Social Customer Service: How to Get Over Your Fear of Social Media

do not be afraid

Following on from our interview (The customer service revolution is here and now – Interview with Mikkel Svane CEO of Zendesk) Mikkel agreed to write a guest post for the blog. Here it is:

Get Over Your Fear of Social Media

A lot of companies still find social media intimidating. They’ve heard the horror stories of businesses having their dirty laundry aired in public, so their plan of action is to avoid it all together. There are also those that recognise social media’s importance as a customer service channel but incorrectly assume that setting up the team and technology needed to support it will be too costly. Others, just quite simply aren’t waking up to the fact that their customers want to talk to them via social channels. Whatever their reasons, rather than fear social media companies need to embrace it and make sure it plays a strategic part in how they interact with their customers.

Social media has given customers a powerful, collective voice and often a disgruntled consumer will take to Facebook or Twitter to voice their issues – whether the company is present on those channels or not. The proliferation of smartphones also means people expect to be able to have their issues resolved almost instantaneously. If businesses don’t address this shift, they run the risk of leaving themselves defenceless to very public criticism. There was a time when a company told its customers how they could contact them. Now, it’s customers that are making those decisions.

The fact is we live in a world where more than half of the population is under the age of 30 and digitally literate. Companies that shy away from modernising their communication methods are simply not going to be as attractive to this new group of customers as those that do. Undoubtedly, ignoring this group of ‘tomorrow’s customers’ will impact a company’s bottom line in the long-term. Importantly, they will also miss out on the chance to celebrate positive feedback and converse with their fan-base. However, making sure social media is part of a company’s CRM strategy needn’t be a minefield.

The six key points to keep in mind to make sure you are making the most of this opportunity are:

  • Prepare to use and monitor your social channels regularly
    • Social media can be a huge success for customer service offerings but it is not something that can be entered into half-heartedly. If a company is not able to commit the resources necessary to manage and regularly respond to queries via social media then that is just as bad, if not worse, than not having a presence on those sites at all. Making sure the right system is in place to monitor all customer queries, regardless of the communication method it came in from, is a must.
  • Keep response times low
    • Always, always remember that social media means 24/7 communication and make sure your approach reflects this. Answer queries promptly (we see anything over 24 hours as too long a delay) and do your best to address them in one or two responses.

  • Recognise when it is time to direct customer queries away from social media
    • Don’t be afraid to take the conversation offline. A customer may contact you via Twitter to bring up an issue that is complex to solve (i.e. will take more than one or two steps), or uncomfortable to discuss in public. In that instance, reply with something along the lines of, ‘Sorry to hear that. Would you mind sending the details through to techdesk[at] so we can look into it?’. This way, you have acknowledged their problem promptly and via the channel they prefer but are actually able to continue the discussion offline.

  • Saying sorry is a good thing
    • Accept that mistakes will happen and don’t be afraid to broadcast an apology on social media as long as it is sincere and comes with an assurance that you are trying to fix it. Even if a company isn’t able to fully resolve the issue during the first contact, it’s important to reach out and acknowledge that the issue exists and that you are working on a solution. Customers will appreciate your honesty.

  • Take a unified approach
    • Don’t let the addition of social media to your customer service solutions take your eye away from providing good phone, email, website and blog support. A customer may well try to contact you via more than one communication channel so make sure you have a system in place that can monitor all interactions a customer may have with your company so that nothing slips through the cracks.

  • Resist carbon-copy responses and engage with customers
    • Take a conversational tone with your customers. Social media was built to be social and being social means being more casual, using less formal language; in other words, talking like human beings. Stuffy, one-size-fits-all answers that sound like a regurgitation of the company mission statement are not going to cut it. Customers now expect authentic, truthful and open communication. They will very quickly see through anything that seems insecure or phony.

About Mikkel (from bio on Zendesk’s website)

Mikkel Svane Zendesk

After an inspirational trip to San Francisco in 1995 Mikkel launched what was one of Denmark’s first horizontal community portals. Less than a year later the portal was acquired by a Danish newspaper and Mikkel founded Caput, a software company specializing in standard software components for community building and social networks. Serving as its CEO until 2002 he became General Manager for the German service management consulting group Materna. His tenure there reunited him with former friends and colleagues Morten and Alex with whom he founded Zendesk and launched it in October 2007. Mikkel holds a BSc(Econ) in Market Economics from Denmark, is a frequent Twitter user and loves spending time with his wife and kids when not working with his awesome team and Zendesk customers.

Thanks to rudylorejo for the image.

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