4 Key Principles of Social Customer Service

By: Sofie De Beule

September 10, 2014

Customers are sick and tired of poor customer service. Treat them wrong, and they won’t return.

The world of social media is constantly evolving. Expectations and demands change and are continuously growing. However, the basics of social customer service and CRM aren’t. If you haven’t gotten traditional customer service right in the first place, providing the same support on social media won’t go smoothly either.

In a survey by ClickSoftware, 35% of the people surveyed stopped doing business after an incident of poor customer service. Although many companies have a presence on social media and are active on it, it’s, unfortunately, still a one-way street that leaves customers extremely frustrated. As people turn to social media to publicly voice issues and complaints about companies, the failed attempts to provide the right support has led to massive social media firestorms.

35% of people would stop doing business after an incident of poor customer service.

Organizations need to acknowledge the problem and take matters into their own hands. They are either losing existing customers or missing out on gaining new ones. Blaming poor social customer service on the wrong resources or bad training is simply a poor excuse.

A Customer Service Mindset is Part of Corporate Culture

If companies can’t even get traditional customer service right, how will they be able to provide quality customer service on social media?

What needs to change is the overall customer service culture, or, more importantly, corporate culture. This change in mindset demands a lot of time and energy. However, the most fundamental basis of social customer service and CRM isn’t changing.

In order to change a company’s mindset about social customer service, they need to understand these basics first. What are some of the most important principles of social customer service? Let’s focus on some key items that are meaningful for the people managing the social customer service team and the social customer care agents themselves.

1. Team Commitment

It’s all about people no matter what industry you’re in. Customers don’t know what goes on behind the scenes; they mostly get to know a company through a multitude of customer touchpoints like in-store contact, through the phone, or via social media.

Therefore, the interactions people have with frontline social customer service agents are extremely important. To cater to a greater customer experience, teams need to be committed to continuously deliver excellent customer service. In general, a customer service team member needs to commit to 3 things: the company and its corporate values, the customers, and their team of social customer service agents.

The quality of your social media efforts will predominantly be determined by the level of commitment from the company who needs to deliver the value. Training not only plays a huge role, but adopting your corporate values and business culture counts too.

What matters the most is the amount of commitment your team displays for the people who buy the products – your customers. Team leaders need to keep the customer service agents motivated to continue to deliver the same value over and over again and provide guidance on how to connect with the customer.

A committed team member goes beyond simply replying to every single incoming mention, and that level of commitment requires you to educate the right people.

A great example of a company who understands the mindset social customer service requires is JetBlue. According to their Social Media and Customer Commitment Team Leader, Laurie Meacham, they call themselves a “customer service company that happens to fly planes”. Their small acts of goodwill and closely collaborating with teams worldwide have made a huge impact on their image. When it comes to team commitment, Laura from JetBlue believes “communication” is the number one rule.

2. Constant Tweaking

There’s always room for improvement.

Like any relationship, the relationship with your customer takes work. If a company is serious about embracing a culture of social customer care, you will need to tweak every single aspect of your social customer service culture to be able to respond rapidly to your customers’ needs.

By constantly tweaking your customer service agents’ job-specific skills, you’re taking a huge step forward in adopting the social customer care philosophy. Social customer service isn’t just about having good instincts, it’s about building a team of people who are extremely customer-centric.

Moreover, actively and proactively responding to customers will provide a lot of feedback about your customers. This allows you to gain more insights into your product and the way expectations are changing as well. A multitude of elements of social customer service like personnel shifts, response times, manuals, etc. need to be tweaked on a regular base. Use all of the feedback you have collected about your customer to modify your social customer service strategy.

3. There’s No Great Service Without a Great Online Knowledge Base

Listen to what your customers are saying. Monitor and incorporate feedback into your online support center. Customers are accustomed to quick responses. Be proactive and address issues before a customer contacts your company about it.

An online knowledge base allows you to quickly address your customers’ issues by swiftly redirecting them to the type of information they need like transferring them to an internal specialist or pointing them in the direction of forms on your website, for example.

The most important aspect of showing how much you value your customers is taking care of their needs in a timely, efficient, and correct manner. By regularly updating your online knowledge base, you not only show your ability to listen carefully to your audience but earn their trust as a reliable source as well.

This type of self-service customer support dramatically reduces costs, optimizes response time, and increases the productivity of your social customer service agents.

4. Understand the Reason Why People are Contacting You Through Social Media

Social media and customer service still live far too independently. Meaning, customers won’t get the same service or experience on, for example, Twitter compared to an online help desk. Social media is still in the hands of the marketing department rather than the customer service department. Consequently, customers don’t know which channel to turn to and are left feeling frustrated. Even more important is the damage caused by failing to meet their needs.

People are obviously contacting you on social media because they failed to get a reply through another channel. Turning to a the social media channels of a business is not only more efficient, it’s extremely straightforward. Customers contact companies because of marketing, legal, or product development issues.

Companies need to understand the reason for the contact, and those departments need to be held accountable. Own these actions across departments, and use that valuable information to make further improvements to your service and product.

Outstanding social customer service can make any business stand out because it’s so rare. By implementing these principles, you’ll learn how to gain a crucial edge over your competition.

This post originally appeared on Maximize Social Business.