31 Jan 2013
By Karen Geier
There was a time when every company was champing at the bit to get on Facebook and Twitter. They wanted to know just how many people were fans of their children’s shoes or mascara or chicken sandwiches. They wanted a primed, captive audience they could talk to everyday.
What most of them weren’t prepared for with this newfound communication venue was how fans would take to these sites to voice concerns about a product; seeking customer care where other channels had failed them.
The best brands were up to the challenge, and most of the rest of them tried to limit the damage to their brand, or tried to write the rules on an essentially democratic platform. This failed miserably, causing ACTUAL damage to brands, and in some cases, all-out protests.
Social Media customer care is an emerging area of the social landscape, but it’s as necessary for your brand as media presence and a pretty website. Social Media customer care enables you to talk directly to people who love your product, find out what they like and don’t like, and really help your customers get the most out of your brand. Great Social customer care makes your brand stand out for caring.
So, how do you plan for Social Media customer care, and how to you manage it effectively?
You can set up the infrastructure to manage Social Media customer care with very few tools, with an important caveat:
You need to invest time and have staff resources cover these channels. If you are starting out, you can always make sure that in the description field of your profile which times of the day your page is actively monitored, but you still need to follow through during those times.
Your basic tools are just your Facebook page admin and Twitter accounts. The person you appoint can easily reply to messages, look up more information on fan/follower accounts (for instance, to know that a customer is in Winnipeg, and you can look up the closest store to them.)
If you are growing your business, or you have a product line for which you rely upon user feedback, you should consider some enterprise-level products to control the flow of commentary and empower your team to provide the best service. These include:
GetSatisfaction: The industry standard, it allows your company to control and triage a queue of questions and complaints online, in some cases, right from your Facebook page, or using a Twitter handle to log in. You can assign different types of administrator types, and behind the scenes you can see analytics on your fans, their care level, and your team can also consult on an issue. It can be expensive, so it is important to make sure you’re prepared for the expense and the time commitment.
Sysomos Heartbeat: Heartbeat aggregates tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts, and myriad other online mentions to one command console where you can triage and respond to comments right from Heartbeat.
FreshDesk: A relative newcomer, Freshdesk helps companies integrate their Social customer care with the other forms of customer care: forms, webchat, etc.
Once you’ve got the tools in place, you’ll need to adhere to a few rules:
Don’t put someone with little accountability in charge of your Social customer care. There’s a reason you train receptionists on how to answer phones at your company: you need to always put your best food forward. Don’t put someone without Social Media experience OR customer care experience in an open, public forum like your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Create a code of conduct, train your team, and adhere to the rules.
Make resources about your product available to the person who monitors your Social customer care account. Don’t send your team to the front lines without ammo. Provide your team with actual resources (written policies, product documentation, etc.) and human resources (subject matter experts, team leads) to answer questions without “handling speak.”
You can please all of the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time. It’s as true now as when Lincoln said it originally. Know that some people will never be happy with change or they will always find the downside in what your brand is doing. You can’t control this. You can only contain it, but usually, on Facebook especially, your truest fans will often be your best advocate for your product.
It is OK to banish trolls. If customers decide to use your page to talk about their political feelings, swear, or attack yourself or others, ban them, and don’t look back. This will actually build trust with the remaining fans.
Don’t assume a complaint is “stupid” or “crazy” just because the person sounds like they are trolling.
A company where I helped establish a Social Media customer care queue once had a person complain about an issue with a software build which originally, by our team was deemed “crazy” or “the problem is due to their misuse” but it soon became clear that this person was the harbinger of a torrent of similar complaints. Luckily, our tech team acted on the request right away, and found that yes, in some instances, this issue was occurring, and due to the fact that hundreds of thousands of people had received the update, we were in for a world of trouble. The team worked all night on a fix, and it was pushed out so that the damage was minimal. This woman, because of her LOVE of our product and her disheartened feelings may not have come across in the best manner possible, but she was 100 per cent right. It’s important to listen
Listen first, and make REAL attempts to solve the problem. This is where the problems start with most companies. Not actually taking complaints on board and making your fans feel heard and important means you’ve lost. Some problems are intractable, but there’s always something that can be done. I recently had an experience with a shoe company where they shipped the wrong product, and when they tried to send the proper pair to me it was completely out of stock. Their solution? A gift card for TWO pairs of shoes, and (in a late surprise and delight) the proper shoes were shipped to me when they came back in stock.
If your customers band together, it’s time to make them happy. Last year, it came to light that Starbucks used a colouring called cochineal in their Strawberry-based drinks. Cochineal is made from beetle exoskeletons. This made said drinks not vegetarian or vegan friendly. Social Media WENT WILD, and Starbucks spent time and money to reformulate the Strawberry base without cochineal.
If you’ve got your principles, your team, and your tools (in that order) in place, you can effectively manage customer requests which will come to you through social. Your proper handling of customer questions will make the difference between a brand your fans like and a brand they recommend to others.
Karen Geier is the Co-Founder of Shyndyg.com. Previously she was a digital marketing executive, most recently with Ogilvy. Karen previously headed up social media strategy for Canadian start up Kobo, and has consulted for start ups and Fortune 500 companies. She writes about start-ups on Huffington Post Canada.