There’s no denying that the growth of social media interactions between brands and consumers has been explosive, especially over the past five years or so. With 70% of Americans using social media, many consumers have hung up the phone, stopped writing emails and turned to social media to reach out with questions, compliments and, very often, complaints about their experience with a brand or business.
And when consumers reach out with feedback, the majority of them expect a response within 30 minutes of the post or message. So what can a multitasking social media manager do to ensure that consumers have the best customer service experience?
At our agency, we handle numerous brands' social accounts. My best advice for customer service on social media is this: Don’t ignore your customers. In this day and age, ignoring feedback — whether positive or negative — on your brand’s social media platforms is the same as letting the phone ring inside the store and not answering it.
Your customers are reaching out to you. Are you ready to respond? Follow these best practices for customer service on social media:
Start With A Plan
Whether the complaint is in response to a soggy taco or an ill-mannered HVAC installer, have a plan in place for how to handle the most common or possible customer service complaints. Ensure that your plan takes into account the severity of the complaint and that it includes an escalation process, guidelines for the timeliness of responses, response examples and even what your brand or business is comfortable offering in way of compensation, complementary products or an apology.
Show Them That You're Listening
When responding to feedback, be human. Use the customer's name in your response, and rephrase their feedback in a way that shows them that you're listening. For example, if a restaurant customer complains that their dinner arrived at the table cold and that the server was nonresponsive to their needs, a good way to begin your response would be, "Hi, Jane! We're sorry to hear that your dinner on Tuesday night was not to your satisfaction and that your server didn't remedy the issue."
Conform To Your Brand
When responding to feedback, use a tone of voice that matches your brand’s tone. Customers have an expectation of what your brand sounds like and tend to find an aspect of your brand relatable. Using a tone that doesn't conform to your brand can break the connection you have with your customer.
To ensure that your tone of voice matches your brand's tone, reflect on your brand's persona. Who is your brand? If it were a person, what would they sound like? What would they do for a living and for fun? What would they wear? Find three words that might describe your brand. Fun, creative, serious, inspirational and snarky are all good examples. Then, use those insights to craft a response with the right tone.
Respond In Their Preferred Channel
When a customer shares feedback via social media, reply directly to the customer in the same manner in which they reached out. If they provide feedback through a private message, utilize that channel to respond. If they post on your page, comment on their post.
If a customer's feedback will ultimately take more work and time than a public-facing response allows for, or it's a complaint about a particular individual at your company, it's usually appropriate to ask them to send you a direct message so that you can handle it privately. However, address their initial concern publicly before asking them to take it private. This shows that your brand is listening and that you care.
Don't Ignore Or Attack Those Who Share Negative Feedback
In our agency's many years of managing social media platforms for various verticals, we've worked with clients who are scared to respond to negative feedback and who choose to respond only to positive comments and delete the negative ones. Or, even worse, they write a response that attacks the consumer who left the unfavorable comment.
Responding — appropriately — to a negative comment provides you with a chance to not only make something that is wrong right, but it also can show other consumers that you care about their experience with your brand. Ignoring or attacking someone who leaves negative feedback isn't good for business, and it can guide potential customers away from your brand and to your competitor.
Learn From Customer Feedback
Understandably, a negative review isn't fun to receive. But it's important for brands to use feedback as a growth and learning tool for their company. In addition to responding to both positive and negative feedback from customers via whatever channel you receive it, track these comments and share them with the appropriate people within the company so that action can be taken — whether that's praise, constructive criticism, additional training or even product or policy changes.
Use A Chatbot
If you’re part of a small social media team, or maybe you’re the only person on the entire team, consider using a chatbot for off-hours and weekends. Chatbots aren't just for larger companies, and they shouldn’t necessarily replace the human element of your brand’s customer service. Rather, they can assist you with responding to a variety of inquiries and complaints when an actual person isn't available.
Facebook offers a chatbot to help social media managers and their team; however, there are a number of chatbot programs that can be customized to fit your brand’s particular needs for platforms like Twitter, or even your website. A quick Google search will put many of these bots at your fingertips.
Whether you're using a chatbot or a human being to provide customer service, the most important thing to remember is to always respond. Treat customers who reach out on social media no different from how you'd treat customers who call a business or walk into a brick-and-mortar store.