Ten years ago a bad customer experience might make you put pen to paper and fire off a letter of complaint or leaving you hanging on the telephone queuing for your chance to rant to berate customer services. Now in 2016 our always-connected lifestyle means that if you experience an unhappy consumer social media customer service experience it’s natural that you’d go to the simplest, most responsive way to get it sorted using social media.
This is great for consumers as they can share their problems immediately, but for consumer brands it causes the issue that ‘dirty laundry’ is getting aired in public, rather than behind the closed doors of the customer services department.
As well offering a reputational problem, social media customer service also creates logistical problems for companies as smart social customer service requires integration with CRM, IT and marketing function. It also can hurt brands financially as some savvy customers, recognising that Customer Services and Social Media functions are not conjoined with a slick CRM system, take advantage and complain on and offline which can result in the organisation making compensations twice for the same customer. The challenge is set to escalate as our well-loved social media channels evolve to offer consumers increasing options to engage with brands online.
For example, you no longer need to have a Twitter “follow” for someone to DM (Direct Message) you, meaning companies and customers can now contact each other directly and privately. At the same time, there is no character limit for Direct Messages, so it’s now perfect for dealing with customer queries.
Facebook, not to be outdone, has launched a beta version of Messenger Business, offering a new chat-based space for companies to have real-time, personal conversations with customers and this is a no-brainer considering that Messenger already has more than 800 million users.
Finally, WhatsApp with its 1 billion users is also somewhere brands will be sure to encourage customers to reach them. With so much personal communication now happening within apps, it’s easy to see that consumers will choose a quick, easy and mobile-friendly method for customer service exchanges. So if your brand wants to improve customer experience – you need to own this space.
Today’s customer services team should include social media customer services as standard and this might mean rethinking how customers are treated today, including how to integrate with Marketing and IT to deliver a seamless, integrated social customer service experience. Through our work with Binatone, PitPat and Heritage Bathrooms we’ve noticed that our first priority in any exchange must be to manage expectations. Consumers are human and surprisingly you don’t have to solve their problem immediately but you do need to tell them you’ve heard them. And quickly.
It’s also ok to be funny sometimes, but mainly you need to listen to them and get personal with them. Just because you’ve put your name at the end of the tweet doesn’t automatically mean they’ll trust you. You need to speak like a real person but this does need to be balanced with the official company message too, that’s the tricky part. There’s much more I could say on this subject so I’ll leave it for another post, but in the spirit of celebrating social media customer service projects we look forward to working on…let me leave you with this exchange from Sainsbury’s which shows one way it can be done well….