Thriving companies owe their success to customer service. This includes business-to-customer and business-to-business transactions.
“It’s a topic that’s very close to my heart as a social media customer service consultant,” said Lindo Myeni. The award-winning influencer and strategist is chief evangelist at Trending Jobs, an online job center. In an Africa Tweet Chat, he talked about customer service and shared approaches to effectively handle crises as a customer service consultant.
Companies need near-perfect social media customer service in stressful times.
“Demonstrating empathy in your responses goes a long way when using social media for customer service,” Myeni said. “How the experience plays out has implications on brand loyalty, sales, customer churn, consumer advocacy and customer retention rates. They contribute to the company’s bottom line.
“I always wonder why social media customer service is often neglected,” he said. “This is an important part of your social media strategy. You have to listen to your customers’ inquiries to adjust your plan along the way and resolve their issues.”
A potential pain point is how social media managers deal with negative feedback from customers.
“A negative comment presents an opportunity to show your brand’s dedication to resolving any issues with transparency and empathy,” Myeni said. “Acknowledge the customer’s issue as quickly as possible before it snowballs and picks up other customers and prospects. You do not necessarily need to have an immediate solution.
“Many people post negative comments online because they don’t think they’re being listened to — in store, on the phone or by email,” he said. “So, they lash out. Some do this just to warn their friends off using what they believe to be a bad product.”
This is where consultants earn their pay by listening.
“There’s no better way to understand what your customers need and want than via their own feedback,” Myeni said. “A negative comment presents an opportunity to show your brand’s dedication to resolving any issues with transparency and empathy.
“When you listen, really listen,” he said. “You’ll learn that the majority of complainers make great long-term customers. Treat them like valued friends, and respond as you would to someone you love. This works in all human relationships — families, friends and business connections.”
All about the why
Remember that private messages are good venues to have difficult conversations.
“Don’t try to win the argument,” Myeni said. “Be polite and express your empathy.”
One of the first questions is when a brand should hire a social media manager.
“Tackle the ‘why’ first,” Myeni said. “Know that what got you here won’t get you there. Also, as a business owner with a vast array of responsibilities, writing tweets and posting photos to Instagram aren’t your top priorities.
“When you have unattended messages, inconsistent social media presence and struggle to stay innovative and relevant to your audience, you definitely need someone who’s responsible for that task,” he said.
Although “automated responses” have a bad connotation, Myeni said they are not “all bad” and can help.
“Knowing when and how to automate response is key,” he said. “Having automated responses on social media gives you more time to create valuable content and engage meaningfully with your community.
“If you do automate aspects of your social media activity, make time to learn how to use the tools,” Myeni said. “Tune them properly, and pay attention to the results. In other words, humanize the automation.”
Each customer situation is an opening for a customized automated response.
“If there’s a golden rule to social media marketing, it’s consistency,” Myeni said. “A better way to do that is to automate some of your messaging or responses.
“I attended a conference where a speaker went on stage to tell thousands of fellow digital marketers that automating social media posting is evil,” he said.
That kind of attitude is reinforced when automating social media marketing activities becomes a “set it and forget It” job.
“I compare social media automation to baking cookies,” Myeni said. “When the cookies go in the oven, your work isn’t over. You check on the progress, maybe prepare the next batch.
“Focus on brand mentions to track, analyze and respond to conversations about your brand and industry online,” he said. “It’s a key component of audience research. If you don’t have a social listening strategy in place, you’re missing out.”
Take sensitivities offline
Experienced managers will know when to chat privately with a customer.
“A customer inquiry that requires account information should remain private,” Myeni said. “Know which social media customer service posts should be resolved in public or private.”
He gave key elements of a social media customer service response:
- A cordial, friendly opening response
- Concise direction provided for the next step to be taken
How much social media managers get personally involved in customer cases hinges on business rules.
“That depends on a company’s social media policy or social media manager,” Myeni said. “Community managers should sign their responses in both direct messages and replies.”
Likewise, a brand drives how it can improve its social media customer experience.
“It all starts from listening. Be proactive,” Myeni said. “For instance, you could create a how-to video or a best-practices blog post.”
The best tools for social media customer service start with the person making the decision.
“Response is a perfect tool to rely on for exceptional service,” Myeni said. “Tap into collaboration features for enhanced team support. Then it becomes easier for larger teams to collaborate on the platform to tackle conversations hassle free.”
He noted several tools available to help with customer response:
- Buffer lets you keenly monitor Twitter accounts for direct messages, mentions and keyword searching and reporting.
- Sparkcentral lets you communicate with customers across multiple social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in real time. It has in-app messaging for team members so they can focus on social media to handle and resolve issues.
- Marketing Cloud social studio leverages social listening to spot potential customer service issues. You get a complete overview of whatever people are talking to and about you by integrating with the brand’s social media channels.
- Other tools include Agorapulse, Brand24, Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Salesforce and io, which is Myeni’s current choice.
Know what you need
“According to research, 90 percent of businesses will soon leverage the power of social media for better customer service,” Myeni said. “Before selecting the right social media tools for your brand, know your requirements.
“We are customers, too, and we always try to put ourselves in their shoes,” he said. “Being open and honest, truly listening with an open heart and always having the intent of delivering happiness is the best way to help others.”
Disgruntled employees are another source of negative feedback that demands coordination between a business and its social media manager.
“That’s why it’s important to have a social media customer service team to deal with these issues among the team or owner before customers see that you’re divided,” Myeni said. “Remember, customers see a brand as one real person.
“A Twitter audit is a very good tool to get a sense of how many real or fake followers are in your accounts,” Myeni said. “I run these audits every month when I go to pitch for a brand as an influencer. I score 99 percent real followers on Twitter.”