3 Social Service Tips For Those That Don’t Offer It

28 Jul
July 28, 2014

Despite that fact that social media is becoming the new megaphone for customer complaints and issues, not every business has made the jump to serving customers via social channels.

Many prefer to engage with them through content that promotes the brand and engages people on their pages, rather than supporting it. According to one study, only 39% offer service on Twitter despite 76% of companies actually using it.

The reality though is different – yes, people are talking about you, and that also means people are complaining about you, and people expect some sort of response.

In a separate piece of research, 53% of people who tweeted a company expected a response within the hour. Increasing customer expectations have now grown that to 72% according to research from Lithium Technologies. Both of these were covered in an excellent article on Hubspot dealing with social response times.

Even if you are not using it, it pays to have a fundamental understanding of how social customer service works, and how to deal with it.

An encounter I had with a wine retailer last week on Twitter was a perfect example of a business that doesn’t typically do it.

A bit of background…

Sporadically, and more recently last week, I receive emails from a list that I unsubscribed from about 18 months ago. Usually I just click on unsubscribe, delete and move on, which after the third time I accepted that this was a function that was clearly broken. Once again, breaking up is hard to do.

The last email though got my attention. It was to update my preferences. In it, it had a list of various types of emails they offer, and clearly showed that I was opted out of all emails. Yet they wanted me to check that this is what I wanted to do.

Now, as far as I am concerned, once I am unsubscribed, that’s it. My name is off your list and I don’t want to hear from you again. It shouldn’t be sitting on a database somewhere so I can occasionally hear from you. Yet in this case, it seems exactly that – my name is still on a list.

In my typical first port of call for customer service, I fired off a tweet to them to suggest that they fix the unsubscribe feature before emailing me about managing my preferences for communication.

To their credit they responded, but what followed was a series of tweets that ranged from passing me off to a page on their site to have my query addressed (I don’t want to have to go through an engagement with your account service team to tell your process is broken), to talking to me like opting in and out of email lists is a concept that I should understand, and then suggesting I calm down despite merely highlighting where the problems were.

After this, I looked back over their Twitter stream. They don’t have a separate customer service channel, so this would be the only one that someone can reach them through. It became very apparent that they don’t usually use Twitter to provide customer service other than to reply to praise and basic questions about product, and so my expectations of the exchange lowered.

What it showed though were three things clearly missing from their engagement on Twitter, that I think are valuable lessons for anyone who doesn’t typically offer service through social.

Listen to the Problem

Probably the most fundamental piece of the process is listening, and this doesn’t change for any business, big or small. Not every question is the same, and it shouldn’t be assumed that there is a one size fits all answer.

It took five tweets for them to understand that the issue was with their process of removing people from the list is broken.

It also comes back to the channel – understand that if this is my preferred way of contacting you for resolution, that I don’t want to be pushed somewhere else. Deal with me here.

Don’t Treat the Customer Like an Idiot

During the exchange, I was stepped through the process of how to click an opt out link, and then I “won’t get them anymore…”. The trail off of the sentence suggests that clicking on the opt out should be the logical thing to do, and why hadn’t I thought of it.

Give you customers credit for understanding how processes work. Often times, they are highly digital savvy (if I can work out Twitter, I get email) and familiar with a product that they know more than the person on the other side of the keyboard.

Never assume the problem belongs to the customer alone. Every business has pain points.

Don’t Go on the Offensive

Probably the most important thing is not to lose your cool with the customer. Despite a rational description of the problem and where it was going wrong, I was told there was “no need to get aggressive”.

Nothing will make a rational customer more annoyed than being talked down to.

Remember, today’s consumer has more power than ever before – the power of reach, the power of a voice, and the power of choice with their wallet.

What Next?

So in the end I was removed from the list. I got my outcome, but in a process that took longer than it should have.

While social may not be your primary service channel, or even one you plan on using, understand that people will reach out to you there. Being prepared to deal with it will make for a better customer experience. A happy customer is more likely to come back, and most importantly in the social, more likely to recommend your brand.

UPDATE: CoSchedule has just published a fantastic piece about this very topic, which I think is a must read. Check it out here – Responding to Customer Complaints with Social Media.

Want some more ideas? Here’s a great post from The Next Web on Awesome Customer Service on Social.

PHOTO – 10ch via Flickr

Do You Have A Personal Tone of Voice Guideline for Social Media?

06 Jul
July 6, 2014

So if you read my tweets after about 7.30 on any given night, you’ll know I have an unhealthy appetite for reality TV. If you follow me for a 6 week period over June and July during State of Origin, you’ll know I tend to get very vocal about the game.

