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Quinnipiac Assignment 06 – ICM 526 – Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service

Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service

When it comes to best practices for using using social media in customer service, it all seems to boil down to three things –

  1. Be fast
  2. Be empathetic
  3. And be useful

Be Fast

In our hurry-up culture, two minutes to microwave a meal sometimes seems too long. Social media is the perfect medium for customers and businesses to have a two-way conversation. This dialogue inevitably contains complaints. Plus online commerce is often global in nature, so it’s a recipe for people demanding very fast service, or at least service during what, to your company, feel like off hours.

According to BrandWatch’s Prepare to Respond, which cites Nielsen,

According to recent research findings from Nielsen, 42 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds acknowledged that they expect customer support within 12 hours of a complaint.

Adelisa Gutierrez’s Slideshare on Reinvigorate Your Customer Service with Social Care breaks it down even further (slide #17 in the deck) –

Over half of all Twitter users of social care (essentially, customer service over social media channels) expect a response within two hours. Just under one-half on Facebook also expect a response after two hours. On both channels, a same-day response is expected over 80% of the time.

BrandWatch offers as a best practice a simple idea – decide on a response time frame, and stick with it.

I would add to that, post your hours and your expected response times. If there’s only one social media employee, then you should expect for that person to be offline at times. They need off-hours coverage, plus vacation and sick time coverage.

Be Empathetic

Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service (image is used here for educational purposes only)
English: This is a picture of the Zappos 2010 Culture Book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At eConsultancy, in the article, How Zappos Uses Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Zappos as a company makes it a point of engaging with customers and providing superior service. That article cites an ideal customer service response.

When customer @ktmink asked “@Zappos_Service I just ordered a birthday gift for my brother – 5 day shipping but wondering if you can get it there in 3? #195917709 “, @Zappos_Service responded with, “@ktmink This order is going to ship out today and your brother will have his birthday present tomorrow!”

Not only did they call the customer by name, the company went beyond @ktmink’s question. The query was really just whether a rush could be put on the order. They upgraded the order’s shipping to overnight, which is more than the customer asked for.

On Gutierrez’s Slideshare (slide #28 in the deck), she gives an example from Citi. A customer walking to a branch who could not find it, so they contacted @AskCiti.

The company representative expressed empathy and asked the customer to report back if they were still having trouble.  But the customer was still lost, and so @AskCiti responded with a landmark-filled explanation of precisely where the branch is, in 140 characters or less.

In both instances, Zappos and Citi exceeded customer expectations by putting themselves in the shoes of their frustrated customers.

Be Useful

Empowered employees are useful ones, and useful employees are empowered.

It does little good to respond quickly but then just fob off a frustrated customer to someone else in the corporate food chain. As Brandwatch notes, there is a difference between response time and resolution time.

It’s better to communicate that you’re working on the proper response, set a realistic expectation of time, and then deliver a real resolution. After all, customers want resolutions, not spin.

Contrast this with an example from the Gutierrez Slideshare (slide #29 in the deck). A Bank of America customer is lost and seeking the closest branch. Instead of answering their question, the customer instead gets a direction to an online locator. It did not convert a frustrating customer experience into a positive one. Rather, it forced the customer to go to another URL for help.

Even if the employee had never been to Manhattan, they could have used the locator and reported back with the information. This added step increased the wait for true resolution for this customer. Bank of America provided less service than the customer was expecting. Not a good move on their part.

What’s the Best Practice for Social Media for Customer Service?

What do hurried customers, lost on the streets of New York; or worried that a birthday present won’t come in on time; or confused about a service, really want?

They don’t want their time wasted. They don’t want you to treat them as if their requests are too much bother for the company (for those requests won’t be a bother to your competition). And they don’t want you to give them the runaround.

When companies understand these requirements, and put them into online practice, then they are truly offering the best possible customer service via social media.

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