With so many companies still struggling to make sense of social media, it baffles me to see the same mistake being made over and over again. Forget the new and innovative uses for social media. Start with the basics. Treat social media like the telephone.
Your Bottom Line Is Calling
Social media is not a megaphone. It’s a two way vehicle for conversation. You talk to customers, they talk to you. Would you ever ignore a customer who called you? Would you let the phone ring and ring, or let messages go unreturned? If you would, social media isn’t your problem, caring about your customers is.
Before your open your Twitter account, consider what customers and prospects might ask you, not just what you want to say to them.
- Will they ask you product questions?
- Order status?
- Will they ask you how to locate a store?
- How to contact someone within the company?
- How to special order something?
- How to return a product they don’t like?
You can’t go into social media thinking only about what you want to say. That’s like picking up a ringing telephone and talking into it without listening. You have to know what your customers and prospects are asking, and you have to be prepared to answer those questions.
Three times (that I can recall) in the past few months, I’ve addressed different companies on Twitter. Once I wanted to purchase a product and needed to know where to buy. Once I had gotten the wrong product delivered and needed help getting my order fixed. And once I was complimenting a company on a job well done.
Three times I got no response.
The company who’d gotten my order wrong might not have responded because they didn’t want to help me. That’s bad service, but at least the lack of response makes sense. The other two are complete mysteries. Why wouldn’t a company answer a question telling a customer where to buy their product? Why wouldn’t a company thank (or better yet, retweet) a satisfied customer?
Many businesses open Twitter, Facebook and even GooglePlus accounts because they think they have to. It seems like the thing to do. While it may be wise to secure your name on social networks, giving customers the impression that they can interact with you on social networks only to ignore them is worse than not being there at all.
It’s Not All New
Were a customer to call a company with the same question or complaint, a customer service representative would have to deal with it. Perhaps what’s happening is that companies that don’t have good answers to customer service challenges are simply ignoring them entirely on social media, whereas on the phone their customer service reps are talking but not actually helping.
Social media is about interacting with customers and prospects. Businesses have done this forever. It happens in person when someone enters a physical store. It happens when a customer picks up the phone and calls. Now it’s happening on your Facebook page or via Twitter. The vehicle may be new but the principles aren’t. You can’t ignore your customers. Pretend it’s the telephone if that makes it easier.
The hard part isn’t answering a customer, it’s figuring out how to solve their problems.
[Image credit: Zvone Lavric]