Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Providing Excellent Customer Support through Social Media

by Jeremiah Methven

One of the latest innovations in the customer support world is providing support through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. These avenues afford exciting opportunities as they can be a great way to showcase your company’s customer service. But if handled unprofessionally, they can also have a much more negative impact than a phone or chat interaction gone awry. Based on my own experience from being on the ground for implementation of social media support at my company, here are some tips for those new to the world of social media support:

1. Keep it timely
In my experience, customers’ expected speed to answer for social media is significantly faster than for other channels. It’s generally acceptable business practice to answer support email inquiries within one business day. But a customer tweeting at your company Twitter account or writing on your company Facebook page expects a faster response. Although no single guideline is correct for every company, we recommend responding within 30 minutes to a tweet and 60 minutes to a Facebook post during business hours.

2. Remember, it’s public
It’s always important to be professional and customer-focused. Yet it’s even more imperative when responding to a social media inquiry to give an excellent response because literally anyone can see it, something that simply isn’t the case with a phone interaction. We recommend that the person who writes the response writes as if they are the CEO of the company, because anything written under the company name will be viewed by the public as exactly that, a statement that represents the entire company. This also leads into tip #3...

3. Take the conversation offline if necessary
It’s often appropriate to steer a social media conversation offline unless it’s a very straightforward question and answer response. For example, with any complex technical issue, the 140 character limit of Twitter will often prove to be insufficient to explain how to resolve a problem. Offer to direct message the customer on Twitter or private message them on Facebook, at which point email addresses and phone numbers can also be exchanged if needed. This is all the more imperative for a serious customer dispute. Even if you are standing by company policy, it’s rarely going to look good for your company if you wind up in an escalating argument with a customer over social media. Move the conversation offline. The customer won’t mind as long as you work with them quickly and professionally to reach a resolution.

Have any other tips on how to provide excellent support through social media? We'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or tweet us at @CallCntrWeekly

Jeremiah Methven is the Team Lead for iContact's Support Engineering team, who handles support for the iContact API, the iContact for Salesforce integration and social media channels, all while documenting product bugs and issues and assisting internal agents. 

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