resist the urge to start apologizing and fixing right away. Try as hard as you can to just let them vent, and vent, and vent until it’s all out. Being a customer myself, I can admit (though it is a bit embarrassing) that I’ve been that customer that vented before. What’s interesting is I usually wound up apologizing to and thanking the people that allowed me to vent. You might have the same thing happen to you.