Monthly Archives: December 2016

Customer Service Strategy with Social Media

This is probably one of the most missed opportunities for small businesses when it comes to social media. Because social media can be so complicated— you have to have someone manage it. You have several different platforms to work with. Your content has to be relevant and engaging and you need to be looking at metrics for analysis.
A social customer service strategy is generally the last thing on anyone’s mind.

While using social media for customer service purposes may not be the first thing to worry about when creating a social media strategy, it isn’t something that should go unnoticed completely.

Once you are a little bit more advanced and have all of your different social accounts running smoothly, you can start to take on customer service requests. But you have to create an entirely new social customer service strategy to make this work. It’s an excellent avenue to use to help set you apart from the competition.

Benefits of a Social Customer Service Strategy
There are essentially three major reasons that using social for customer servicer purposes is important for future success:

The Consumers Want It. According to a ZenDesk article, nearly half of all US consumers use social media to ask questions, complain, or report something, and one third of social users prefer social media customer service to a phone call.

Beat the Competition. For whatever reason, businesses are still missing out (despite the last point). According to a Triangle Direct Media article, a 2015 Northridge Group study found that 40 percent of consumers expect resolution within one hour when using social media, but one-third of those who contact a brand never get a response.

Consumers Have New Expectations (they want fast). The rise of the Internet has made consumers a little bit less patient. Everything is at their fingertips, and customer service should be as well. Even if you are trying to stray away from the phone calls and offering online options, you can’t beat social media because it is so widely available and used. This is essentially why social media content is so important in the first place. It offers information fast, and consumers expect answers to their questions fast.

Tips for Creating a Social Customer Service Strategy
It is important that you create a social customer service strategy not only within your company to respond quickly to questions on social media, but you have to make sure that you’re actually encouraging questions in the first place by letting your consumers know that your social accounts are ready for it.
Remember: This does not mean anything else about your social strategy has to change. It’s just a great add-on.
So how do you start? Below are a few things you can do to make sure you’re successful.

Have a designated account for support questions.

This is probably the biggest tip anyone can give you. It may seem overwhelming to have questions being posted to your social media accounts, but that’s because it is. What you need to make sure you do is setup accounts specifically for questions and help. Take Hootsuite for example. They have an @hootsuite_help account that answers questions right then and there. They talk more about their success here where they talk about why developing their own product in this way was so important.
Make it known on your accounts that you welcome questions and comments.

Naturally, if you’re going to have a separate account for all questions that come through via social media you have to let people know that the account exists. Market it by writing a blog post and making an announcement. Start following loyal customers and getting the word out there, and of course put the account link in your description on your actual social pages.

If for some reason someone does ask a question on the wrong page, it’s a good idea to still answer it if it is a quick answer to show that you’re monitoring your accounts and you appreciate the questions (and you don’t just have the generic “please call us”). However, this is also a great time to point someone to your help page; thus getting the word out even further.
Treat your responses like a conversation and keep it public.

Unless a question or comment is very involved and needs to be taken off social media and into a direct message and then probably an email or a phone call, you want to keep your answers public. This helps show that you’re answering questions and are engaged with your customers/ clients. As far as reading “like a conversation” goes, it’s important to simply talk like a real person and not a computer. When an issue is solved, go the extra mile and say, “thanks so much for asking!” so that it shows you’re engaged and not just managing a huge operation of questions.

Again, one of the biggest benefits of social media customer service is the fact that people can ask questions and get answers quickly. You need to be prepared for the influx of questions and make sure they’re answered quickly and correctly. It’s tough to be prepared at first, so air on the side of caution and consider allowing several or your employees to take one hour out of their day to manage the questions and/or send them to the right people to answer.

I recommend having one person from each department in charge of looking over your support accounts and answering when appropriate so that you have someone from all areas answering. Then, you need to have your social media expert or team keep an eye out on all of the accounts to make sure nothing gets looked over.

Have your hours of operation clearly stated.

People are used to social media being there and ready to work 24/7. It’s important you put your hours of operation clearly on your accounts to avoid any confusion.
Don’t forget to send people back to your website to learn more.

As you answer questions, don’t be afraid to put links to your website in your answer if relevant. Not only will this get someone onto your website and hopefully clicking around, but because your answers are public other people may click as well to learn more.

The Takeaway
Again, it’s important that your social media accounts don’t turn into a place full of questions. You still want the majority of your social platforms to be full of engaging and relevant content, images, videos, and company news. Questions should not take over, which is why I highly recommend having separate accounts if possible.

Tips to Calm an Angry Customer

You’ve got an angry—no, downright irate—customer in your store. They’re causing a ruckus and clearly making your other customers uncomfortable. What can you do to keep things from spiraling out of control?
How to Deal With an Angry Customer

Plan Ahead
Before this situation ever happens, plan ahead for how to handle it. If your retail store is in an area with a security presence, such as a shopping center, have the phone number for security at the checkout counter or on speed dial, along with the phone number for local police or sheriff.

Train your salespeople to be observant. By greeting customers as they come into the store and keeping an eye on the entire store, they can often spot someone who’s becoming upset. For example, if a long line is forming at the checkout counter, an angry customer might start off by looking angrily at his watch, then start sighing loudly, then pacing and muttering to himself. Reaching out to him with a proactive, “Thank you for your patience today; I’ll be with you as soon as I can,” can help.
Explain to your salespeople how to handle irate customers using the tips below.

Engage With the Customer
Remain calm. It’s natural to get defensive when someone is angry at us, but calm is your best tool in this situation. Raising your voice, arguing or being sarcastic will just escalate the situation.

