Earlier this month, I had a dismal customer service experience. Without naming names, I was running into some glitches with a new online service I was using. I had paid a hefty price for it and so was disappointed, to say the least, when I found that all my best attempts to interact with the email-only customer support service were met with massive delay, misunderstanding, and a decided lack of resolution. And so, like many in this day and age, I turned to social media for my customer support.
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Twitter, specifically, is the best way I’ve found to try and interact with a customer service representative to get something solved as quickly as possible. It usually works well, whether I’ve got a question about a return I need processing at a big box store, or – more typically – a flight delay and/or lost stroller on American Airlines.
This time, though, I did not meet with such a happy fate.
First, I tried searching for the brand name in question on Twitter. And I immediately ran into some problems. There seemed to be a number of Twitter handles for the company in question, and it was unclear which handle was best to direct a question to. Frustratingly, I copied my question to all of them.
My next hurdle came when, after two days, I had received no responses to my message. I tried again. Nothing.
At this point, I did some further digging. I found the name of the founder of the small company, and directed a message to him on Twitter.
Then I went to Instagram.
More of the same.
After two weeks of repeated messages to the company’s Twitter handles and the founder’s Twitter and Instagram handles, I gave up.
For me, this was the end of the road for this particular product in my life. After all, if you can’t get any real-time support for a service that understandably needs more than a bit of explaining, why not switch to a provider that can help?
Now, I’m sure the company has its merits. Many thousands of people use the service I had contracted, and many are likely happy with it. But I wasn’t such a happy customer. To their credit, if I had been able to get in touch with the small business in question, I’m sure they wouldn’t have been happy to see my business go.
But I couldn’t get it in touch, and therein lies the problem. As a small business, you likely are strapped for resources. The key word “small” is an important one, and it indicates you don’t have legions of folks on your team who can provide 1:1 support at all hours of the day and night to customers who need help. That said, in this day and age any small business can do a good job providing customer service even with a small (sometimes very small) team.
Here are the key things you need to remember in order to use social media to provide valuable customer service to your clients. Ultimately, using these tips, you’ll avoid making the same mistakes.
Make it Clear that Customers Can Send Customer Service Queries to You on Social Media
First things first, it’s important to make sure that you have a social media channel where customers can direct their questions and concerns. Many companies will choose to create a separate Twitter account for just such an activity, which is a strategy that works well to ensure that customer queries are separated from the general information flood coming at your main Twitter account.
If you don’t want to create a separate Twitter account for such a purpose that’s fine, but then you do need to make it clear in your primary Twitter account bio that the account is monitored for customer service queries. A simple — “Customer service queries welcome” – added at the end of your typical Twitter bio is great.
Additionally, some companies do well to say something along the lines of “we respond daily” or “responses Monday through Friday!” to ensure that people’s expectations are clear about your response times. (See below for more on this idea.)
Monitor Your Accounts Regularly
Going back to the idea that you likely do not have legions of folks working for you 24-7, I want to reiterate that it isn’t necessary to be online constantly in order to provide valuable support. Checking in once a day for a thirty-minute block of time is enough to please customers at even at the smallest of small businesses, and to ensure that you are keeping new and current customers happy – especially if you make it clear to customers what your average response time is so they have reasonable expectations. Make it a part of the regular routine of one of your team members, and you’ll go far to please everyone.
Respond to Everything – Even the Good Stuff!
One of the best tips I know for ensuring that you are providing great customer service is that even when customers are providing praise, you should respond. It’s easy in the flood of message of people needing things fixed to immediately dismiss the positive and mark it as resolved and not warranting of a response, but in reality in order to keep current customers happy (and to allow future customers to see how you manage your clients), going the extra step to respond to people who are saying positive things is a great idea. If someone writes in to thank you, go the extra mile and write a short message back. At times, you can even offer a bonus or discount for them to make their smile even wider.
Ultimately, in this day and age social media offers an incredible opportunity for small businesses to provide the kind of support and high-touch experience that customers long for. That said, making sure that any small business approaches customer service via social media in a smart way is critical. These tips can take you far.