Remember customer support in the old days?
You called up the company and asked to speak to the manager. No, I’m not being a Karen; that was how you did it.
Then you got one of two responses. Someone got on the phone who was friendly, helpful, and solved the problem, or you got shuffled around, ignored, or hung up on.
Well, customer support in the age of social media can provide the same results.
But first, let’s look at your alternatives. You could purchase an expensive CRM like Constant Contact, hire a consultant to help you set it up, and then hire at least one person to manage it.
Or you could just go to your Twitter or Facebook page.
What? Your company doesn’t have a Twitter and Facebook page?
Then first, you need to get someone to drag you into the 21st century. I’ll wait here.
Okay, ready, now?
There are a lot of social media platforms with more coming and going all the time. Remember MySpace? Depending on the type of business you run, your target market, and the kind of marketing media you produce, there may be others you need to be on. Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and others all have their places. In marketing.
But, I’m talking about customer support. And for that, you need several things. Something universal and easy to access and use. Something that provides easy, two-way interaction. And something that has a way to do so privately when necessary.
And for those reasons, I think Twitter and Facebook are your best two choices. Again, you need both for marketing, but I would suggest, as much as possible, focusing on just one for customer support. To me, the best option is Twitter, but either one will work. The advantage to only using one is you will have a single place to track and follow up on issues.
My preference for Twitter comes from two reasons. First, it’s just quick and easy. Second, based on my experience over the last five years or so, it’s where Customer Service gets done the best. With Facebook, things tend to get buried quickly. Twitter is agile and responsive. Almost like a chat but without the additional overhead.
If you are a small business or a one-person shop, you may embrace the idea, but larger companies may think it’s trivial. That they need a big CRM and trouble ticket system. I disagree for a couple of reasons.
First, the trouble ticket system got customer service off track. As customer service got more computerized, companies decided they needed a way to track problems, which isn’t a bad idea. But the trouble ticket systems exposed one fatal flaw. People will do what you pay them to do.
It started innocent enough. Computerized systems were implemented to track trouble calls. The problem could be followed, and eventually, the ticket was closed. But that’s where the wheels came off. Salaries and bonuses began to be tied to how many tickets you closed. So, to make money, the goal moved from solving the problem to closing the ticket. Not necessarily the same thing.
The other, more compelling reason I think it’s the right solution for big businesses is I’ve seen it done. Often and successfully. Marriott, Delta, and Xfinity are just three companies I have gotten excellent customer service from via Twitter. Over the last five years or more, almost all of my interaction with Xfinity has been via Twitter. And it’s worked very well about 95% of the time. Try getting that over the phone.
Here’s a story about Marriott and Twitter. Back in the olden days, when people traveled, we stayed in Marriott a lot. Starting from when she traveled for business, my wife was Platinum. That’s is supposed to get you certain perks, and most of the time, it does. But every once in a while, you check into a Marriott where they didn’t get the memo.
We were in one such hotel where none of the perks were honored. These include upgraded rooms, higher floors in the concierge level, and things automatically placed in the room. The final straw was an extra pillow. My wife needs a pillow to support her knees at night due to back and shoulder issues.
An extra pillow. You would think that would be the most trivial of things, in a hotel. But apparently, it was too much to ask. It wasn’t in the room, and repeated calls to the front desk didn’t produce one. So, I dashed off a quick Tweet. Within a few seconds, someone came back and asked me to DM our reservation number, which I did. Fifteen minutes after that, the manager knocked on our door with pillows and apologies.
Customer service done right.
The way Xfinity, Delta, and some others implement customer service on Twitter are to have a separate account. Besides the main Xfinity Twitter account, there is one called ComcastCares. There are pros and cons to this approach. On the plus side, It keeps the support and marketing sides separate.
Marketing will be done almost entirely in public. Customer support will be handled mostly in private, although a successful solution should always be publicized. The downside, of course, is confusion over which to use. Clients that know the public site will go there for support. When this happens, you should always, always help them there, or have the customer support side reach out and get it moved over. I have encountered many companies who drop the ball in that regard. If you can’t successfully implement two separate accounts, then keep them as one.
So, how should you go about this? The first step, obviously, is to set up the account. If you already have one, decide early on whether you will use a separate CS account or keep it as one. However you choose to use it, someone, and that may be you, has to monitor that account. If you are not able to do that 24/7, you need to set expectations and communicate that in your links and with an autoresponder.
Speaking of links, I think every company should have and support three forms of customer support communication; telephone, email, and social media. Some people only use one of those. You don’t want to leave them out. But if your social media support is good enough, word will get out, and you can focus on that. But never ignore the phone callers and emailers.
Once you set up the account, the implementation is straightforward. Be there. Always. Answer quickly and follow up until the problem is solved. As I said above, if you are a small company and can’t provide support full time, make that clear. Post your support hours with every link. Set up an autoresponder that tells people when they can expect an answer. And, this is absolutely crucial, always get back to them at that time.
As soon as a customer reaches out, give them a polite and helpful reply. If it is a simple question that can be answered publicly, do so. Do not, under any circumstances, just send them to your FAQ page. You can include a link to that under your response, but even if it is a question you get a thousand times a day, answer it. If you have a separate CS account, include a link to that to continue the conversation. But if it can be handled quickly, just do it there. Your tracking mechanism is not the client’s problem.
If it can’t be dealt with publicly, have a canned response that politely asks them to send you a DM. Then provide a link to a DM in the reply. Don’t expect them to figure out how to do it. Ensure that the person answering the public messages and the DM are communicating, if not the same person. Don’t ask the client to explain the problem a second time.
Then, it’s just a matter of staying with the problem until it is solved. If it involves things going back and forth or waiting on something, follow up promptly. Don’t make the client have to ask you for a follow-up. You follow up. Exceed expectations.
Now, for how not to do it. Ignore them. Don’t’ do that. If you can’t or won’t use the account correctly, don’t bother setting it up. You won’t believe how many companies set up a social media account because they’ve been told they need one and then never use it or check it. If I send out a Tweet or post on Facebook and that company doesn’t respond. I’m done with them.
Don’t do that. Even if you are a one-person shop and think you are too busy, check your social media feed as often as you can. Once an hour would be good. A few times a day is minimal. Respond to people. Help them. Word of mouth has always been the best form of advertising, and proper use of social media for customer support can make that word of mouth go viral.
If you want to improve and make customer support easier for you and your clients, social media is the way to go. You just have to do it right.