Category Archives: Communication

Tips on How To Make Customer Service Work Using Social Media

Many businesses have a presence in social media with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a host of other options available. Social media is a fantastic opportunity to spread the word and show lots of great content. It is also a great way for consumers to interact with a company and reach out in times of customer service needs.

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And it is exactly on the customer service side of the equation that the film often breaks. Social media is usually the responsibility of the marketing and/or and public relations departments, and they do a fantastic job when it comes to transmitting corporate messages and showing off all sorts of “can’t-live-without” features and latest models. It seems that some companies forget that good customer service is out-of-this-world fantastic marketing and PR. Adding customer service to the mix will complete the circle and add tremendous value to the overall customer experience.

Unfortunately I see an awful lot of poor customer service on the various walls around the net. Unanswered queries and messages that get answered by someone who either doesn’t work in customer service or shouldn’t be working in customer service, they often carry a  passive-aggressive tone with a hint of defensive self-righteousness. They make my toes curl – it looks ever so bad.

Seeing such walls makes me wonder what kind of customer service I can expect from these companies who seem to prioritize pushing sales messages so much that they don’t have time to stop and pay proper attention to existing customers. I have actually chosen not to buy from companies because of how poorly they have demonstrated their ability to handle after-sale service issues on social networks. Surely I’m not the only one…

So here are some tips on how to it right.

The first tip is really not a tip at all. It’s a requirement. Answer ALL customer queries. There really is no middle ground here. You answer the phone when it rings right? This is no different, except here everyone can see when you choose to ignore the call.

There is a lot discussion going on as to whether 1 hour or 24 hours is the correct amount of time to answer customer queries. I’d say it really depends on your industry, but in general the sooner the better. Customers love immediate attention; makes them feel valued and a timely reply can easily be an ice-breaker if the query is of a difficult nature.

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When a customer reaches out, the first and most important thing you must do is to acknowledge them and show them empathy. I see companies using phrases like”Oh no, we understand your frustration and will….” or “Dear XXX please accept our sincere apologies we will immediately….” These types of responses are great, they really show that you care about the customer  and appreciate their predicament. One thing to keep in mind though is to not use the same phrase in response to all queries, a whole wall full of “Oh no..” looks like the responses are insincere and rehearsed, like a broken record.

The second thing to do is to demonstrate action. Let the customer know what you intend to do about the situation. And please do not say that “there is really nothing you can do” or “Facebook is not the right place to…” Yes, I have actually seen responses such as these, and there is ALWAYS something you can do and Facebook is an obvious place to demonstrate how much you care about your customers. So tell them that you will personally see to some action taking place or ask them to contact you personally with more details.

The last bit of advise I’ll give for now, is to NEVER reply to a customer query if you are in a bad mood or feeling irritable. In that situation a later reply is likely better than what you would be delivering immediately. When we communicate in writing, we only have the actual words to interpret, there is no tone of voice or body language to guide and help us, so you have to be acutely aware of your choice of words and using positive and supportive phrases is just a lot easier when you are in a good mood.

I came across a great example of how you can turn a very uncomfortable and difficult situation 180 degrees by giving the customer the answers they are looking for. It was a furniture company with a very unhappy customer who had received a sofa in less than prime condition, the reply to the customer was a detailed explanation that with complete transparency and honesty told how and why the situation had occurred, apologized for the unfortunate events, offered a solution and was signed in person and with a personal e.mail address attached.

Not many companies would dare to expose faults as openly as this company did, but judging from the subsequent comments I think it was the right thing to do. Admitting when you are wrong is a character trait that earns respect, not just for people but for businesses too.

Build customer service on effective communication

Good customer service is founded on the exchange of information; messages being send out, received, de-coded and acted upon. Needless to say it is very important that the messages we send out are de-coded in the way we intended them to, but more often than we like to admit our messages become misunderstood. To our great bewilderment what we thought was ever so cleverly communicated turns into a tangle of confusion, contention and more questions than answers.

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Human communication is a complicated business it involves a complex mixture of verbal and non-verbal cues such as; tone of voice, the words being used, facial expressions, gestures, posture, appearance and the list goes on and on. Ever since Albert Mehrabian published his 7-38-55 rule, which basically states that we base our approval of a person on 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% on the spoken word, the importance of non-verbal communication has received much attention and discussion. Whatever the distribution really is one thing is for sure; the majority of the cues we use to understand a message are not actually related to the spoken word, but are instead based upon physical observations. If you work in customer service you will know that being liked by your customer is crucially important for the outcome of any given situation.    

The root of the problem lies in the emotions we build into the messages we send by our physical behavior. Being able to understand the messages from the receivers perspective can alleviate potentially negative and contentious situations. It’s a case of “putting the shoe on the other foot” and imagine how you would feel as the receiver.

Here are a few tips on non-verbal communication that will help resolve differences, build trust and foster an environment where cooperation can flourish.

Face-to-face communication

When dealing with a customer face to face the most important part of your body to be aware of is, well, your face. And in particularly your eyes and the area around them. Raise your eyebrows to the top of your forehead and you will look like a deer caught in the headlights. Relax your eyebrows and you will look like you don’t give a damn. Practice what your facial expressions look like by standing in front of a mirror and be acutely aware of them when dealing with your customers.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Keep eye contact with the person in front of you, that will tell them that you hear them and are doing everything you can to understand them. But be careful not to stare at them, that could make you appear somewhat intimidating, and watch out for knitted eyebrows that read “I don’t understand a word you are saying, but you are giving me a headache”.

If you can smile with your eyes, well that is half the battle won right there. People who master this seem friendly, inviting, caring and attentive – all things that makes people relax and open up.

Your mouth is the second most important feature. A lot of people will look you in the eye while they talk, but quite often look at your mouth when you talk. Tight lips and clenched jaws will certainly make you look annoyed and angry. Pout and you look like an obstinate teenager.

It will probably not come as a surprise that I recommend smiling. Smiling is just one of the most attractive things we humans can do, smiling makes us feel good and it is infectious; in a difficult situation it can turn animosity into cooperation.

But smiling also has it’s limitations, as much as a genuine smile can bridge a gab between people, so can a fake smile widen the gab beyond repair. Do not attach hooks to your cheeks and pull them up behind your ears, apart from looking freakish you will also look condescending, and that will get anyone’s back up against the wall.

Moving on down the body we come to the arms. Try to avoid putting your hands in the pockets, especially the back-pockets, it looks a bit too casual like you are not taking the situation serious. And never cross your arms in front of you, by doing that you communicate that you are closed and will not listen. Instead keep your arms relaxed down the sides or hold them in a loose grip in front of you or behind you. When you talk use your hands to illustrate that you welcome the dialogue by holding your arms out and open up your hands.

Eyes, mouth and arms are the three main components to master when communicating non-verbally. Top them off with a good posture; straight back and chin up, and you are well on your way to making your customers feel appreciated and valued and that will help them de-code your messages in the way you intended them to.

In a later post I will give tips on effective customer service in non face-to-face situations, such as through social media or over the phone.