Use the customer’s name. Find out the person’s name and use it while talking to them: “Mr. Wilson, can you explain the problem to me so I can help?”
Listen. By the time a customer is exploding with rage, the actual problem that sparked the anger is not the primary issue on their minds. Let the customer explain what they are angry about. Don’t interrupt, no matter how irrelevant it seems. You need to let them get their emotions out before they can be rational.

While you are listening, watch your body language. Look the customer in the eye. Don’t put on a defensive posture, such as crossing your arms. Use an open stance; this shows you’re willing to listen. Don’t fidget, show impatience, roll your eyes, raise your eyebrows or sigh.
Once the customer is finished talking, express understanding, focusing on the feelings first and the actual problem second: “I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated by X.”
Next, take a “we’re in this together” approach to the actual problem. Enlist the angry customer to work with you to find a solution: “Let’s come up with a solution you’ll be happy with.”

Getting Physical
If you’re worried the customer is going to become physically aggressive or violent:
Never touch an angry customer. You may be tempted to reach out and pat the person on the shoulder or lightly touch his or her arm. That could make them even angrier or put you at risk.

Put something between yourself and the customer, such as the checkout counter or a desk. If you can’t put a physical barrier between the two of you, leave several feet of space. Getting too close to an angry customer can make him or her feel threatened.

Take the angry customer aside. Ask the customer to follow you to another part of the store to discuss the problem. If the customer is someone who thrives on the drama of being the center of attention, getting away from other customers can help deflate them.
Remind the person of the presence of other customers. “Sir, I understand that you’re upset, but you are upsetting my other customers. Can we please discuss this calmly?”
Remain confident and in control. It’s important to put limits on the situation. Remind the customer that you want to help resolve the issue but in order to do that, you need them to calm down.

Get Them Out
If none of the above tactics work, calmly ask the customer to leave. Then move toward the store exit. Chances are, he or she will follow you—if only to continue yelling at you. Keep moving until you get the person outside. Stay outside and wait until he or she is out of view to go back inside.
If the customer refuses to leave, tell them calmly, “Sir, if you won’t leave the store, I’m going to have to call security/the police.” Often, this is enough to snap a person back to reality.

Ounce of Prevention
The best approach to customer rage is to prevent it in the first place. By making sure that your store is adequately staffed; that you and your employees are alert to what’s going on inside the store; and that you always provide friendly, efficient service, you’ll have a safer, more pleasant environment.

Providing Excellent Customer Service

You already know how important providing great customer service is when running a business. But providing great customer service on Etsy, eBay and similar ecommerce platforms is a bit different than providing great customer service when running other types of businesses. You need to really understand the platforms and what customers expect in order to make their shopping experience pleasant and memorable. Here are some tips you can use to provide great customer service on Etsy and eBay.

Providing Excellent Customer Service on Etsy and eBay
Answer Questions Promptly
One of the best parts about shopping on platforms like Etsy and eBay rather than with large corporations is the accessibility of the shop owners. So when customers contact you with questions or concerns, you need to be available to get back to them as quickly as possible. If you wait too long, your customers could just keep browsing for similar shops and buy from someone who does answer their questions in a timely manner. So if possible, set aside a few times throughout the day for you to check your messages and respond to any queries.

Make Your Policies Clear and Visible
In addition, you can limit people’s need to actually contact you with any questions or concerns by listing your policies or FAQs very clearly where people are likely to find them. You should have a section of your shop dedicated to listing all of your policies. But you can also list things like shipping and returns at the bottom of your item descriptions to make it even easier for shoppers to know what they’re getting into. It’s better to make sure that your customers know exactly what your policies are before they make a purchase than to keep them tucked away in a corner of your store that no one visits in the hopes that customers won’t get scared off by your no-returns policy. If you’re worried about your policies driving customers away, it could be a sign that you need to reevaluate those policies or at least accept that it’s better to have a few customers who are happy with their shopping experience than to have a lot of customers who are unhappy.

Ship Promptly and Carefully
Shipping is a huge part of providing good customer service on eBay and Etsy as well. You need to set up a system for shipping your items so that they get to your customers quickly and in the condition that they were promised. Especially if your items are fragile at all, you’ll need to invest in some packing supplies. And you need to make sure that you get those items out for shipping within the time allotted in your shop policies, but even before that deadline if at all possible. If customers expect to receive their purchase within a week and it gets there in a couple of days, they’re likely to be pretty happy with that part of the experience. But if you fall behind by even a day or two of what you promised, that could ruin the entire experience for them.

Add Something Extra
Shopping on platforms like eBay and Etsy can also be a more personal experience than shopping with more established ecommerce shops. If you answer questions, have clear policies and get your products out on time, you’ve provided adequate customer service that customers are likely to be happy with, but then also forget about promptly. If you want to provide great service that they’ll actually remember and tell their friends about, you need to go beyond that. A great way to do that is to include something extra with their purchase. This can be as simple as a handwritten thank you note, some really unique handmade packaging or even a small special gift to go along with their purchase.

Have a System for Resolving Issues
No matter how great your shop is, there will be issues that arise. Packages will get lost in the mail. Your customers will fail to read your policies. Or any number of other things could occur. When those things happen, it’s important that you try to resolve them in a way that’s fair to your customers as well as your business. You can’t always please everyone, especially when customers make unfair demands. But you should build some wiggle room into your pricing so that you can cover things like purchases that were lost or damaged in the mail. If you take care of those issues quickly and satisfactorily, your customers are more likely to be happy with their shopping experience overall.

Be Social
You can also make your shop stand out by being available for questions, comments and interaction on various social platforms. Customers may prefer reaching out to sellers on Facebook or Twitter rather than eBay or Etsy directly. This doesn’t mean you have to be on every single platform, but choosing at least one or two can make you more accessible and relatable to your target customers.