As early as the 19th century, “tweet” was a charming term in the English language, evocative of the gentle vocal stylings of small birds. Now it refers to the music of a rather different beast, one that, at its loudest, can deafen and defeat businesses. Twitter, among other social platforms, has in recent years become a mighty digital megaphone for many frustrated (or conversely, happy) customers. A Tweet has become so much a part of communication in certain cultures and how they interact with the world that it is not just a noun: It’s a very powerful verb. And, as we’ve seen in now notorious cases (lest we forget the United Airlines incident), it’s become a way for customers to size up and shout about serious blunders in customer service to an ever-growing court of public opinion.
That being said: Social media platforms aren’t solely used for public brand-shaming. In fact, we should regard them with even a smidgen of positivity, as they are unique conversation channels that present pathways towards establishing and maintaining relationships with customers. For those of us invested in improving our customer support offerings, we must acknowledge social media as a remarkable space in which to play. It presents a unique opportunity to offer customer support and service for legitimate customer support questions; that is, it’s possible to have a non-turbulent tête-à-tête on Twitter, Facebook, and other channels.
In addition to monitoring and responding to customer support requests in a timely and educated fashion, companies can think ahead and employ social media in other ways that will boost overall customer experience. Using social media as a form of customer support will remind you of some important overarching customer service themes:
When a customer reaches out to you on a social channel (be it to your support-specific Twitter handle or via your Facebook business page, it’s important to aim to resolve their query or issue upon first contact. Social media platforms luckily have the ability to provide real-time updates; this is useful especially in times of crises (product recalls, cancelled flights or trips, and other critical pieces) for businesses that are service-based and for which time matters. Some familiar brands have certainly stepped up their game in this regard, much to the joy of customers.
Consumers will, more often than ever, turn decidedly towards social platforms and make their experience public when they feel ignored (and relatedly, frustrated). Added to this is their desire to make the brand aware of the complaint. ‘Taking to Twitter’ makes their unresolved support issue public and potentially potent, the idea being that the brand in question will be prompted to act with more urgency now that it has been socially shamed. These are not ideal instances for any business, and could be avoided by simply acknowledging the customer-in-need. Quite simply: Don’t ignore your customers, online or otherwise. As Jay Baer writes, “No response is a response … Whatever the reason, your silence speaks volumes.”
While it’s the latest craze to implement chatbots into the social media/customer support space (such as Facebook’s enabling of chatbot support via Messenger, or Apple’s “Business Chat”), human beings are key to your support solutions. Whether on social platforms or in-store, it is crucial to employ full-time social media managers as part of your customer service arsenal, those who are charged with monitoring your multiple platforms and keeping a hawk-eye out for any potentially frustrated or unanswered consumers, product issues, or burgeoning PR catastrophes. Monitoring the vast social space can require one human agent, if not many, and should be integrated into your social plan in order to manage, inform, and monitor the new technologies and platforms you’ll be implementing to remain relevant and connected to the modern online customer.
With the increased technological shifts that our industry will see going forward, it will be easier to lag behind the speed of change. What can center us in these complex times is remembering the fundamentals of customer service: timeliness, availability, and personability. Whether online or in person, getting these things right will give your customers something (good) to Tweet about.