By Kelsey Blevins, PR Account Coordinator
Many organizations think about social media for their business as a platform to push out content and in turn receive new customers or business. They don’t think of social media as a two-way conversation or about relationship building. Integrating customer service into your social media strategy should no longer be an afterthought; it needs to become a reality.
Customer service is evolving. You and I have always hated being put on hold and forced to listen to horrid on hold music for an hour. But now, we have another choice – social media.
It used to be that you were overwhelmed with excitement when a big brand responded to you on Twitter or Facebook. You were special, and obviously better than all of the other thousands of other people they ignored. Now, users expect a response and if they don’t receive one, you’re brand is forever dead to them. Not only do they want a response, they want it now.
A Simply Measured study found that 30% of brands have a dedicated customer service handle on Twitter, with an average response to a complaint being 5.1 hours, and 10% of companies answered within the hour. Customer service is no longer a five-day, 9 to 5 deal. When you have customers all over the world, you need to be online 24/7.
Recently, Melissa was at Longhorn Steakhouse on a Saturday night at 9:40pm. She didn’t have a complaint, she simply tweeted praise for their silverware and Longhorn responded within one minute… on a Saturday night.
@GibsonDarlin Only the best at LongHorn! Thanks for the kind words, Melissa!
— LongHorn Steakhouse (@LongHornSteaks) January 11, 2015
They didn’t need to respond to Melissa. She didn’t have an urgent need or a problem. But they responded in a very personal way and Melissa noticed and she told me the next day. Further than the reach of tweet, a retweet or a favorite, word of mouth can make your brand presence even stronger.
Personal touch and speed are what makes customer service on social media great. If you are going to have a canned or automatic response, you might as well not even try. Not only can so many things go wrong as evidenced in the American Airlines tweet below, your audience can lose interest quickly.
During the recent data breach at Chick-fil-A, I jokingly tweeted about how I am at risk (because I basically live there). I was excited to get a response from Chick-fil-A, only to be let down when I saw they were tweeting the same thing to every single person. I no longer cared. I understand they can’t respond to thousands of people with a personal message, it would be virtually impossible. However, implementing a strategy of tweeting at least one overarching tweet with an apology and more information, followed by personally responding to a dozen or so complaints would have gone a long way. I would much rather have my tweet go unanswered, than receive the same tweet you sent to 300 people.
— Chick-fil-A, Inc. (@ChickfilA) January 2, 2015
A 2011 study by evolve24 found that approximately 70% of customer service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered. One way for a company to filter through all of the noise and conversation is to separate its regular Twitter account from its Customer Service Twitter account.
One example of a brand that does this is Hootsuite, they have both @Hootsuite and @Hootsuite_Help. Recently, I had a question for Hootsuite and went through their online help. Their customer service reps were amazing. I immediately took to Twitter and tweeted praise from the Access’ account about how helpful they were, only to get a quick response from the SAME person I was talking with online (or for all you pessimists out there, they just happened to have the same initials).
@accessus Thank you for the kind words! Happy we could help! 🙂 ^WS
— Hootsuite Helpers (@HootSuite_Help) December 5, 2014
Not only did I enjoy the response, but I enjoyed the continuity. No one likes to be passed around from one customer service rep to another. You have to re-explain everything and it just seems to prolong the entire process, similar to returning from vacation and having to recount your experiences to your entire extended family, friends, coworkers and the mailman ad nauseam.
Keep your customer service responses personal and remember you are not a robot. Customers want to know that a real human being is helping them. Sign your initials or a name to the tweet and, if the situation allows, add a little humor.
Obviously, not all issues can be resolved with 140 characters or in public, so transition the conversation to a long-form communication platform if needed.
Remember, it is still all about good customer service and one tweet may not always cut it, but it certainly has the potential to create lifelong customers.