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Customers know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and web-savvy customers know that Facebook is the ultimate squeak amplifier. According to Forrester Research, 27% of U.S. online consumers sought customer service support on the web in 2011, and currently three out of four expect a reply to a negative comment posted on Facebook.
Unfortunately, many brands still don’t incorporate customer service into their social strategy, despite the fact that Facebook is one of the best venues in which to turn your customers’ negative comments into brand opportunities.
Here are eight tips to help you improve your Facebook customer support initiative and, in turn, raise your brand’s reputation, decrease your inbound service requests, acquire new customers and turn infrequent customers into brand loyalists. What are your tips? Let us know in the comments below.
“Your Facebook wall is not an adequate customer service platform because it is not searchable, and it puts a negative twist on your main page,” says Jeff Nolan, VP of product at Get Satisfaction. Nolan suggests that brands build an online customer service channel and then funnel the data into their current CRM system. Companies such as Get Satisfaction, Lithium, Moxie Software and Parature enable brands to offer customers a way to connect in multiple online locations, including Facebook.
With these products, companies can streamline their customer service processes and track important customer data, no matter where the customer decides to engage. As these features become more commonplace, customers will begin to instinctively seek them out when they visit a brand’s page, so be prepared.
“Identify and develop relationships with influencers who are knowledgeable about your products,” recommends Erin Korogodsky, social strategist at Lithium. “Those superfans are likely to lend a hand when a customer stops by with a question.” Products like Lithium’s LevelUp social suite allow for the peer-to-peer customer support Korogodsky suggests. Cultivation, encouragement and rewards for “superfans” who engage such solutions provide customer service request deflection, which Korogodsky says is one of the best ways you can save money for your business.
3. Who’s the Boss?
When it comes to social support, it is not always clear who’s in charge. Your customer service reps are not Facebook experts and vice-versa — that is why the two groups must team up to provide online customers with the best support experience. Have your social media team field Facebook comments and escalate issues to the appropriate customer service representative. Many social media marketing platforms, such as Buddy Media, Context Optional and Wildfire offer moderation features that allow for customer service reps to be pinged and prompted to respond upon assignment.
4. Transparent Humans
Users have faith in the transparency of social media and look to it as a place where they can directly contact their favorite companies — and be heard. Create a brand voice that is human and approachable. Do not delete posts, but instead take the opportunity to solve your customers’ issues or complaints on your public page. Each problem is most likely a problem for another customer and if the answer is easy to find, customers will be able to answer their own inquiries. At the very least, page visitors and friends of the disgruntled customer will see your brand as attentive and solution-oriented.
5. This is Your Time
Elisabeth Diana of Facebook’ communications team suggests brands take advantage of two new Timeline features: messages and pinned posts. First, users can now directly connect with a brand through brand page messages. This feature can serve as a free online customer service support system for your brand until your volume becomes unmanageable. Customers can also exchange private information with your brand, such as phone numbers and email addresses, which may help you solve their problem faster. The downside is that there will be no audience to watch you turn a negative situation into a positive one. Remember however, that this is an optional feature and can be turned off (which many large brands already have done).
In addition, “Pinned” posts allow brands to highlight certain hot topics by pinning them to the top of the wall. Diana uses TurboTax as an example of a brand that really takes advantage of this feature. As Tax Day approaches every year, TurboTax receives an influx of the same questions. So instead of posting the same answer multiple times, the company can now pin reply posts to the top of the wall, thus reducing the number of incoming inquiries.
6. Know Your Issues
As your brand continues to offer effective customer service on Facebook, you will see that the volume of requests will only increase. Take this opportunity to log some of your previously solved issues in order to be more efficient and consistent with future replies (without sounding automated, of course). You may also want to take these most common questions, requests and issues and build a FAQ Facebook tab. Again, if your customers are able to find answers easily, your workload will be lessened, as will negative sentiment on your wall.
7. Set Up Alerts
If you have very active Facebook fans and are able to use a social media marketing platform, it’s important to set up alerts for certain keywords to help filter out high priority initiatives. Single out certain terms such as “question,” “customer service” or “frustrated,” and you will receive notifications when related comments are posted. If you are a toy company currently experiencing an issue with a particular toy, set an alert for the product name. Whether the comments are positive or negative, you will be kept in the loop.
8. Accept Compliments Graciously
Your mother always taught you to say “thank you” — your brand should do the same. Don’t just respond to negative comments, reply to positive ones, too — you can encourage positivity with politeness and grace. Fans love to know that their favorite brands hear and appreciate their praise, and they will often come back to leave positive comments in the future. These positive comments help shift the overall sentiment of your wall, improve brand reputation and increase Facebook virality … so remember to say “thank you.”
These are eight tips to get started on your social support effort, but know that this is an intense endeavor that will need constant attention. Ty McMahan, director of communications for customer service rating website STELLAService, says it best: “We wouldn’t say that customer service on Facebook is easy. Still, there’s a fantastic opportunity for a brand to wow customers by being on the cutting edge.”
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