Customer Experience News & Trends

4 social media mistakes to avoid when serving customers

Social media can be the fastest, most fun way to help customers. But its freshness also makes it prime for customer service faux pas.

Customers want help via social media, from Facebook to Twitter and beyond. And they expect it to be fast. More than 40% expect an answer to a post within an hour, an Edison Research study found.

Meeting that expectation is only the first challenge for Customer Service. The answers need to be correct, helpful and professional. If they aren’t — and perhaps this is the biggest challenge in delivering customer service in social media — the fallout goes viral, attracting unwanted, negative attention.

Here are four of the biggest social media mistakes that companies can make — and tips on how to avoid them:

1. Inattentiveness

Research has already found that customers have high expectations for response time on social media. But even when they aren’t waiting for answers or resolutions, they expect to find relevant, updated information in social media.

When direct-sales jeweler Lia Sophia announced it was going out of business, employees and customers were a bit shocked. But their jaws dropped, and disappointment rose, when the company continued to post new items and promotions on social media. Why? No one stopped the posts that were already scheduled. So customers got irrelevant information, not answers to the new questions they had on order status and product returns.

Lesson: When you schedule content, constantly check future posts for relevance before they’re published.

2. Insensitivity

Social media is one of the most relaxed forms of communication with customers. But it’s never OK to let your professional guard down.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Epicurious suggested on Twitter that people order some delicacies related to Boston. After that, they mentioned support for the terrorized community. Customers and millions beyond that found it insensitive.

Lesson: Follow the same customer service rules of concern and compassion you use on the phone in social media.

3. Editing

No one likes negative comments. They can make a company, its customer service and employees look bad.

But one thing can make the company look worse: deleting or editing negative comments from their social media sites.

Smuckers not only deleted negative and disagreeable responses to one of its Facebook posts; it disabled customers’ ability to comment altogether.

Lesson: If you’re going to use social media as a customer service or marketing platform, you must be prepared to take the bad with the good. Acknowledge negative comments and, if necessary, take emotional or complex issues offline with an invitation to make a call or exchange email.

4. Unprofessionalism

Some companies and front-line employees have been known to take the casualness of social media too far, allowing text-style language, informal tones and grammar, and spelling errors in the interest of time.

Don’t forget: Social media is still a form of professional communication with customers.

Lesson: Posts and responses should go through the same filter as other forms of written correspondence.

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