“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.”
~Jeff Bezos

It happened to me again, just like I’m sure it has happened to you and a million other customers.

I called my cell phone provider to get a simple (so I thought) answer to a simple (so I thought) question. “If I am going to Canada for a few days (I live in the U.S.), what will the charges be for me to call the US, or for someone to call me?” I even called from my cell phone so they would have all the information they needed to answer the question. My expectation was that call would take less than 5 minutes and I would have the answers I needed.

Well, 45 minutes and 4 transfers later, I still didn’t have any answers. What I did have was boiling blood, steam coming out of my ears, and the firm conviction that I would be switching cell phone carriers once I paid off my phone.

I guess I could have found the answers online, but it seemed so simple when I started. I kept on being told the answer was just 2 minutes away, and “thank you for holding.” I admit they did apologize to me at least 10 times, which made me feel 0% better.

After finally screaming at my phone and the company after the call was mysteriously dropped, I decided to reach out on social media and let them know my frustration. So I tweeted the company. And they responded back very quickly and told me to follow a link that would answer my question. Great! Best news I had all day. Until I went to the link which did not do anything to answer my question!

Customer care on social media is here to stay, so if you do it, you better do it right. The very best way to avoid negative publicity on the internet and cut down on social media customer care issues is to have a great product, great delivery system, great customer service reps and a great web presence.

But since we know mistakes will always happen, it is in your favor to have the best resources available, as you don’t want to escalate the problem with bad social media customer care. Bad customer service online usually involves no responses, late responses, automated responses or inappropriate responses.

With that in mind, here are some tips to making sure your social media customer care will exceed expectations:

  • Time is of the essence. Engage quickly. Every company should have social media policies in place. Should you respond in less than an hour? 30 minutes? Maybe for your business 24 hours is appropriate. Decide what’s best for you. I should mention it is not necessary to respond to every tweet or post if it doesn’t warrant a response. Make sure you thank people for positive posts.
  • Acknowledge mistakes (if they occurred) and apologize. Make sure the apology is sincere and genuine. And please don’t send robotic, standardized, automated apologies for every social media post, as most consumers can see right through that.
  • Be natural, fun and engaging. Use a conversational tone. Use people’s names and try to personalize every response.
  • Get to the root of the problem and let them know how you will fix it. And then fix it!
  • Make sure your company has a resolution plan, so the customer care rep will know who to contact for different types of complaints, concerns or questions.
  • If possible, provide a “wow” moment that is unexpected and exceeds expectations.
  • Follow up a day or 2 later to make sure the issue was resolved.
  • Never get into an argument online and never believe you have to win. If you think you won an argument, you probably lost. Remember, once it’s out there in the universe, you can never take it back. The internet is full of examples of people who failed to learn that lesson. And don’t take anything personally. Customers sometimes fail to remember they are dealing with real people when voicing their frustrations or complaints, and the companies providing the service should not forget that either.

It is imperative that whoever handles your social media customer care has the same training as your other traditional customer service reps. Do not leave it to the “tech people” just because it is happening online.

Make sure you monitor online conversations about your brand through Google Alerts or other online tools. You can’t afford not to. If the reps at the phone company I spoke to just had the training they needed, and could have answered my simple (or so I thought) question, I would not need any more blood pressure medication, or a new cell phone company.

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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