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How can you make social media REALLY work for your customers?

I recently ordered a few items from the website of a well known store with the full intention of returning whatever wasn’t needed. When the parcel arrived, it gave 3 options for returning items, one of which was to download a freepost label from the website. What a great idea! Saves wasted paper as only those that need it will download it, and what a great customer benefit, being able to return items for free.

Unfortunately, when I got to the website, I could not find the label. All the information appeared jumbled and despite using the search boxes there was no trace of it. As it was a Saturday and I was going away the next day, I was keen to get it sorted out quickly but assumed there would be no office staff working at the weekend. I decided to look on the facebook page to see if anybody else had experienced a similar problem, and noticed that there were several complaints and comments posted on the page by customers, all of which had been responded to fairly quickly.

With nothing to lose, I posted my question and to be extra safe, I also emailed the helpline. On the facebook page, I had a response within a few minutes, asking what I wanted to return. Meanwhile, the email returned an automated message saying that my response would be dealt with as soon as possible. Back on facebook, once we’d established what I was returning, the facebook team posted a link to the correct form. All sorted within 10 minutes! I went back to the email and replied, telling them that everything was now OK. I received another automated message.

So as a customer, what was the best solution? Clearly in this case, facebook – because it was managed well, in real time, by somebody who asked good questions to clarify the issue. Not a baffling website, or a series of automated email messages.

They care about me!

This was a brilliant example of using social media well for your customers’ benefit. All too often, company facebook pages are used to broadcast promotional messages, and the page owners despair of negative comments or complaints, even deleting them. How much better to see that a business is tackling complaints head on and dealing with them, and giving their customers a genuine alternative to writing letters, emailing, or phoning and hanging on to an endless chain of call centre options. Best of all, quick responses with no need to hang on the phone. Is it sustainable? Who knows? But let’s hope so. Nobody likes standing in a queue and the ability to sort something out whilst getting on with something else is pretty good in my book!

How to do it

  • Use your facebook page to communicate 2 ways with your customers – not just a one way monologue
  • Make sure it’s manned when people are likely to be using it, and there is always somebody responsible on duty to respond to queries
  • Have a clear set of guidelines for anybody responding to facebook queries. How much autonomy do they have? What’s the company’s ethos when dealing with complaints?
  • Try and keep lengthy discussions offline – make it clear you are dealing with the issue, but give them a private forum to continue the discussion e.g. email or a direct phone number

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