How social media and digital self-care can show your customers you care.

Ashling Plunkett
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On: 7 Jun 2018
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Customers often need help, but in the digital age they are less likely to pick up the phone and more likely to go online. By encouraging digital self-care and moving more customer interactions online, customer support agents can be freed-up to handle more complex issues more effectively.

Listening to Greensleeves while waiting to speak to a customer support agent is not how people want to spend their time. Customers are more impatient and empowered than ever, so businesses need to offer better, faster support if they want to retain them and build loyalty. This doesn’t have to mean investing in more agents; a digitally-savvy customer base is more than capable of looking after itself, if you provide the tools.

Be where your customers are.

Online is increasingly the method we choose to facilitate much of our lives: whether for social, business, retail or even relationship purposes. Any business that wants to have a presence in the lives of its customers must have a presence online.

A business that wants to have a presence in the lives of its customers must have a presence online.

Exactly where that online presence should be depends on where exactly your customers are – which depends to a great extent on who they are. The age demographic of Facebook users is slowly rising. Twitter is still largely the domain of 18-24 year-olds. Meanwhile, for business-to-business interactions, LinkedIn is the place to be. It’s essential to ensure you are in the right place or you will simply be typing into the void.

However, simply being there is not enough.

Customers soon see through any business that isn’t putting its heart and soul – and sufficient resources – into the medium. It’s important to have the right people to maintain your social media presence in the right way. It doesn’t matter whether you train current employees – who understand the company culture – in social media use, or you hire social media naturals and immerse them into your company culture. What does matter is that your social media presence is treated as just another way to continue your customer conversations and relationships, and not as an entirely different conversation altogether.

All things to all customers?

Just as a self-service check-out can’t cope with an unexpected item in the bagging area, so too is digital self-care unable to cope with every single customer or every type of interaction. Although social media offers the potential for a one-to-one conversation, it can potentially be a very public space. Public interactions on social media can quickly go viral, which is fine if the conversation reveals how excellent your service is. It’s not so fine if your service has fallen short, or if that is the customer’s perception. If an issue is looking complex or potentially troublesome, the safe answer is to move it to a private forum such as direct messaging. Ideally, except as a last resort, customers should not be directed to a helpline. If a customer is online that’s where they want to stay, and the aim should be to resolve the problem via the same medium by which it was received.

A Social Media Management solution can make this easier to do. From the agent’s perspective, they can follow customer queries through from beginning to end in a “channel agnostic” manner. From the customer’s point of view, they don’t get handed over to a different agent with each point of contact they make on the same issue.

Social media conversations need to be conducted in customer-friendly language, not in corporate speak. While being relaxed and friendly is important, this doesn’t mean letting down your guard. Follow these guidelines and social media can be an effective tool for conversation with your customers.

It’s been nice talking to you, but…

While enabling agents to support customers online is typically quicker and more cost-effective than a phone call, if the customer can find the answer online themselves, that’s even better. With every customer interaction you can guide them toward the online self-care option, so they can go right there in future. Examples include a blog with tips or resolutions to common problems, a customer community forum, or a self-care app.

Of course the customer should never feel they are being fobbed-off to a second-best solution and they should never be directed elsewhere before the agent has resolved the issue. The formula is to provide the resolution, then to provide useful information for the future along the lines of: “Did you know that you can find X at Y?”

An important point to remember is that most social media interactions will be from the customer’s smartphone. If you direct them to your website then your website must be mobile friendly or you will simply frustrate the customer.

Managing expectations.

Online customer support and digital self-care options will help you to support more customers, more effectively. Having customers who access answers themselves, or whose simple queries can be answered quickly online, releases customer support agents to deal with more complex questions via the helpline. Self-care is 24-hour customer support, whereas it’s unlikely your helpline or your social media presence will be.

Your customers increasingly live online, it’s up to you whether this is an opportunity or a challenge for your business.

Find more insights to grow your business at the Business Learning Centre: