Paolo Fabrizio
April 28, 2015

7 Steps to Avoid Social Customer Service Pitfalls

Business is like health; as long as we have it we tend to take it for granted. Only when something seems off, do we suddenly re-evaluate our vital routines.

The fear of missing what we really care about is an alarm bell that should awaken our minds. As for business, negative events that may occur are cataloged into risks and consequent damages. That approach is vital for companies because it help them quantify risks and take actions in order to prevent them.

When it comes to social customer service, it’s crucial to react promptly. Since online conversations are public, they generate real-time reactions that, where negative, may soon become viral.

Investigate, communicate, solve

It’s a sunny day and your business is doing pretty well when, suddenly, a colleague nervously calls you: “Houston, we have a problem…”. So now what?!?

Silence. Panic.

Now breathe deeply and listen to me: you need to set up a plan. Imagine that your products/services become unavailable or your customers cannot reach you on the phone or online. Are you ready to handle the emergency? Do you know the what, how and who of solving any issues that might arise?

Bear in mind that in such cases you have to focus on some actions at the same time if you want to avoid negative consequences:

  • Work hard to investigate the problem – communicate internally (within departments)
  • Communicate developments – communicate externally (with customers)
  • Solve the issue as soon as possible

The above drivers are intertwined because each one needs the others to progress in order to successfully close the ‘incident’.

Plan ahead to prevent customers attack

Customers rage

From theory to practice, follow these 7 steps to protect your brand:

  1. Draw up your contingency plan –> set a list of risks and consequences to be prevented, involve relevant departments and use questions to set up an effective contingency procedure.
  2. Build a contingency team –> use the above mentioned procedure to identify actions and accordingly select staff.
  3. Get your team fully trained –> carry on training on a regularly basis to check if the procedure works well or make amendments, where necessary.
  4. Inform staff about procedure and contingency team –> all staff must to be aware of the plan and have easy access to the ’emergency team’ names, contacts and roles.
  5. React quickly –> The sooner you are aware, the sooner you are able to intervene and fix any issue. Therefore, do use social monitoring tools to intercept external signals such as customer complaints.
  6. Inform your customers promptly –> use your blog and social channels to reach as many customers as you can and apologize to them (regardless of whether the inconvenience is your fault or due to third parties’ vendors). Learn from some good examples of crisis communication plans
  7. Keep your customers updated –> if it takes hours to fix the issue, don’t leave your customers stranded. Conversely, keep them constantly up-to-date (each hour) about any development. 

Focus on customer experience (especially during emergencies)

A few weeks ago I was guest of Mallie Hart & Brooke Ballard’s ReadySetPodcast; during that conversation I stressed the need of delivering an outstanding customer experience (min. 13:29).

Customer experience influences customer loyalty (i.e. business results) especially when problems arise, because customers quickly get nervous when they are unable to use the products/service they’ve paid for or do not receive any ‘official answer’ to their queries. So they attack your brand on social networks when you least expect it.

If you have a good contingency plan, well-trained staff and good monitoring tools, you’ll be able to mitigate damages or even turn a negative event into an asset.

Problem resolution goes along with internal/external communication.

As Jay Baer explains in a recent video, since conversations are public it’s not just a customer service matter. Departments need to communicate and co-operate one another to provide an excellent customer experience and consolidate trust, day by day, event after event.

Your Turn

Customers use different channels to get in touch with your brand but they all want one thing: to be satisfied. So be transparent, quick and reliable either when all goes well or goes wrong.

How about you now: are you equipped to take on this challenge?

Thanks for reading this post, I’d love to read your view in the comments


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Paolo Fabrizio

Digital Customer Service Consultant, Trainer, Author, Speaker. Paolo has been helping companies to harness digital customer service as a business driver. Founder of CustomerServiceCulture, author of books and speaker at conferences in Italy and abroad. Lecturer at the Bicocca University of Milan