With millions of consumers now turning to social media to resolve their customer service issues, businesses are scrambling to figure out the right strategy for addressing this new influx of communication. According to J.D. Power & Associates, over 67 percent of people have used a company's social media site for servicing, and over a third prefer to use social media for customer service rather than a phone. The benefits of doing customer service correctly on social media are enormous, in fact when companies engage and respond to requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20-40 percent more with that company and are three times more likely to recommend that brand to their friends (Harvard Business Review).
It is more important than ever to avoid mistakes and develop a strategy for getting social media customer service right. Here are nine costly and common mistakes to avoid making on social media:
1. Being too slow to respond. According to Forrester (News - Alert), 71percent of customers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service. Despite this, providing good response times over social media is not easy. Many companies have marketing as the first responders for their social media channels, which means someone has to manually send customer service inquiries to the customer service department. Then the inquiry joins a queue, which could take hours before getting a response. Good customer service even over social media should take minutes not hours.
2. Having disjointed conversations. Your customer contacts you on Twitter (News - Alert), but you ask them to continue the conversation by calling customer service. Sending people to a different channel is a definite no, no. Not only is it inefficient and inconvenient for your customer, it wastes valuable time for your customer service department by having them start all over again with the same customer. Customers want you to meet them on the channel they are on and stay there. End of story.
3. Not realizing who the customer is. It's one thing to know who you are talking to and another to know when you last spoke, how you spoke to them and why they are calling. In the world of customer service context is king. Are they a VIP who is loyal and buys from you often? Are they dealing with a particular issue or are they a competitor just trying to pick a fight on social media? Having a customer profile that identifies a customer based on a phone number, email or Twitter handle even and then provides all the background you need, can make the difference between resolving an issue quickly and keeping a customer happy. Or starting all over as if you never spoke before and completely pissing them off.
4. Being too selective about who you engage with. Some companies are choosy about who they respond to on social media. While it may be tempting to only address actual problems or people who have an easy more positive inquiry, the goal should always be to respond to all customer service inquiries. Gartner (News - Alert) found that failure to respond via social media channels can lead to a 15% churn rate for existing customers. By not responding, you risk being perceived as not caring about your customers. JetBlue and Nordstrom are too companies that do an awesome job at responding to all types of customer service inquiries.
5. Not having good internal communication across your departments. You should know if the same customer contacts your marketing team and your customer service team and your social media team. It's important to have a method for communicating quickly and efficiently across departments so that information is shared seamlessly.
6. Having no brand voice or an inconsistent brand voice. It's important even over social media to have a consistent voice and tone when dealing with your customers. One way to achieve this is with a tone guide. Buffer.com is one company that has a great example of this.
7. Trying to be on every social network for the sake of being there. Just because everyone is buzzing about a new social media app, doesn't automatically mean your brand needs to be there. Instead, find out which channels are chattering about your company and then focus your resources there. Maybe no one is talking about you on google plus or snapchat, but there's lots of conversation about you on Pinterest that you are ignoring.
8. Make sure your communication fits the channel. Even with a consistent tone across your brand, you still don't want to be perceived as a bot or as having canned responses. The way people talk on social media is similar to a chat conversation, so the tone should match. Gone are the days of ending customer service inquiries with "We really appreciate your business. Please visit us again." Make communication authentic and sincere, so your customer knows they are communicating with a person on the other end.
9. Asking for personal information over social media. Many social media channels are not secure, so unless your company has a secure way to verify a customer's identity, you should never ask for personal information over any channel. Thankfully, there are solutions for securely authenticating your customers over social media without leaving the channel.
Sara Carter is the head of customer success at Sparkcentral (www.sparkcentral.com), a customer engagement platform provider that helps businesses cut their customer services response times from hours to minutes on social media.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi