Social media has revolutionised the way brands deal with customer service.

Now, many people don’t think twice about messaging a brand on Facebook and Twitter – often doing so long before they pick up the phone or speak to an employee in person.

Research by Sprout Social backs this up, revealing that 90% of consumers surveyed have used social media to communicate with a brand in their lifetime (though it should be noted that less than 90% of the US and UK populations use social media).

Faster, easier, and far more convenient - social channels can streamline processes and satisfy customers in the process. Or at least, that’s the general idea.

Despite the uptake of brands using social media in this way, it’s not always easy to keep on top of, as many brands fall foul of common mistakes as a result. It’s still up for debate whether Wetherspoons’ decision to wipe its social channels was a PR stunt or a cost saver or due to its inability to properly maintain them.

Here’s more on that and other big mistakes to avoid.

Don't leave people hanging

An obvious one to kick off, but it’s staggering how many brands don’t respond to all customer queries, as well as fail to wrap up conversations. This can often be due to the same query being asked over and over again, or simply the sheer amount of interactions received overall. 

With many brands struggling under the weight of enquiries, it’s important that teams have a clear strategy on how to prioritise the most important. Without these internal guidelines or assistive technology, service can become more ad-hoc and random, leading to people who leave general comments being side-lined, and customers with specific complaints left hanging (even after an initial conversation has occurred). 

Unsurprisingly, this can leave customers highly frustrated, feeling undervalued and even less positive about the brand than they did before. Consequently, it is vital that all reasonable questions get a response, with the aim of resolving issues as quickly as possible.

Don't create too many channels

Another reason customers are often left hanging is because brands make the mistake of using too many platforms for the same purpose. This can lead to confusion in terms of where and how customers should communicate. 

What’s more, without the right resources in place, brands tend to leave channels unmonitored and even entirely abandoned.

The latter is one of the theories why Wetherspoons recently deleted its social media presence. With accounts managed by nearly all 900 of its pubs (as well as its main brand), and fewer than 1,000 likes on many – the costs and efforts involved in maintaining them undoubtedly outweighed the benefits and value for consumers. 

Wetherspoons social media

In light of Wetherspoons’ decision, it appears as if other alcohol-related brands including Bacardi and Beefeater gin could be following suit. A recent study from YesMore Agency found that 32% of the alcohol brands surveyed have not posted within the past three months, while 21% have not posted in a year or more. The suggestion is that this is due to brands being overwhelmed with the various places they should be posting content, and therefore giving up on the most underused. 

Then again - if they’re underused, does it really matter? The answer is still yes, as it means any customers who do choose to use them will be left in the dark.

Don't pass people on (over and over)

Due to brands creating multiple social media channels, customers can often get in contact only to find that they are then passed on elsewhere. 

In many cases, this is not always because of limitations in an employee’s ability to resolve a matter. Rather, it’s more likely to be due to siloed teams and departments, with the initial contact believing (or being told) that it is not their remit. 

As a result, customers end up getting passed from pillar to post, and service channels become even more clogged. It also just contributes to a poor customer experience, giving customers more work to do, and taking away the option of using their preferred channels.

Another big bugbear is when brands tell you what the next step might be, but wait for you to ask what it is rather than offer the information outright. Take this example from Domino’s Pizza, whose customer service operative was clearly hoping the customer wouldn’t be bothered enough to take it further.

Don't provide a generic response

In a similar vein, brands are often guilty of reverting to generic or systematic responses, especially when it comes to redirecting customers elsewhere.

While, again, this is probably due to an overload of queries – with employees perhaps not having the time to respond to each person individually – it makes communication feel cold and de-humanised. 

In contrast, brands that are able to personalise replies or even simply address consumers by name tend to feel far more warm, friendly, and helpful.

In this instance, even if a customer does need to be redirected elsewhere, they’re probably going to take the news a little better than if the reply was distinctly bot-like. Mattress brand Casper is particularly good at interacting with users in a personable and warm manner, making each person feel valued and heard – regardless of channel.

Don't misjudge tone

The reason why brands like Casper tend to succeed on social media is a lot to do with how they speak to customers. The mattress retailer displays a distinct tone of voice in marketing and social campaigns, but it also ensures that this extends to service too. 

Again, it is an issue that is commonly due to siloed social media and marketing departments, but brands can lose easily sight of their overall tone of voice when speaking directly to customers – especially when it comes to complaints. 

The real danger is when social execs take tone of voice into their own hands and use misjudged humour or sarcasm, or worse, respond to negative comments in an equally negative or hostile fashion. There are brands that deliberately use an acerbic or humorous tone when interacting with customers, of course. For brands like Tesco Mobile, it has become a well-known part of its identity, meaning customers now expect and rejoice in it.

The key is to always stick to the brand’s wider tone of voice, and if there is any doubt that it could come across in the wrong way, err on the side of caution.

Don't respond only to complaints

Finally, while customer service is undoubtedly a big focus for brands on social media, it’s vital to not get caught up in using it to only resolve issues or combat negative feedback.

Rather, it’s just as important to recognise positive comments, as well as use platforms to start natural and genuine conversations with consumers.

Brands that only respond to negative comments run the risk of projecting an overall negative image, while failing to encourage and recognise happy customers. In order to break this potentially vicious cycle, it can be effective for social media execs to reach out to users speaking positively about the brand, as well as reward or simply say ‘thank you’ to positive feedback.

Related articles:

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 25 April, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Will Rice, Director of Communications at Rio Texas Annual Conference United Methodist Church

I love the phrase, "Again, it is an issue that is commonly due to siloed social media and marketing departments..." Is it safe to say that organizations who integrate social media and marketing into their overall strategic planning and management tend to do a better job at customer service via social media?

28 days ago

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