Social Customer Service: Are You Doing It Right?
Customer service is no longer tightly bound by the constraints of 1-800 numbers with unnervingly long wait times or emails sent to a black hole with a promise never to return. Customers have started taking their thoughts, concerns, questions, and sometimes incredibly mean comments to incredibly public social media platforms. The time has come where reputation management cannot be brushed under the rug. If a customer has an issue, they expect it to be fixed…publically and quickly. Nothing is private anymore – the long process of word of mouth has been replaced with the seconds it takes to tweet a complaint. Ten years ago when someone was upset with you they would tell 10 friends, now they tell the entire word with the simple stroke of a keyboard. How is your company handling social customer service?
Do you have a team or individual in place to manage your social media presence and reputation? Your business needs a qualified social media professional at the helm, steering your social customer service to maintain the greater good of your company. Customers can be brutal, managing an online presence is hard work, but if you employ the right person you can turn a detractor into a happy customer almost every time. When other fans of your brand see that you handle an irate (and often irrational) customer in a professional and caring manner, they will respect your brand more.
The convenience of social customer service is that you can respond to issues quickly and efficiently. When customers’ concerns are handled quickly they are happy. Nothing is worse than having an issue and having to wait days to get it resolved. You will create brand loyalty and trust by responding to questions and concerns sooner rather than later.
If you have an issue that you’re aware of that affects your customers, let them know before the calls start rolling in. Using Facebook and Twitter to announce an issue that you’re aware of and how you are working diligently to fix it shows that you care about them and you are proactively working on fixing the problem.
View complaints as an opportunity to get better. When someone is passionate enough to complain that means they see a major problem that your business would value from if fixed. Complaints simply make you better at what you do so thank the customer for their observation, fix their issue and move on.
Use a Twitter handle specifically for customer service issues
If you are a big-name brand it might behoove you to create an entirely different social media account for customer service issues. Many large (and some small) brands have created a separate twitter handle for customer service to help manage the influx of inquires. UPS is a fantastic example of how you can use social media for customer service.
@UPShelp – UPS’s customer support account - handles questions concerning tracking numbers, delivery dates, lost packages, and all things related to shipping. To maintain privacy, instead of asking customers to give out their tracking numbers or contact information on a public forum, @UPShelp answers several questions by using the direct message feature and provides an email address just for Twitter users, [email protected]. Offer support beyond the tweet. By offering a phone number or email address you are taking a possible online complaint, offline. Show your customers that you care beyond 140 characters (Twitter’s character limit).
You have a personality just like your business has a personality. Allow your personality to shine through your customer service. Nobody likes talking to a robot, an infusion of humor and understanding will go a long way with your customers.
Personalize your twitter bio.Put the twitter handles of everyone who could tweet from your business account in your bio. This helps build trust and if customers are in desperate need of help after hours they can turn to your personal accounts. Please keep it PC on your personal accounts, and be sure to add a disclaimer such as: ‘opinions are my own’ in your bio so customers can identify that is your personal space.
Personalize your avatar. Give your twitter profile a face. People like seeing who they are interacting with. Smiling faces help humanize your business. Additionally, if there is space, end your tweets with a name. This puts an infusion of personality into your tweets so customers can put a face to a name.
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”