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Social media has allowed brands and their customers to be more connected than ever. For the most part, this is a good thing. It allows for more transparency, and creates a genuine opportunity to build a relationship with customers– one that is more likely to produce future sales than any advertising campaign could ever manage.
However, there are ways and means to use social media for interacting with customers. If you get it wrong — as many businesses have in the past — then you run the risk of going viral for all the wrong reasons. Word will spread, and all your good work of the past will be ruined with one ill-thought-out moment.
By far the area that can be the trickiest is when you are directly interacting with individual customers. The rules for these one-on-one interactions are slightly different to the rules for general posts, so this is definitely an area you’re going to want to investigate further.
To help you achieve this goal, let’s establish a few golden rules for one-on-one interactions with customers on social media.
Rule #1 – Every Message Gets Replied To
Whether you receive a message via the @ system on Twitter; a post on your Facebook page; or a comment on an Instagram post, you have to answer.
If you fail to respond to messages on social media, then you are guaranteed to irritate the customer– especially if they directly ask a question. While it may be time-consuming to respond to each individual comment, the reward is worth the effort. If you always respond to social media queries and comments, customers are more likely to trust your business, remember you, and — ultimately — buy your products or use your services.
Some of the comments you receive will be relatively simple to respond to; if you get a direct question, then just answer it the way you would if a customer asked you a question in person.
Somewhat trickier to handle are the comments that aren’t questions. For example, if you post a photo of a product you have released, and someone comments: “I love this! Can’t wait to get it!”, you might wonder exactly how you should respond to such a basic statement.
Well, wonder no more; here’s an easy cheat sheet for common comments you may receive:
The Common: “I love this! Can’t wait to get it!”
You Say: “We hope you love it when you do!”
The Comment: “I didn’t like this product.”
You Say: “We’re sorry to hear that. Could you drop us an email so we can discuss this further? We want to ensure our customers are always 100 percent satisfied.”
The Comment: “This is a bit expensive.”
You Say: “We put a lot of work into our products, and that’s reflected in the prices. We have a sale coming up soon if you want to try our products at a discount rate, though!”
They Say: “One of my favourite products, love it.”
You Say: “We’re so glad to hear that [username]!”
The principles are always the same:
- You always respond,
- You are bright, upbeat, friendly, and positive.
- If they make a negative comment, do what you can to take the sting out of it; such as offering further assistance.
When you respond to a comment — even if it is just with a banal “we’re glad you like it!” — you help to cement the relationship between you and your customers.
Rule #2 – Don’t Be Funny
This may sound like an odd rule; what’s wrong with a little humour every now and again? Isn’t that likely to win you customers, rather than cause issues?
It’s easy to think that humour will be beneficial, but in practice, this is unlikely to be the case. Replying to a customer with a humorous, playful response can massively backfire if the customer doesn’t take it as a humorous response.
If a customer sends you a message saying, for example, that they think your products are overpriced, you might be tempted to reply with what seems like a harmless joke. It has been known for brands to say things like: “maybe you should work a few more hours to buy our products then!”. It sounds like a lighthearted, pithy response– but you have no idea what the circumstances of the customer are.
What if that customer is already working two jobs? What if they have a chronic illness that prevents them from working? Your reply isn’t lighthearted and funny anymore– it’s outright mean. Yes, there’s no way you could have known these facts about the customer, but that isn’t going to stop them turning away from your brand forever. If you’re particularly unlucky, they will highlight the issue to their followers, and you may lose even more customers.
The safest bet is to avoid humour altogether. Humour doesn’t translate well online; it’s nigh-on impossible to detect sarcasm in text, for example. Remember: even if it seems like the most mundane, harmless joke in the world to you, your customer might not agree, so steer clear.
Rule #3 – Be Gracious
Of course, it’s impossible to discuss one-on-one social media interactions without addressing that most modern of problems: trolls.
Internet trolling is almost an art form these days; people whose only goal is to cause a reaction. We all know the saying “don’t feed the trolls”, but sometimes, it can be tough to tell the difference between a troll and a genuine customer. In fact, sometimes there might not even be a difference between a troll and a genuine customer.
Let’s say a customer sends you this message: “I bought one of your products and it’s broken. What are you going to do about it?”
You respond offering to help resolve the query.
They respond that they don’t want help, your company is rubbish, and — if we’re honest — there’s likely to be a few insults in there as well.
You have two options at this point: ignore them, or be gracious.
You should always choose to be gracious. You don’t know who this person is, if they have bought your products, or whether they might in future. If you ignore them, they are likely to continue to message you anyway, so that’s not a realistic solution.
Instead, apologise profusely and offer assistance should they decide to contact you again.
In the past, brands have been known to be rather touchy about critique online; they go for the witty comeback, the clever last word, even insults. It’s imperative you don’t stoop to this level. Remember, your customers — and potential customers — can see this interaction playing out. You’re in a public forum, so always, always be as gracious as you can possibly be.
If you experience repeated issues with the same person, you may have to block them.
Rule #4 – Don’t Make Empty Promises When Replying
Social media is a great way for customers to communicate directly with your brand, but you have to be very careful about what you say in response. The temptation can sometimes be to answer in the affirmative at all times; to say exactly what the customer wants to hear, because you don’t want to risk losing their business. Let’s look at this issue can play out.
A customer asks if you’re going to offer product delivery in the future, as they cannot get to your store often. You say “yes”, because you know that’s what they want to hear; even though you have no plans to investigate delivery any time in the near future. They respond with a happy thank you, and you assume you have done a great job of mollifying a customer.
What happens in a few months time, when your promised delivery methods have not materialised? Maybe the customer will forget, but what if they remember, and ask again? Your business will look inauthentic, even outright deceptive, if you admit you have no delivery plans at this point– and you’ll just make things worse if you double down and say delivery is coming, they just have to be patient.
Of course, there’s every chance that these queries have a point; social media can be a useful feedback tool that brings new ideas to your company. Maybe you should examine the possibility of vehicle and equipment financing details; it may be a lucrative new measure for you. Even moreso; if a number of customers ask for the same product or service, then it might well be worth considering, as there is clearly a demand for it. However, you should not inform a customer of anything until the plan has been actioned.
What should you say? “Wait and see” or “maybe one day!” will suffice.
One-on-one interactions with customers can be fraught with difficulty, but they are a necessity. If you can follow the golden rules as mentioned above, you can be confident that you will always err on the side of caution, and thus ensure that your business reputation remains flawless.