Use Social Media to Improve Customer Satisfaction
Originally published: 04.01.17 by Daniel Lemin
In January of 2016, a massive winter weather event — Storm Jonas — landed a powerful punch on New York City, leaving in its wake more than 30 inches of snow across the city.
The main New York utility, Con Edison, was ready for the storm and thanks to their efforts on social media, so were many of their customers. They accomplished this by embracing one of the key benefits of a proactive, customer-focused social media effort: get out ahead of the problem by helping customers help themselves.
This was the fourth largest storm in the northeast in the last 60 years, but Con Edison’s preparation helped them recover more quickly and stay ahead of customer issues. Their efforts involved scheduled content reminding their customers — or at least those that followed them on social media — to make necessary preparations for the storm, and helped reinforce to their customers ahead of time that they were on top of the problem before the storm struck.
Although that might seem like a small thing, customers notice. In Con Edison’s case, it
Proactive, customer-focused social media efforts are one of the most impactful things your business can do to improve customer satisfaction with your company.
As with Con Edison’s experience during Storm Jonas, major weather events can drive surges in customer calls for your business. But proactive customer service is just one benefit of a social media-driven business. In addition to the many benefits a proactive approach delivers, there are other key areas where your HVACR business can boost customer satisfaction with social media.
As helpful as Con Edison’s proactive approach is for preparations around major predictable events like storms, not all customer issues can be predicted. To help your business stay ahead of comments on social media, you need to invest in some sort of monitoring system.
There are many options, such as free tools like Google Alerts to full-featured robust automation platforms. What’s important is that you find a tool that works for your business and budget, and create a workflow that ensures human intervention when issues surface that need to be addressed.
What happens when you see a question or complaint about your business? Answer them. You want to be quick, but you also want to be comprehensive.
Speed is important when addressing questions and complaints on social media, but equally important is broad coverage. You want to answer every question and complaint, in every channel, every time you see them. Being comprehensive and generous with your responses will help foster and sustain strong customer relationships on social media.
Making a pivot to social customer service and real-time customer feedback does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. If you read many of the case studies of companies that provide exceptional customer service on social media, you can begin to feel disillusioned.
How is a smaller business meant to cope with the increased workload created by social media?
You can hire a full-time person dedicated to social media, and indeed many HVACR businesses have done just that. You can also work this process into an existing workflow that exists in your company — perhaps the person who handles email responses can also have some time freed up to do social media.
There’s no perfect solution for every company or every team. What’s important, though, is to establish expectations among your customers. How quickly might they expect a response if they leave you a message on Facebook or Twitter? Should they ever expect to hear back from you?
The good news is many social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, make it easy for your business to publicize its hours of availability. On Twitter, a business can add its office hours, just like you’d see on your own website. Facebook will show to consumers your average response time to messages on the Facebook Messenger platform.
All of these things help set customer expectations for when (if ever) they can hope to hear back from you.
This real-time customer feedback creates a sort of enduring story about your commitment to customers. A prospective customer may find your Facebook or Twitter profile while doing research for a new HVACR contractor.
When they see your business is responsive and that you generally reply within an hour or two, it helps the customer feel good about doing business with you. They know you’ll be timely and helpful, and that sets the foundation for a great customer relationship.
It will also differentiate you from competitors that don’t have the same customer focus. You don’t have to be amazing to do this right, you just need to be consistent and chip away at it one message at a time.
Customer interactions on social media have a way of becoming part of your “permanent record” online. Not quite the permanent record your grade school teacher warned you about, but permanent nonetheless.
That data is helpful to customers who are researching new HVACR providers and looking for information about companies they’d like to do business with — is your company responsive; do you take your customer commitment seriously?
There is another benefit to being proactive and responsive on social media, and it stems from the one-to-one nature of the interaction. If a specific customer interacted with your business on social media and had a delightful encounter, they’re more likely to become an advocate for your brand later on.
That might seem obvious, but here’s the great news: you don’t even need to delight them to benefit. Simply answering complaints can create advocates for your company, too.
In the research for his book “Hug Your Haters,” Jay Baer with Edison Research discovered an interesting trend: simply answering a complaint on social media increases customer advocacy by as much as 25 percent. Not answering those complaints decreases customer advocacy by as much as 50 percent.
Your business benefits simply by being accessible on social media, and that creates enough customer loyalty that they’ll become your advocate. Customers can be pretty forgiving when mistakes are made, but they cannot forgive being ignored.
Most businesses believe they do a good enough job at handling customer complaints. In his research, Baer found that 80 percent of companies say they deliver great customer service, but only 8 percent of customers agreed.
This can be a substantial strategic advantage for your business that sets it apart from most companies, whether you compete with them or not.
Social media can show its true colors most when things go sideways for your business. In times of crisis, it can feel like customers turn on you, gather an angry mob and come after your business.
In times of a social media crisis, you will be truly measured on how you responded (if you did), and how quickly you addressed the situation.
Whether you’ve been active on social media for several days or several years, dealing with an angry rant is time consuming and can feel like a kick in the gut. Wade Lombard, owner of Square Cow Movers in Austin, Texas, has a method for dealing with angry rants that can be helpful.
There are similarities between moving companies and HVACR companies, no doubt: you are in customer’s homes or businesses, in charge of things important to them and sometimes things don’t go the way the customer expected.
In situations where a customer rants and rages against your business, Lombard suggests a three-step approach:
STOP. Pause and give yourself a moment to consider the nature of the complaint.
DROP. Let go of the urge to be sharp, or to meet angry speech with angry speech.
ROLL. Things are not always going to your way and when they do, you have to roll with the punches.
Lombard learned the hard way, early in his business, about taking a situation too personally. Attacking back does not improve customer satisfaction, and certainly earns you a negative star in your permanent record with other customers.
There isn’t anything to be gained by always being right. Customers don’t see it that way.
Being mindful of Lombard’s Stop, Drop and Roll method may actually help your business improve outcomes when a negative situation strikes. In a study about negative reviews, Yelp found that 33 percent of customers who have complained on the Yelp platform and left a negative review upgrade the star rating by adding stars when a business responds to them.
Faced with a negative situation, turning a bad review into a positive review is a great outcome for your business and should be seen worthy of any investment in time and ego.
Customer service on social media today is a very manual task, no doubt, and can certainly lead to some frustrations about the investment needed to get it right. There are improvements on the near horizon that should help your business find shortcuts to customer satisfaction.
The biggest development is the introduction of chatbots, or automated customer service tools. The best example of a chatbot today is on Facebook’s built-in Messenger platform. Within that platform, it’s possible to give customers the tools to answer their own questions about common topics, such as inquiring about order status or setting up an appointment.
This all happens right within the Facebook Messenger interface, where customers may already interact with you, but puts the tools in their hands to fulfill some common tasks.
Chatbots are seen as one of marketing’s biggest trends in 2017, particularly for social media interactions.
There is no doubt that good customer service leads to customer satisfaction and creates referral opportunities for your business.
Social media holds a wide range of opportunity for your business to grow and create enduring customer satisfaction, whether you are small and growing or large and established. The upside is substantial and will help will catapult your business.