4 R’s of Social Media Customer Service

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They may not be grammatically or orthographically correct, but everyone knows the three R’s taught in school: reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Customer service via social media has its own set of guidelines that aren’t as well known yet, but as social media occupies an ever larger chunk of customers’ awareness, these rules are critical to keep in mind. Work with your content creation team to give great customer service via social media, and you’re well on your way to mastering the lessons your competitors may have yet to learn.

Recognize

Aside from lemonade stands selling to neighborhood parents, most businesses will have customers who complain. You may not agree with some complaints – and if the concern is in a public place such as your Facebook page, Yelp reviews or Twitter account, it’s probably wisest not to – but you must recognize them. If your blog’s comments section or your Facebook page has 99 glowing recommendations that you answer and one complaint you ignore, visitors will instantly spot that outlier and wonder why you didn’t acknowledge the comment.

One effective way of recognizing a complaint without agreeing with it is through restatement. Psychologists, mediators and counselors often use restatement as a way to get two sides to reach an understanding and move past their differences, and it often works for upset customers too. When recognizing complaints, try restating the problem to ensure that you understand the concern and show you’re listening.

Respond

The biggest mistake many companies make when using social media as part of their customer service program is failing to respond promptly and publicly. If you don’t have a presence on your Facebook or Twitter page, your customers will feel as though they’re broadcasting their opinions into empty space. Eventually, they do one of two things: fall silent or fill that vacuum with their own content, some of which may only be tangentially related to your business. You must be an active participant in your own social media channels, especially when customers need your attention.

You might do an outstanding job of responding to questions and concerns, but will other readers know about it? A few of your customers will tweet a follow-up if you respond to them privately, but most won’t, and visitors to your site will never know that you’ve resolved the customer service issue. One great way to make it clear that you’re listening while still keeping sensitive correspondence private is to acknowledge the concern publicly and ask the customer to reply via the same channel:

“Hi, [customer name], and thank you for bringing your experience to our attention. I’ve sent you information about our satisfaction guarantee and our return policy so we can resolve this for you quickly. Please reply when you get the email, and let me know if there’s anything more we can do for you.”

Reward

A great conversation is its own reward, but to spark one, you sometimes need to offer a little incentive. By rewarding participation in your social media channels, you create an open, positive customer service atmosphere that encourages praise as well as concerns. Free samples, coupons and access to exclusive content for visitors who “like,” re-tweet or otherwise contribute to your social media streams give customers something to talk about while thanking your most involved customer base.

While it’s smart to reward regular visitors and participants in your social media conversations, be sure you understand the guidelines of the channels you use. Facebook, for example, allows referral-based rewards but doesn’t permit incentives solely for using the service. You must also offer the same incentives to everyone – that means giving rewards to people who have given you a “like” in the past as well as those whose new business you’re courting.

Renew

Google loves new content, and so do your customers. Part of your customer service program should include regular updates on policy changes, new product lines and other information that could affect how your clients use your product or service. By renewing and refreshing content on your social media channels frequently, you’re following SEO best practices while helping customers feel involved – and involved customers are happy customers.

© Business Content, Inc. 2013 All Rights Reserved.

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