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5 Reasons Social Customer Service is Still Subpar

The following is a Best of 360Connext post.

As customers, we are expecting a lot from companies who are using social media to respond to customer service issues. Actually, scratch that. We expect ALL companies to be responsive when we go to them via social media. Studies from Ambassador and Social Bakers reveal how mismatched our expectations are with reality.

Consider what customers expect:

  • 71% of online customers expect to receive assistance within 5 minutes of reaching out to a company.
  • 33% would rather use social media to interact with a company than over the telephone.
  • 42% of Twitter users expect a response to their inquiries within one hour.

And yet here is what customers are getting:

  • Only 36% of customers who ask for assistance via social media have reported receiving effective service.
  • Brands included in the study only responded to 62% of questions posted via social media. (This is on the rise, but still leaves more than one third of us ignored.)

Can you imagine if these stats held true for customer service questions via the phone?

Why is this so challenging?

As social media became more mainstream, companies responded by adding duties to the ones they thought best equipped to deal with customer service issues. Already strapped customer service departments were asked to monitor the corporate social media presence in addition to answering the regular calls from customers. Many reps weren’t well-versed in social media etiquette, leading to now classic case studies in what-not-to-do, like responding sarcastically via public channels or outright ignoring of complaints and/or trying to delete them.

Now, some companies have entire teams dedicated to the 24/7 world of social customer service. And yet, just like we witnessed in the evolution of call centers, the evolution of this channel for customer service is experiencing some predictable bumps in the road.

In my opinion, here are the biggest mistakes in social customer service:

Social Customer service

1. Installing technology chiefs instead of people people.

Yes, social media uses technology. Tools help companies monitor and respond. But the tone and judgment of how to reply to customers is still a real, live person’s job. If you have the wrong person in that role, your customers will suffer.

2. Responding with a script.

We all know when we call in and get a scripted response, and the same holds in social media. Responding to an honest question over Twitter with a link to the “FAQ’s” or lame help section of a corporate web site not only doesn’t help, it comes across as lazy and uncaring.

3. Paying attention to brand mentions only.

It’s critical to respond to brand mentions. There is no doubt about that. But customers often discuss how they use tools or products without mentioning the brand name. We ask our social networks for recommendations before we make purchases. Brands should walk a fine line here (this is where personal judgment is so important). Watch the conversations to see what big issues need to be addressed, but don’t insert yourself into a personal conversation among friends.

4. Not responding, or not responding quickly enough.

It’s ok not to have the answer right away. It’s ok to respond with a “we’re looking into that” and then arrange a time to get back to the customer. It’s not ok to ignore the question until you have the answer. I once asked my local newspaper, via Twitter, if the blue bag the paper came in was recyclable. It took 3 of my tweets for the response of “we’re looking into that for you.” And then, disappointingly, I never heard from them again. Make sure systems within the organization support these types of interactions so they don’t fall through the cracks.

5. Just being jerky.

This goes without saying, but for some reason I have to say it. Don’t be a jerk. Customers are the only profit center for any company. Treat them nicely.

Let’s face it, many companies still haven’t figured out customer service in general, let alone how to address it via social channels. Those that get it right earn some impressive loyalty from customers. According to that Ambassador study, those of us who receive good service via these channels will spend 21% more than those that don’t. So it seems worth it to invest in good people, systems and tools to get this right. Don’t you think?

This post was written for, and a version originally appeared on Social Media Club’s Clubhouse blog.

Image Credit: Paul Keller via Creative Commons

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