Who loves phoning a call-centre? Please raise your hands!

No takers? Well this is hardly surprising. While this article is not about call-centres per se, nor about the level of service one typically receives from them, they do epitomise what has happened to the level of service that a broad-spectrum of companies (particularly larger ones) offer. We needn’t feel that inferior service is isolated to South Africa either, because impersonal service has unfortunately become a global trend.

In line with this trend, customers are becoming increasingly vocal and are using public, internet based platforms to ensure that their displeasures are heard. These platforms include forums, specialised customer service portals (such as Hello Peter), dedicated blogs and social media.

A case in point…

A recent and excellent example of this is the case where a certain Hasan Syed (Twitter handle – @HVSVN ) paid around $ 1000 to promote a tweet which read ‘Don’t fly @British_Airways. Their customer service is horrendous’ after his father’s luggage went missing and British Airways had delayed response to the complaint and recovery of the luggage.

Within hours the tweet garnered over 25 000 impressions on Twitter and this excludes coverage on popular blogs such as ‘Mashable‘ which first reported the story. This case is considered as groundbreaking in how customers are reacting to ongoing bad service levels and companies around the world have sat up and taken notice.

Twitter British Airways


A new dimension to marketing

The fact is that social media is driving increased levels of customer interaction with companies and these include basic customer service queries, as well as compliments and complaints. These interactions are not reserved only for large companies either and many smaller organisations are using social media as an enhanced method of delivering customer service.

Our advice is to ensure that your company is thinking ahead. Rather elect to plan how you will manage customer service via social media now, than be caught unawares when a customer decides to interact with you in this manner.

When customers decide to use social media platforms to air their views, know that this could have a significant impact on your brand and your company. Friends matter. Both online and offline, friends influence our opinions, they can influence behaviour and collectively, they help shape reputations for businesses.

According to a recent study by Nielsen, 84% of respondents considered the opinions of family and friends, the most trustworthy form of promotion. This is not surprising. How many of us will read forums and reviews online before we buy a product or engage with a service provider?

The role that social media plays in your marketing therefore goes beyond simply posting information regarding your products and services. Your social media marketing requires close management to protect and enhance your brand and your reputation.

To give you a head-start in developing your Social Media Customer Service Plan, we’ve compiled the 10 most important considerations that should influence your strategy and how you manage customer service online.

Twitter bird

Top 10 considerations toward outstanding social media customer service

Customer service delivered via social media should both emulate and enhance the customer service standards that you have instilled throughout your organisation.

Start by identifying what is important to your company in terms of customer service and build your social media customer service plan from there.

Dedicated resources – ensure that you have sufficient personnel to monitor your social media pages. These individuals should be suitably skilled to manage queries and provide accurate solutions.

Timely responses – ensure that all interactions are responded to as soon as possible. People often turn to social media in the belief that they will get a quicker response through this medium.

Personalised responses – respond to each query individually and never ever use a cut and paste response to queries as customers will quickly note this and use it against you. Be sure to apologise if the query is a complaint.

Offer quick resolutions – offer timely resolutions to queries and if a query requires more time to manage, be sure to be pro-active about keeping the customer updated.

Be caring -let customers know that their business is important to you. If they have offered a compliment, be sure to thank them accordingly and if it is a complaint, assure the customer that you intend to find a resolution soon.

Be open – no-one knows everything there is to know – and neither does every business. Be open to new ideas and suggestions from your customers. If they highlight something that you could be doing to improve the customer experience, be open enough to investigate the value of what they are saying and implement it. People like to be heard and appreciated and there is hardly a better way to appreciate your audience than to take heed of recommendations that they have made.

Be helpful – try to offer valuable information and insight which assists your customer to make optimised use of your products and services. A lack of knowledge or understanding is very often the catalyst to a complaint which can be easily avoided.

Use a brand-voice – think Virgin, many of us are au fait with their relaxed communication style which can be found across all of their divisions. Preferably use a brand voice that is distinctly human and approachable. Technology has to a certain extent, served to alienate us from one another, but the appropriate use of written communications can help to engage rather than alienate your customers.
Use decent grammar and correct spelling – bad grammar and incorrect spelling will be detrimental to your image. Ensure that the resources who manage your social media accounts are naturally graced with a good command of the English language.

Beware of the trolls – be aware that some people will go out of their way to repeatedly fling insults at you. Such individuals are termed ‘trolls’. Do not wage an online war with them. Their efforts will fizzle out and other customers will quickly see the difference between how you handle a genuine query and the obvious antics of a troll.

Do you need help in planning your Social Media Marketing Strategy?
We are dedicated to ensuring that your marketing efforts increase your bottom line and our passionate team has the specialised knowledge needed to deliver the most impactful marketing campaigns and strategies.
Give Garth Dahl or Shiraz Khatib a call on 021 556 5661 or email us: info@theformula.co.za – our consultations are free and we look forward to helping your business grow!

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