By Jennie Ferrara

July 14th, 2014

It should go without saying that the customer is the heart of any business, be it a hotel, airline, gas station, or a software company. Without the customer, there is no business. Apart from the old adages that “customer is king” and “the customer is always right”, there are other ways to internalize customer service in company culture, other than just catering to their needs. No doubt, any customer service department is steeped in this on a daily basis, but this is also a huge part of social. Social isn’t necessarily the front desk of the hotel where you go to check in: it’s the uniformed employee dashing down the hall or rearranging flowers in the lobby, the one you ask for directions. This is why it’s crucial that the people managing a company’s social media regularly collaborate with other departments, or at least have a good rapport with them, so they can easily get information.

Indeed, the customer too fulfills several roles in the span of customer-company relations – both mentor and mentee, sometimes gliding into the friend zone (in this case not a bad thing). Regardless of the stage, there are a few guidelines that will always apply.

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Be kind

You can still be professional and crisis management focused with a cherry on top. Starting off with a heartfelt mea culpa is a gracious response in the worst of cases. Wherever the customer takes you from there, you know you’ve done your groundwork.

Be quick

If a customer reaches out on social with something that needs to be addressed, it’s important to address it as soon as possible, even if you don’t know the answer. Just letting the customer know s/he is being heard is the first step. It’s completely ok to get in touch later, with a valid answer, as long as the customer is informed, and as long as you do, indeed, get back. There’s a big difference between this and an automated email response, if a customer chooses to get in touch with a real customer service representative. In times of troubleshooting, the last thing a customer wants to hear from is a bot.

Be personal

As mentioned earlier, there is a possibility of customer relations getting more personal and friendly. While a positive attitude is always a great starting point, you might want to hold off with, say, smileys and emoticons until the customer crosses that bridge first. The same goes for asking about summer vacations and sharing baby pictures. That’s all fine, in due time, when the customer has initiated it.

Be proactive

Depending on the product you’re selling, there are different ways to keep customers close. Loyalty programs are a great way build and nurture customer bases, not in the least because word gets around. There’s also something to be said for being proactive as opposed to reactive. Celebrate the connections you have made. You can always start with a card around holiday or vacation time, a personally signed sentiment is never ill-received. Once you get to know your customers a little better, you can personalize this type of goodwill with things you know will please this particular individual.

Keep in mind, social media customer service starts before you’ve even secured the customer, and although it’s impossible to tailor your social voice to everyone at all times, it’s possible to leave a good enough first impression to give you something to build on, with your customer as the contractor.

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