10 Best Practice Tips for Social Customer Service

After yet another example of a major retailer messing up in the public domain, we thought it would be worthwhile revisiting some best practice tips for delivering effective social customer service.

twitter customer service imageOutdoor clothing retailer Hawke & Co raised the bar this week on how ‘not’ to respond to a customer complaint on Twitter. Instead of apologising and trying to resolve the issue, they appeared to mock and disparage one of their customers in the public domain.

To their credit, Hawke & Co did pretty swiftly offer a full and unreserved apology, but as we know with social media, the damage had already been done in the public domain.

So, how do we look to avoid this sort of social media faux pas and how can we consistently provide good quality social customer service? Here are 10 best practice tips to get you on the right track:

1. Proactive Monitoring

At least Hawke & Co were actively monitoring their Twitter account. But, make sure that you are monitoring the full social sphere for brand mentions. There are a range of tools available in the marketplace to monitor the full Twitter fire hose and multiple social channels. Just make sure you can also reduce noise into relevancy.

2. Speed of Response

Again, we can’t fault Hawke & Co for getting there quickly. But, be aware that customer expectations are high on social channels, with various studies showing that we need to get to relevant mentions within hours… or suffer the consequences! Make sure you are able to prioritise certain ‘types’ of mention to improve response time.

3. Deal with Complaints

Note the lesson above. It’s inevitable that you will receive complaints across social channels. Do not take it personally and make sure your agents follow a defined process. The main aim should be to show empathy and draw negative attention away from the public domain. Once the complaint is resolved, try to return to the public domain with a note of thanks.

4. Acknowledge Positive Feedback

Retweet, like, share and reply to positive feedback. Thank your customers for taking the time to praise your brand or product. Customer generated, positive content is invaluable and should be shared with marketing. We are seeing the use of positive social conversations more and more from the bigger brands to great effect.

5. Supervisor Approval Loops

Could Hawkes & Co have prevented that reply from ever going live and into the public domain? Well, ‘yes’. The best way to try and prevent agents from posting inappropriate content is to get a supervisor approval loop in place. You can even define what percentage of agent responses need to be approved before going live.

6. Open All Hours

We know that it’s best practice to inform your customers of the hours that your core social team is available. However, we also know that we can’t control ‘when’ a negative mention might come in and affect brand reputation. At the very least, get alerts in place, but also consider working with a 24/7 outsourced partner.

7. Don’t use Automated Responses

It is true that ‘bots’ are getting more sophisticated and able to more accurately measure sentiment. However, the only way to truly understand and gauge the tone of a reply, to any given message, is by doing it manually. There are still too many examples of generic automated responses that simply infuriate customers.

8. Proactive Posting

Why would you wait for customers to fill your social feeds with questions that you already know the answer to? Get proactive and post useful information and links to your most common queries. Additionally, it’s vitally important to post updates throughout any service outage or crisis situation to keep your customers informed.

9. Engage in Trending Topics

This is a great way to get more reach for your brand and develop brand awareness. Understand who the key influencers are within your sector and look for trending topics where you can look to engage in the conversation. We are seeing this more and more from major brands, with extremely positive results.

10. Choose the Appropriate Channel

Wherever possible, we should look to keep conversations in the public domain. But, if it is more appropriate to push the customer to a more private channel, make use of direct messages. It may even be appropriate to switch to other channels such as voice, email or chat. Just make sure you can keep track of the conversation!