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Using Social Media for Customer Service

Using Social Media for Customer Service
By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer

When a customer gets in touch with you to complain, you can try to work things out one on one. But what if that same customer goes online to grumble or whine? It can turn into a disaster for you. Word of mouth becomes word of keyboard, and it can travel fast and far.
Maybe you already excel at customer service offline. You're quick to give out refunds. You'll take back merchandise no questions asked. And all complaints are handled within a few business days.
Now extend your customer service strategy to the online realm as well. Three things in particular can be done well virtually: monitoring customer feedback, responding to complaints or requests, and helping answer questions.

Below are some ways that can get you started.

Do You Know What Your Customers Are Saying About You?
In the offline world, it's hard to know if your customers are talking about you. Sure they'll call or write in to complain when they're upset enough. Maybe they'll send in the odd thank you note if they're really happy.
In the world of social media though, customers (current, potential or former) may be saying things about you to others. It could benefit you greatly to know what's on their minds.
You can learn about the latest gripes and praise by monitoring social media. According to online customer service author Marsha Collier, you can use sites like Socialmention or Tweetbeep to track your brand and verticals. These are a social media search engines. They search user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and microblogging services such as Twitter.
Other related tools include Tweetdeck, HooteSuite or Seesmic. They are excellent for tracking and pushing out content on Twitter. Yet they can also be used for Facebook, BeKnown, YouTube, and other social media sites.

 Is Someone Responding To Complaints Or Praise Online?

Once you're monitoring social media, be ready to respond when your brand or company is mentioned.
If you notice something negative written about your products and services, social media can give you a chance to provide your point of view. Try to be authentic and helpful, rather than defensive. See if you can get the dissatisfied commenter to re-try your products. Invite them to test out your latest offering for free or at a substantial discount. Explain why your service level dropped for a while but is now back up to standard.

When someone praises your company online, use it to your advantage. Thank the person for their kind words. Ask them if they'd be willing to provide an endorsement for your website, blog, video or other media.
Are You Answering Questions And Accepting Orders Virtually?

When customers have questions, you can answer them quickly online. The easiest way, of course, is to include a detailed FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on your website. Then when you receive a question via social media, you can point to the relevant answer on your FAQ page.
But what if the person needs more info, or has special requests? Then it might be a good idea to get an online helpdesk or chat system. Zendesk, as one example, is cloud-based customer service software. It can act as a help desk. Among its options are ticket management for problems your customers encounter, and self-service such as an online community with discussion forums and a knowledge base.
There are also virtual chat products like Meebo Me or Skype that you can add to your company's website. These enable you to have real-time chats with customers and people making enquiries.
Is The Customer Always Right?

When it comes to customer service, social media can make it more immediate. Now you can track what people are saying about your company online. Which means you can interact in ways that wouldn't be possible otherwise.
So in this new age of questions, comments and orders done virtually, is the customer always right? Perhaps not, but you can be right there to intervene and turn their online comments into win-win responses.