socialMAlthough most companies are represented on social media and tend to work hard to solve problems quickly, taking a closer look makes clear that customer service and social media do not harmonize well: much of the communication takes place in public, but not everyone likes to announce loudly when a flight has been missed or a new face cream caused rashes. Not to mention that the interaction via this channel is not very targeted, more like a visit to the lobby of a company where you have to get through the receptionist first before reaching the right contact person by drawing attention to yourself as loudly as possible.

In a nutshell, social media should be viewed with skepticism as to its suitability as a service support. Yes, it's true: nine out of ten consumers have already contacted a provider via social media if they have a problem, but only 5% describe this route as their preferred channel. This underscores the thesis that social media platforms aren’t ideal for customer service - neither for companies nor customers. But since social media is so omnipresent, companies cannot afford to have no plans for user requests up their sleeve. Hence, the following tips on dealing correctly with customer inquiries on social media could be useful”

Sort your social media channels

Think carefully about how you respond to service requests on social media. Marketing professionals are usually happy when customers publicize their frustration: this provides an opportunity to have a convincing and positive reaction, which creates loyalty and trust among consumers. However, experienced customer service teams know that a happy conversation is not a matter of course. Conversations that end with bad compromises, or even dissatisfied customers, are not ideal for a public discussion. In other words, those responsible should "screen" through service calls, assess all inquiries and prioritize them according to urgency and importance. The same applies to customer inquiries on social media: decide quickly whether it is worth negotiating a customer inquiry publicly or if you prefer to continue on a more private level, e.g. with a private message or call.

If the problem can be resolved successfully, quickly and publicly, you should not miss this opportunity. After all, your reaction is being watched by others. This is especially true if the topic affects other consumers, too. Then solve it publicly and show the entire audience that you are taking appropriate measures.

In the best case, you not only solve the customer's acute request, but also land a marketing success. One airline, for example, responded to the tweet from a passenger who complained about the lack of coffee at the terminal with an all-you-can-drink coffee surprise on the plane.

If you can't fix the problem, be sure to let the customer know this in a private message. The same applies if the request is strange or your service procedure is not presented positively enough. Then you should continue the conversation in private.

Take complaints seriously

Every company occasionally receives negative comments on social media. But do not delete them directly! Anyone who makes negative feedback disappear, buries the acute problem, but in the process loses some trustworthiness. You could quickly get a reputation for simply ignoring customer complaints. Offensive comments with racist, misogynistic or homophobic content as well as spam must of course be deleted immediately.

Take every complaint seriously and deal with it. Negative statements in particular often contain valuable suggestions for improvement or suggestions that you can use for your corporate strategy and customer communication. Respond professionally and understandingly. Customers are often flexible when they feel heard and realize that you are trying to keep them happy.

Some companies go a step further and set up their own social media accounts that are specifically designed for customer service. This is usually a smart move since most customers find this account instantly. By doing so, you are opening up the lobby to potential buyers and positive customers. The remaining service requests can be quickly forwarded to the correct service-specific accounts.

Make communication ‘really’ personal

People want to be treated individually and not be brushed off with a standard answer: statements like "sorry that you have not received your order” or “we will check that“ won’t make anyone happy. Instead, make the interaction more personal by addressing the customer's problem directly. Remember, this is social media and not a formal format like a support hotline or email. If your company's policy allows it, address the customer by his first name. Also, have your social media agent respond to the request in his own name, like e.g.: “Hello Joseph, we are really sorry that your delivery has not yet arrived. What is your tracking number? We take care of it directly. Greetings Anne.” This gives the customer the feeling that he is dealing with a real person rather than a faceless customer service department.

When communicating, also adapt to the tone of the consumer: if you are dealing with a user who politely draws your attention to a problem and even uses a smiling smiley, your answer may also be "happy" and include suitable emojis. Even small jokes are allowed. However, if someone is really angry, use a neutral tone to avoid spurring them on.

Don't wait for an answer but be careful when making political statements

In an ideal world, every company has a social media team that responds to customer comments around the clock within a few minutes. However, this is rarely possible. Instead, enter “opening hours” on your social media profiles to let everyone know when you are best reachable. During this time, you should answer the inquiries within 60 to 120 minutes - the faster the better. According to a study by NM Incite, the joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey, 33% of those surveyed would recommend a brand that gives a prompt answer, even if it does not lead to the goal. So, authorize and train your employees well, since this is the only way to react quickly and independently to customer problems, instead of having to wait for the superior's permission.

If you want to express a political opinion on social media, it must be well-thought-out. It is important that your attitude and statements are fully reflected in your brand. You should also be aware that people on the Internet can be resentful: if you work for environmental protection today, but have emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases in the past in the production of your goods, rest assured that your customers will remind you - again and again.

By Daniela La Marca