It’s 2018, and brands are still struggling to engage consumers with social media customer service. Recent studies compiled by Sprout Social have shown that 89 percent of social media messages sent to brands are ignored. While some of these messages may, understandably, be spam-related content, I have a difficult time imagining that the vast majority are junk. The way I see it, you can compare a poor game of baseball to a brand’s lack of social media customer service strategies.
Not responding in a timely manner? Strike one.
Eventually responding, but in a tone that doesn’t feel sincere? Strike two.
Eventually responding, and in a slightly better tone, but not following up afterwards? Strike three.
Your brand is out with the customer — they’ve moved on to other teams (your competitors).
Engagement-wise, hitting a home run with customers and keeping them loyal is about more than establishing a presence on a social platform, publishing content and reaping the rewards of “nice” vanity metrics like hearts on posts and kind comments. It’s about being there to take care of them and expressing a desire to make everyone’s experience with the brand the best it can be.
For companies that don’t want to become part of the 89 percent — by ignoring messages — they’ll need to place an emphasis on social media customer service and make it a daily part of the process.
5 do’s and don’ts for social media customer service
These do’s and don’ts will help ensure you’re heading in the right direction with your social support efforts:
Do move the conversation to a private message.
Do introduce yourself by name.
Don’t rush the conversation.
Don’t message a whole lot of canned replies.
Do follow up.
Editor’s note: Need a bit of help managing your business’s social media presence? Check out GoDaddy Social to enlist the help of experts who can help turn an online interaction into a lifelong customer.
1. Do move the conversation to a private message
So, your brand has responded within a 10-hour timespan (yes, 10 hours has been cited by Sprout Social as the average response time for brands to respond to social media messages) and you’re about to start the conversation. Take it to private message (on sites like Facebook) or direct message (for places like Twitter).
Why bump the chat from a public dashboard to a private one?
Even if you’re responding to a message as simple as “I didn’t get my package on Friday even though your website says it was delivered that day, what happened?” brands never really know the full nature of what the customer may want from social media customer service. The issue could be embarrassing, the customer’s mood could quickly shift, or they may not want all of their followers to see the back-and-forth in their feed.
Taking the conversation to a private place allows the brand to speak with the customer one-on-one and give the attention they need in order to come to a resolution.
2. Do introduce yourself by name
Imagine you were chatting with a sales representative named Jessie at your favorite department store. If you went to the store, you’d meet with Jessie in person. If you spoke on the phone, Jessie would introduce herself by name. And if you’re PMing/DMing on social, Jessie would likely sign off on messages using her name. Across all mediums you know you were talking to Jessie — and that kind of name recognition matters.
When interacting via social media customer service, especially if you’re trying to resolve a problem, don’t start messaging with, “Hi, from [insert brand name here]!” or anything that sounds impersonal. Give your name to customers or have an associate provide their name.
You don’t need to include your last name, but starting out with a first name helps the customer know who they are talking to and trust that somebody with a face is listening and ready to help out. It makes it easier to follow up when there’s a name, allowing customers to share with the brand who they previously engaged with about the message.
Another must-do? Ask the customer how they would like to be addressed. In the case of platforms like Twitter or Instagram, where the user’s name might not be easy to spot or figure out, it’s better to ask and know immediately than guess and facepalm if you get it wrong.
Related: 6 ways to connect with your eCommerce customers and humanize your brand
3. Don’t rush the conversation
Now that your brand is in the conversation, you’re in it. From start to finish. The issue isn’t resolved because it’s 5 p.m. and time for you to go home. You need to let the customer tell their story, listen, ask questions, make suggestions — and then try to come to a solution if all else fails.
Don’t leave them hanging or get caught up elsewhere. Be as present as possible and focused on communicating back and forth as needed.
What happens if the customer decides to drop off of messaging you? It’s best to take a little time to wait for them and then check in to see if they still need help. Remind them that you’re easy to contact through social platforms and provide additional contact information, like your phone number or general email address.
Related: Best practices for professional email support
4. Don’t message a whole lot of canned replies
If you think you can get away with responding to the customer in canned language, think again. Customers can tell when their interactions are insincere and this lack of personalization tends to be rewarded in viral screenshots that can portray your brand in a negative light.
Every company will have its own communication protocol for these types of situations, so work carefully on the wording and tone used in yours.
You don’t need to feel it all with the customer (a teary-eyed Emoji paired with “I’m sorry!” takes it too far), but you do need to be authentic and transparent. If the mistake was on your part, genuinely apologize and see where you can go from there.
Related: The small business owner’s guide to smart customer responses
5. Do follow up
Customer service 101 states that not only is following up a must in business, but a fine art that one must master. At the core, it’s a reassuring act where a brand can show a customer that they still care about them well after the conversation.
It also opens the door to feedback. How did you do? Where you’re your communication strengths? What can you improve on next time? And finally, would you recommend this brand to a friend?
If you passed with flying colors, and in most cases this might take some time to perfect, congratulations. Your brand has figured out the best way to provide social media customer service and understands the value of being responsive and engaging therein.
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