Social media has done perhaps more than any other technology to bridge the gap between consumers and businesses helping us to connect with and manage customer conversations on a daily basis. Indeed, with just a few social media accounts, businesses can create a dedicated following to which they can share their latest news, updates, and content.
The growth of social media amongst businesses has led consumers to expect a more personalised experience when they interact withal of their favourite companies. As such, many big brands use social media to offer a personalised and real-time forum where consumers can ask questions, share their feedback, and make complaints.
However, whilst many big businesses have really got the hang of this, with a large number of them hiring dedicated social media staff to deal with queries and complaints as and when they come in, smaller businesses can often find this a bit of a struggle. And it’s no surprise – with messages of various different natures coming in on a number of different platforms, keeping up with limited resources can be difficult.
This has led to a problem: customers expect a certain level of service, and big companies have used social media to raise the bar in terms of response times and personalised answers, so how can smaller businesses keep up?
Luckily, this problem can be overcome. With the right equipment and the right attitude, any small business can offer the same levels of service as their larger counterparts.
Here are my tips for how to use social media to provide great customer service.
Be In the Right Place
As a small business, by definition, you’ll have limited resources. It’s important, therefore, that you use these in the most efficient way. Number one on the list of resource drains is spending too much time on the wrong platforms. For example, if you have 30,000 followers on LinkedIn and a similar amount on Facebook, but only 200 on Twitter, then it makes no sense for you to split your time and energy equally between these platforms.
At the same time, if your LinkedIn followers are not engaged, whereas your Facebook followers are highly engaged, then you should clearly be spending more time interacting with your Facebook followers rather than your LinkedIn ones.
To find out where your customers are, as well as how engaged they are, search for mentions of your brand on popular social networking sites. If you do find that one social platform is performing much better for you, don’t be afraid to cater to your audience’s preferences, and dedicate more of your resources to that site.
(Really) Listen to What Your Customers Have to Say
Customer service doesn’t have to be reactionary alone. In fact, if a consumer has encountered a problem or has a specific question, it’s likely that other consumers are experiencing the same thing. By answering one question, or resolving one problem, in a public fashion, you may actually be, by proxy, be helping many more consumers.
It’s also important that you actually take on board the details of what your customers are telling you. Manage customer expectations as consumers today expect a personalised service, and reeling out template answers and platitudes will often fall flat. Instead, make sure to address consumers by their first name, adopt a friendly, slightly informal (though always professional tone), and refer back to things they’ve said. Moreover, show emotion, such as understanding, regret, interest, and humour. All of these things will make your communication seem more natural and leave your consumer feeling happy about their interaction with your company.
It’s also a good idea to keep a record of which issues are coming up regularly. Simply keep a tally of common issues so that you can think of more long term solutions. Other things to take note of are:
- The emotional state of the consumer (annoyed, happy, complimentary, dissatisfied, etc.)
- The reason of the correspondence (technical problem, review, service problem, etc.)
- How many comments give feedback, positive or negative
- How many queries could be answered using existing content (for example, FAQs.)
- What time of day you receive the most messages
Gathering this information will give you a good idea of how your brand is perceived, whether people are making the use of FAQs etc., and if consumers experience any common problems with your site or product.
Social media correspondence shouldn’t be seen as a necessary evil. Businesses which do it right are able to benefit from important insights and improve their company accordingly. This also helps them to manage customer feedback as you begin to learn more about their habits.
Manage customer response times
Social media is instantaneous. That’s one of the reasons it’s so popular. Unfortunately, this means that customers expect a response very soon (with some social media sites even rating companies based on their response times).
Realistically, small businesses should aim to respond to their consumers within 24 hrs. However, the quicker you can get a response out the better. Many large companies have policies to respond to social media communications within one or two hours. This may be unreasonable for small businesses. But the message is clear: the shorter the better.
Still, whilst responses should be issued hastily, this shouldn’t compromise the quality of those responses. A good response sent late is still better than a template or poorly executed response sent a minute after the initial communication took place.
Use a Social Media Management Tool
This may all sound like a lot of hard work. And it is. But it’s worth it. Small businesses which have learnt to take advantage of social media for customer service are pulling away from those which haven’t at a drastic pace.
The good news is that there are lots of great tools that can make the whole process far easier to manage customer conversations. A good social media marketing tool will collect messages from all of your digital channels so that you can respond to all of them from one place. And many offer detailed analysis and reports that can give you some insight into who’s messaging you and why.
AgoraPulse, for example, is a fantastic tool that comes fully equipped with a social media inbox, tools for publishing and social monitoring, detailed reports, and CRM.
Hootsuite is a similar tool, and helps users maximise engagement with great publishing, analytics, campaign management, and more.
Sprout Social is fantastic for agencies and freelancers, and offers a very comprehensive selection of tools, including automated publishing, analytics, and CRM.
To find out more about these tools, this infographic, which was created using reviews from real social media management tool users, ranks the top four SMM tools for 2015 (Hootsuite, AgoraPulse, Sprout Social, and Sendible).