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Migrating the soft skills of customer service to social media

Migrating the soft skills of customer service to social media

The best customer service agents just have a certain way about them, but using these traits in a call centre doesn’t mean they transfer easily to social media.

The best customer service agents just have a certain way about them. It could be a reassuring voice that keeps customers calm as they wrestle with a difficult or frustrating problem. It could be their ability to instantly diagnose a common issue with a product or service and explain the solution in an accessible and comprehensible way. Or it could be that sense of humour that diffuses a tense moment where customers are downright angry.

Using these traits in a call centre doesn’t mean they transfer easily to social media. As wonderful as services such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook are to connect with other people, they also impose some constraints. These include the space you have to communicate a message, the frequency with which a small or medium-sized service has to keep up with their audience, and the fact that it’s often text-based interactions rather than a dialogue by phone.

SMBs can’t afford to ignore customer service issues that come up via social media, but they may need to ensure that those dealing with them are prepared for the nuances they introduce.

Prioritize And Escalate The Three ‘Ds’

Given that traditional customer service channels (like phone calls) aren’t going away, SMBs should consider categorizing what they see on social to develop a better game plan. Think of the following as a sort of inverted pyramid in terms of urgency:

  • Downtime: If you’re offering any kind of service that needs to be available 24/7 (and this includes many services offered online, such as e-commerce), a period where customers can’t use it can quickly lead to a public relations nightmare. Immediately acknowledge that you have seen their alert and that you are working with the appropriate parties to get things back on track ASAP.
  • Delays: When customers make a purchase, they want it yesterday. If items aren’t shipped on time or there are other problems with product fulfillment, expect them to inform their connections on social media. Being the company that jumps on this immediately and gracefully will be the only thing that repairs your firm’s reputation before it’s damaged.
  • Dissatisfaction: If products or services don’t function the way customers expect, they’ll tweet about it or post it on Facebook or LinkedIn. Rolling with these punches is a bit of a fine art and certainly critical, but you may have slightly more time to finesse your response.

Take It Offline

The good thing about traditional customer service is that it’s somewhat private – a conversation essentially between two people. Social media is like walking the tightrope, where the world is just waiting to see if you’ll fall (and how you land). That’s why after acknowledging that you’ve seen their issue, the next steps are particularly delicate. You have a few options:

  1. Offer a toll-free phone number, e-mail or other means of contact that will move the customer service issue out of social media, particularly if it’s not a service-wide outage but something pertaining to a particular customer.

  2. Ask questions that allow you to determine who the customer is – social media account names don’t always make this clear – so that you can proactively contact them through more traditional means.

  3. If possible, offer links to resources that might give them some kind of self-service capability to resolve their issue – just make sure their comments suggest an openness or interest in handling things themselves.

No matter what you do, make every effort to understand the customer you’re dealing with, using whatever tools are available, such as your marketing cloud, in order to effectively triage your response strategy. Ideally these tools will connect to your CRM to quickly bring up purchase histories and other interactions with the customer to better understand the existing relationship – and how to make it even better.

Socialize The End Results

Customer service issues may take myriad journeys, but those that start on social media should end on social media.

If a complaint is posted on Twitter, for instance, and the issue winds up going offline to be dealt with more directly over the phone or via e-mail, make sure whatever was resolved doesn’t stay behind closed doors. If it’s a positive outcome, offer the same kind of thank-you message or other appreciation you would through a more traditional channel. It’s the best way to not only get in front of a public-facing issue but demonstrate you’re committed to excellence in customer service.

In fact, one way to consider measuring the effectiveness of your social media customer service efforts is whether those customers react to the way your firm closes the loop on those channels. This could be as simple as a “like” or sharing your thank-you message with their followers – holding your firm up as a company that excels in customer service no matter where the conversations take place.

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