Despite that fact that social media is becoming the new megaphone for customer complaints and issues, not every business has made the jump to serving customers via social channels.
Many prefer to engage with them through content that promotes the brand and engages people on their pages, rather than supporting it. According to one study, only 39% offer service on Twitter despite 76% of companies actually using it.
The reality though is different – yes, people are talking about you, and that also means people are complaining about you, and people expect some sort of response.
In a separate piece of research, 53% of people who tweeted a company expected a response within the hour. Increasing customer expectations have now grown that to 72% according to research from Lithium Technologies. Both of these were covered in an excellent article on Hubspot dealing with social response times.
Even if you are not using it, it pays to have a fundamental understanding of how social customer service works, and how to deal with it.
An encounter I had with a wine retailer last week on Twitter was a perfect example of a business that doesn’t typically do it.
A bit of background…
Sporadically, and more recently last week, I receive emails from a list that I unsubscribed from about 18 months ago. Usually I just click on unsubscribe, delete and move on, which after the third time I accepted that this was a function that was clearly broken. Once again, breaking up is hard to do.
The last email though got my attention. It was to update my preferences. In it, it had a list of various types of emails they offer, and clearly showed that I was opted out of all emails. Yet they wanted me to check that this is what I wanted to do.
Now, as far as I am concerned, once I am unsubscribed, that’s it. My name is off your list and I don’t want to hear from you again. It shouldn’t be sitting on a database somewhere so I can occasionally hear from you. Yet in this case, it seems exactly that – my name is still on a list.
In my typical first port of call for customer service, I fired off a tweet to them to suggest that they fix the unsubscribe feature before emailing me about managing my preferences for communication.
To their credit they responded, but what followed was a series of tweets that ranged from passing me off to a page on their site to have my query addressed (I don’t want to have to go through an engagement with your account service team to tell your process is broken), to talking to me like opting in and out of email lists is a concept that I should understand, and then suggesting I calm down despite merely highlighting where the problems were.
After this, I looked back over their Twitter stream. They don’t have a separate customer service channel, so this would be the only one that someone can reach them through. It became very apparent that they don’t usually use Twitter to provide customer service other than to reply to praise and basic questions about product, and so my expectations of the exchange lowered.
What it showed though were three things clearly missing from their engagement on Twitter, that I think are valuable lessons for anyone who doesn’t typically offer service through social.
Listen to the Problem
Probably the most fundamental piece of the process is listening, and this doesn’t change for any business, big or small. Not every question is the same, and it shouldn’t be assumed that there is a one size fits all answer.
It took five tweets for them to understand that the issue was with their process of removing people from the list is broken.
It also comes back to the channel – understand that if this is my preferred way of contacting you for resolution, that I don’t want to be pushed somewhere else. Deal with me here.
Don’t Treat the Customer Like an Idiot
During the exchange, I was stepped through the process of how to click an opt out link, and then I “won’t get them anymore…”. The trail off of the sentence suggests that clicking on the opt out should be the logical thing to do, and why hadn’t I thought of it.
Give you customers credit for understanding how processes work. Often times, they are highly digital savvy (if I can work out Twitter, I get email) and familiar with a product that they know more than the person on the other side of the keyboard.
Never assume the problem belongs to the customer alone. Every business has pain points.
Don’t Go on the Offensive
Probably the most important thing is not to lose your cool with the customer. Despite a rational description of the problem and where it was going wrong, I was told there was “no need to get aggressive”.
Nothing will make a rational customer more annoyed than being talked down to.
Remember, today’s consumer has more power than ever before – the power of reach, the power of a voice, and the power of choice with their wallet.
So in the end I was removed from the list. I got my outcome, but in a process that took longer than it should have.
While social may not be your primary service channel, or even one you plan on using, understand that people will reach out to you there. Being prepared to deal with it will make for a better customer experience. A happy customer is more likely to come back, and most importantly in the social, more likely to recommend your brand.
UPDATE: CoSchedule has just published a fantastic piece about this very topic, which I think is a must read. Check it out here – Responding to Customer Complaints with Social Media.
Want some more ideas? Here’s a great post from The Next Web on Awesome Customer Service on Social.
PHOTO – 10ch via Flickr