It's No Longer a Question Whether to Use Social Media for Customer Service

If someone had a bad experience, chances are they are going to talk about it. Here are five tips to craft a strategy to respond.

learn more about Shana Starr

By Shana Starr

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It was just a year or two ago that customer-facing businesses thought they could do without social media if they weren't looking to serve younger or tech-savvy customers. That wasn't true then and it certainly isn't true now.

Social media has become a leading medium for consumers to voice opinions about their every interaction they have with a company and its products or services. Expectations of speedy replies and immediate attention have raised the bar.

Related: The 7 Musts of Customer Service on Social Media

If someone had a bad experience, chances are they are going to talk about it, tag you and make sure their network knows about it. If they have a good experience, you hope the same will happen. The onus is on you to keep an eye out and respond where appropriate.

It's in the best interest of your company to have a social-media expert handle customer-service protocol and complaint resolution. Consistency and follow-through is key here. Arguing a complaint or posting defensive responses and threats (legal or otherwise) can all backfire. These types of replies can even make headline news (in a very bad way)!

For example, Southwest experienced quite a bit of negative backlash when a disgruntled customer tweeted his discontent and was subsequently asked to leave the aircraft. Remember, it isn't two-way communication anymore.

Social is the new customer-service platform and business owners must have a plan in place to react and communicate. Additionally, a strategic and well-thought out social-media content strategy can result in earning customer loyalty when executed correctly.

In case you're not sold yet on the importance of social customer service, here's another great example. A Lululemon customer recently received a package for a running cap that he had ordered. When he opened the package, he found the company had accidentally sent him 19 extra caps -- a $600 value! The customer alerted the company to the error via Twitter. Lululemon initially thanked him, but then changed its mind and said he could keep the caps and encouraged him to share them with others.

Grateful for the gesture, he replied that he planned to give the hats to friends and share the story about how he got them. Although Lululemon lost $600 in merchandise, it made a positive step forward in repairing its somewhat negative reputation via excellent social customer service. The company satisfied a pre-existing customer and received positive publicity in addition to gaining 19 more potential customers through word of mouth.

Related: Brands to Spend Big on Social Media This Holiday Season (Infographic)

Now that we all know a social customer-service plan is necessary, here are some tips on how to implement a successful social customer-service plan:

  • Have a qualified and dedicated social customer-service rep that is constantly monitoring Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for complaints and keywords related to your brand. It is important that you designate a customer-service expert, not just a tech expert, to handle the social-media channels.
  • Your social customer-service protocol should run parallel to your other customer-services channels. This includes having similar strategies in place to offer rebates, free returns or free exchanges that your social customer-service rep may offer at a moment's notice.
  • Social customer service is service at a faster speed. The appropriate window for a response to a customer complaint has been shortened from 24 to 48 hours to 60 minutes or less via social-media channels.The magnitude of a simple complaint will escalate the longer it takes to be resolved. Quick and timely responses and resolutions will calm an upset customer.
  • When possible, try to deal with extreme or offensive comments or posts in a private manner via private messaging or other non-public social-media channels. Use a considerate and positive tone in communicating. With the right and careful approach to this type of complaint, you may just be able to get them to delete, retract or share their negative-turned-positive experience.
  • Utilize social media yourself and be proactive with your customer service. See what people are saying about your business. Look for the needs and wants of customers and if you can solve a problem they may have. Use this to your advantage and present them with your products and services. Who knows, you may have just solved a problem they didn't know could be solved!

Related: 3 Ways to Get Business Recognition on Social Media

Shana Starr

Managing Partner at LFPR

An avid PR strategist, Shana Starr has had the opportunity to own and create two successful PR companies, LFPR (established 2008) and RMS (established 2003). She has an extensive background creating successful media campaigns working across all types of industries. 

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