How to Avoid a PR Nightmare When Using Social for Customer Service

By November 22, 2013 Design

Even though major social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, were once only used by businesses for internet marketing, the lines between their roles as business tools continue to blur and both platforms are now being used for customer service. This week Applebee’s has been a hot topic in social media news due to their overnight social media meltdown over a multi-chapter saga between a pastor, a waitress, and the restaurant. The result was a huge response from angry customers who took to Facebook and Twitter to vent their frustrations over the poorly handled situation.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid bad situation when using social media for customer service.

Add social media guidelines to employee handbooks and go over them with your whole team. Having a social media response plan in writing for your team to reference will be helpful when a negative or overly dramatic posting situation arises. Remind your team members who have access to your social media accounts that they should refer to the guidelines often. Begin responding to comments by thanking the customer for the opportunity to fix the problem and let them know that you are there to help. Do not make the mistake of taking comments personally and responding defensively at the risk of starting an argument in a very public space. Finally, if possible, show them proof that the issue has been fixed.

Respond quickly, but keep it to normal business hours. When customers take the time to post a comment or question, they expect a same-day response. Some companies attempt to respond within an hour, but a 12 hour window is acceptable. A timely response shows that you value your customer’s time and input. That being said, posting replies to individual comments during the wee hours of the early morning makes your replies look desperate and reflects poorly on your team.

Take the conversation out of the public eye. Even though the communication channels between companies and customers that have been opened due to social media can be very helpful, they are not always the best. Don’t hesitate to use a private Facebook message or Twitter direct message, to preserve their privacy) and then contact them directly through email or a phone call. This will not only make a positive impression on your customer by showing them that you are willing to designate time to personally assist them, but it will also keep their fury away from the public area, where a fire could potentially grow.

Here is what we hope you take from all of this: social media can be your best communication tool or your worst enemy. Prepare your team to handle social media challenges, respond to comments quickly, and know when it is time to continue the conversation offline. If you keep these tips in mind, your customer service team shouldn’t break a sweat when dealing with negative comments or complaints on Facebook or Twitter.

Looking for help with your social media marketing campaign? Check out our our social media page for more information about the services that we offer and connect with us via Facebook or Twitter.

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