I’ll pass judgement on contestants or the other team, because that’s what any supporter would do, and there is a conversation to be part of.

Through all of it though, fired up passion is tempered and guided by what I have deemed my personal social media tone of voice guidelines.

Why is this kind of guideline important?

Those of us who manage corporate social media know the importance of a tone of voice guideline for a brand, one that embodies the spirit and matches the impression we want people to have of the work that gets done.

So why should your personal use be any different?

Every day, your digital footprint is getting bigger, and more of that content is being captured and indexed for all to see. If you’re trying to build a name for yourself, in any industry, this is something you need to be conscious of. Employers are increasingly using social to screen candidates – what will they find when they look at yours?

I’m not talking about a formal document, just a set of guiding principles. For a lot of the time, and I am sure for a lot of people, this is second nature.

My Rules of the Road

There are always considerations before I post anything.

Is what I am about to post likely to offend, or create debate? If it’s the former, why do I need to post it? If it’s the latter, am I willing to engage in the conversation and back it up?

Are there any commercial arrangements with my employer that I need to be aware of? As I have spoken about before, disclaiming your opinions as independent of your employer can mean little, and shouldn’t be used to abdicate responsibility for your actions.

Two smaller considerations – with the exception of Facebook, nothing featuring kids or family. And I never swear on social – it adds nothing, and uses up characters…

Does this take away from your being genuine, being one of the key tenants of social? Absolutely not. You can still be genuine on social media without having to post everything that pops into your head.

It’s Still You

Regardless of what sort of guidelines you have for yourself, it still has to be you. Think about it as aspects of your personality.

I am very deliberate in how I use the channels I am across, and the narrow choice of channels I use makes it easy:

Facebook - A place to be myself. These people know me, they’re friends and family. Privacy settings mean I can disagree and debate, and talk about the things that they expect me to talk about, and perhaps be a little more free and easy than I would be on Twitter.

Twitter – Here, I share my thoughts on a variety of things, posts I find interesting, replies to people I agree or disagree with (guided by the above), and being part of the conversation about things taking place. There’s probably more consideration here about what I post than anywhere else.

LinkedIn – purely professional, here I post stories and links that are all business and represent points of view I think are worthy of sharing. It’s about giving those who follow my updates an insight into how I think business wise.

So that’s it – as I said, it’s not a formal, written policy, as a corporate TOV may be. But it’s no less important to your personal brand to be guided by some principles.

What about you? Do you consider how and what you post in line with beliefs or a tone of voice guideline?

PHOTO – Dwayne via Flickr

Where Social Selling Goes Wrong

30 Jun
June 30, 2014

There are differing schools of thought on LinkedIn connections, but I’ve always been of the view that it’s not the number of connections (I’m looking at you people who put in your connection count as part of your name), it’s the quality of them. I’ll admit though, I sometimes accept LinkedIn connections from people I don’t necessarily know or have worked with, when I think their updates might be an interesting read.

This leads, at times to the unsolicited pitch email for business, something that many of us now accept as part of the social process.

Where the process of social selling seems to break down though, is that there are too many assumptions, not enough research, and the misplaced notion that a social connection is a sufficient substitute for building a relationship.

If you’re using social to sell, it shouldn’t be different to any other sales process or social media engagement. It starts with listening.

To illustrate, I got one such email last week from a new connection, which began by saying “I wanted to reach out to you to tell you about our business”.

If an email begins like this, you would hope that the person sending it has done some research into the business you work in. It became obvious in the space of the email that they had not.

A better start to a sales email would be “I wanted to reach out and ask you about your business”. This should be the beginning of a conversation, not a straight out pitch.

It then closed by saying “I would love to make some time to come and discuss how we could help”. Another assumption - that there is something they can help with.

How could they close it better? “If you think you have a need for the service we offer, I’d be happy to discuss further”.

While social media is not new, the notion of social selling is still a grey area, particularly given so much advice is “whatever you do, don’t sell”.

But it can be used to build effective relationships, if there is a genuine need for a product. There are common challenges that many face, but this shouldn’t be a substitute for effort to identify a prospect.

As an example, yesterday I tweeted this to Buffer, who are on of my favourite tools to use list:

Within 10 minutes, I had a rep from HootSuite reply to tell me that HS did support G+ and to reach out if I would like to know more. Perfect, low touch reply – just to let me know there is an option if I want to know more. 

This is the kind of opening you should aim for when social selling.

Listen for the opportunities. Never assume because you know where someone works and what they do that the challenges they face are the same as the last person you sold to.

How about you? Any great (or not so great) social sales pitches or processes you’ve seen?

PHOTO – Michael via Flickr