Houston, we have a problem – and it’s with the way most companies are running their social media accounts. Because customers are turning to Twitter accounts, in particular, for help – and most of the time that’s the last thing they get.
What they get, instead, is an extension of the uselessness of the company’s other customer service interfaces (like call centres) and another set of poorly scripted responses. More platitudes, and no real action beyond a promise to ‘escalate’ the complaint, or send feedback. And then nothing.
I suspect the problem is that many companies are still afraid of social media. They know they have to use it, but they don’t understand it, so they outsource to agencies to do it for them. Those agencies don’t know the inner workings of the organisation, and they actually don’t have the ability to answer the query, so they simply provide the scripted response, ensuring they add their key messaging to keep the client’s marketing department happy, and send off their hefty bill. Job done – but the customer gets short shrift.
Or they’re employing some young, hip thing to do social media – someone who doesn’t really have the knowledge or the people skills to deal with irate customers. But they can follow the script and throw in an emoji or two, so they must be doing their job, right?
There’s no real accountability on many of these social media accounts: no action, and no customer satisfaction. In fact, I think many of them are damaging their brands.
So here are my suggestions:
First, if your social media account doesn’t provide customer service, have the balls to say so in the account bio, and to answer complaints and queries with a clear statement to that effect.
Then, if you are going to take complaints and queries, then have a protocol set up for how those queries will be handled – in public, on the timeline. Direct or private messaging should only be for customers to send confidential details. Taking complaints offline raises people’s hackles every single time: transparency is not just for governments.
Train people in your organisation in customer service and give them both solid writing skills and social media training – and then let them run the social media account. It’s the online equivalent of a customer service desk – they’re just typing instead of speaking, and you want your most experienced, most knowledgeable people here, not some junior with an iPhone.
Finally, make ‘authenticity’ the watchword – don’t script the responses, and teach your social media agents to talk to customers as if they’re real people – because they are! No buzzwords, not platitudes, no empty promises – just straight talking, and providing a real service.
Most of all, give your customers credit. They know when they’re being fobbed off, patronised, or dismissed. They also know when they’re being ignored. And none of those things is going to build brand loyalty, no matter how much ‘key messaging’ you include.