How NOT to please the social customer


Providing customer support on social media can be very effective, but it’s easy to get it wrong. Here are the most common pitfalls.

Mistake #1: Forgetting that a tweet is still a business transaction

Don’t let social become a silo. It may be a new channel, but it’s still your customer at the other end. Adopt the same professional tone, style, response times and standards of service excellence that you would on any other channel.

Social isn’t a nice-to-have. It has real commercial impact – just check the statistics on customer churn arising from a lack of responsiveness on social media.

Mistake #2: Overcomplicating things

Brian Atkinson

Don’t try to be too clever. Ensure things are simplified, making it easy for your customers to connect with you and interact with the right person first time.

You also need to be agile. The customer may switch channels part-way through an interaction, so provide them with the flexibility to use their preferred method of interaction at that particular moment in time.

Mistake #3: Putting social media in second place

Make sure you staff your social channels properly. The social customer is just as valuable as the customer who calls you on the phone.

Social should not be a separate team, it’s not an adjunct to “real” customer services and it’s certainly not for the “B” team.

Customers now communicate across multiple emerging channels and devices. What’s more, their preferences are becoming well established, so if you are not accessible in the way that they want to interact with you, then you cannot deliver the customer experience that they now expect.

With thanks to Brian Atkinson, Head Of Customer Collaboration UK & Ireland Cisco

Mistake #4: Sending out delayed and impersonal responses

Tim Pickard

Don’t delay in responding to customers. Customers expect a quick response through social media and are more likely to switch to a competitor if they feel ignored.

Also don’t respond with impersonal corporate policy. Make sure your replies are friendly and personal for the customer.

With thanks to Tim Pickard, SVP Marketing at NewVoiceMedia

Mistake #5: Burying your head in the sand

One fatal faux pas is to ‘bury your head in the sand’. If you’re offering social channels as a means of customer service, it’s imperative that you respond to genuine customer enquiries and that you do so in a timely manner.

Ignoring people is not an option.

Mistake #6: Only responding to the positive comments

Only responding to the positive comments is another no-no. If you’ve got time to retweet or say thanks for the positive comments, then be sure to respond to the negative feedback too.

The disparity between the marketing team and the customer service team can become all too apparent here.

Mistake #7: Ignoring the human touch

Generic and automated responses should be avoided where possible. The human touch is invaluable and can have a huge impact on a successful outcome.

It’s those personal interactions that seem to go the extra mile that leave us with a happy, warm-glow feeling – not an automated impersonal message!

Mistake #8: Letting your emotions run wild in a public rant

Mike Donohue

Stay calm! It’s all too easy to let emotions run wild and get embroiled in a public rant, but this is not a good plan.

Make sure that staff have clear rules and policies, and that they know when to count to ten and step away from the keyboard. Also, don’t underestimate the power of spelling, grammar and language skills.

Mistake #9: Ignoring the need for proper planning

One of the biggest faux pas is to jump into social customer service without proper planning.

Think about the resources that you have and what you will need; what tools will be required, what your staff training needs are, the rules you need defined and how this will be communicated to staff.

You should also put escalation channels and a structured process of reviewing in place, and keep amending and evolving your plan.

With thanks to Mike Donohue, Sales Director at Magnetic North

Mistake #10: Using copy and paste responses

When customers are repeatedly ignored or fed obviously copied and pasted responses, it is like a ‘black hole’ of social customer service has appeared. This hideous vortex of social customer service is a real concern for customer retention, especially when it is happening in full public view.

Keep responding slowly, badly or not at all and your organisation will suffer the consequences in lost loyalty, both from new customers who were just warming up to your brand or from existing customers wondering if the grass now looks greener elsewhere.

Mistake #11: Not separating your customer service from marketing

The approach of having a separate Twitter handle for customer service helps to focus on having a 2-way dialogue with customers and avoids missing requests for help amid marketing messages.

Make your Twitter handle clear by using addresses such as @ASOS_HeretoHelp, @VueHelp and @VodafoneUKHelp on Twitter and provide links from your Facebook pages to your dedicated online forum and customer community.

Mistake #12: Not publicising available support hours

Carolyn Blunt

Let customers know your hours of social customer service support:

Virgin Media say, “If you want to tweet us or chat on Facebook, this is when we’re about: Monday – Friday 8am – 10pm, Saturday – Sunday 8am – 4:15pm.”

The speed and quality of response is essential to hang onto your savvy social customers. Responding with an acknowledgement in under 5 minutes and a resolution in under 20 minutes is ideal, and at least 80% of all posts need to be responded to if you want to make it into the top 10 of social customer service.

With thanks to Carolyn Blunt, Customer Service expert and co-author of the book ‘How To Deliver Effective Social Customer Service’

Mistake #13: Introducing all of your new channels at the same time

Before investing in multichannel, ensure your customers want it and that you are resourced properly to service it.

Customers won’t thank you if you offer several channels which you can’t support properly. It’s far better to stick with a single new channel to start with – that you can handle well – and build gradually.

Mistake #14: Ignoring the need for an inbound set-up

Ken Reid

A trap that some contact centres have fallen into is thinking that they will use social media as an outbound marketing channel only, and that they don’t need to worry about the inbound set-up.

A dedicated, inbound customer service channel must be implemented to handle the resulting queries from the outbound social channel or it will go horribly wrong – ensure you have one!

Mistake #15: Not integrating all the channels

Another common problem faced by contact centres is that they invest in the ‘all singing, all dancing’ multichannel operation – but they don’t integrate those channels. Result? Chaos!

If you run channels in silos, staff don’t have access to all the customer history and this results in disgruntled customers having to repeat themselves to confused customer service advisors.

Have the right systems and processes in place and you will really start to reap the rewards – this is an area where there is no short cut to success.

With thanks to Ken Reid, Director of Proposition and Product at Rostrvm Solutions


Mistake #16: Not responding in an appropriate or timely manner

Customers using social channels quite rightly expect organisations to reply using the same channels, and they also expect a response time that’s appropriate for the channel they’re using.

With chat I expect an instant response, social within the hour, email – the same day, and I’m happy to wait a few days when I send a letter.

That’s why it’s important for customer contact centres to have the right staffing levels across all channels, and also access to multi-skilled agents who can handle social requests if your dedicated social agents are busy.

Mistake #17: Failing to equip social agents with a phone

Susannah Richardson

Some queries are too complex to resolve as social interactions. For example, security might be an issue if the discussion is on Facebook, or there might not be enough characters available via Twitter.

That’s why it’s also important to equip your social agents with phone, email and chat capabilities. This will enable them to transition their social interaction to another means if it is getting complex or needs further clarification.

You also need to make sure you don’t make the customer go through endless security processes as you move them from one channel to another as this will really annoy them.

With thanks to Susannah Richardson, Marketing Director at mplsystems

What do you think is the biggest mistake you can make with a social customer?

Or why not get involved in our Twitter Panel? Just answer ‘What is the best way to handle a complaint through social media?’ in less than 140 characters. Tweet all answers to @callcentrehelp

Published On: 16th Apr 2014 - Last modified: 18th Sep 2019
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy, , , , ,

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