Imagine walking up to the Customer Service Desk at your local department store and lodging a complaint. The store employee sits motionless, Just staring at you. Not a word. Not an acknowledgment. Nothing. For a minute. For five minutes. Maybe even for an hour. Unbelievable, you think. Unbelievable.
Well, that’s how your customers feel, says Ben Saffran, when you don’t respond to them on social media.
“You do not want to be the brand that’s ignoring its customers,” Ben said at the May Social Media Breakfast Wednesday at Madison College.
Ben, who is a Tier 2 Customer Advocate at Zendesk, said businesses are made of relationships and good businesses need to be where their customers are. Today, he said, most customers are on social media, and like it or not they are talking about your company and sometimes trying to contact your company with questions, praise or complaints through social media.
It’s critically important, Ben said, that you company is ready to respond accordingly. He outlined what he called the evolution of support over the years:
- In person, live questions from customers
- Phone calls, 800 numbers and hotlines
- Email and ticketing systems, teams and tiers
- Live chat, instantaneous and personal
- Social media and mobile applications
Customers today, he said, are on a multitude of apps, and “you have to be prepared they are going to hit you on every channel.”
Generally, they are using the channel of least resistance, or taking what Ben called the frictionless route.
That means if they are on Facebook Messenger at the time or are most familiar with it, that’s the app they are going to want to use to contact your company. So your company has to be on Facebook Messenger as well. Or Facebook. Or Twitter. Or WhatsApp. Or wherever the customer might be.
It takes research and it takes planning, Ben said. Your company has to know what channels your customers are using and make sure you are monitoring them. Then have a plan for how to handle every type of contact from each platform. And, finally, make sure that you resolve issues quickly and in a way that reflects positively and consistently with your brand.
“If you get one thing out of this presentation it is to set up a meeting with the head of marketing in your company,” Ben said. “Create that connection between marketing and support.”
“If I respond to a Tweet, I am no longer Ben Saffran, I am Zendesk. I have to meet those expectations and it changes how you do things,” he said.
“Your brand has a voice, your marketing has a tenor to it.”
Sometimes, Ben said, you can’t resolve an issue through social media and you must direct the customer to an offline option, such as a phone call or chat.
“Social media may be the first point of contact but it doesn’t have to be the point of resolution,” he said. “Complex issues often do not fit into 140 characters.”
There is an old standard that one hour is an expected response time for an email, he said, but for social media it is even less, preferably less than 20 minutes.
“You don’t want these things to sit unresponded. It’s only going to cause angst in the future.”
Today, he said, unsatisfied customers not only drop your product or service, they spread their bad experience quickly and broadly through social media.
Ben summed up with these key takeaways:
- Go where your customers are (hint: social media)
- Create a strategy between marketing and support
- Maintain a consistent and deliberate voice
- Know what is appropriate on public channels
- Time is of the essence with social support
- Keep a pulse on innovations and new channels
Written by Bill Hurley, (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, website developer, digital publisher. BillHurleyMail@gmail.com, Bill@smbmad.org.
SMBMAD President Shane Cicero talks with Ben Saffran on the SMBMAD Podcast: