Are You Wasting Customer Time on Social Media?

image by Tax Credits, A clock with money on it - "Time is Money" http://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7214596024/

image by Tax Credits, A clock with money on it – “Time is Money” http://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7214596024/

Working in social media, I find it necessary to do quite a bit of research. This includes reading tons of articles and blog posts about customer experience, social media, and customer care. That may sound boring to some people, but I find the subject really interesting. Recently, however, I noticed that I’m having a hard time making my way through some of this material. Last night, as I found myself zoning out on an article published by a very well-respected news organization on a topic I’m very interested in. I scrolled down to find out how much longer the article was. And then it hit me. That’s why I was zoning out. This article was taking forever to get to the point! I found this fascinating, because it was written by people who work in social media, for people who work in social media. And, if you spend any time around us, you know that we have relatively short attention spans in this field. But I bet if you think about most people you interact with, that trait is fairly ubiquitous these days. We want quality information, very quickly, without all those other words that are really unnecessary. How often have you started reading something that might be valuable, but then put it down because it just looked like it would take too long?

This isn’t just about reading. You can just as easily waste customer time talking to them on the phone or in person. Here’s the thing. We probably don’t need to say all those words. It would save us time, and would save the customer time. And saving time is very important to our customers. This is especially important on social media, where customers expect timely responses that are useful and easy to understand. Here are some tips to ensure you’re not wasting time and effectively communicating with your customers.

5 Ways to Save Customer Time

  • Determine your audience – Before writing or speaking a single word, I find it helpful to determine who my audience is. The point of communication is to convey information to the person or people you’re engaging with. How can you best do that? By knowing your audience and how they prefer to receive information. If you are unsure, it’s best to stay on the safe side and be a bit more formal.
  • Be clear – All those words you wrote or spoke, do they really say what you meant to say? Review your words to make sure. If you were the audience, would you have understood what you meant by what you said?
  • Eliminate all jargon – I find that when jargon (also known as business slang) is used, you wind up repeating yourself in English anyway. So, save yourself some time and skip the jargon. It helps to think to yourself, “How do I explain this to someone who is unfamiliar with my line of business?”
  • Use fewer words – Many prepositional phrases can just go. For example, “We can have discussions on our next steps for how to proceed” could just be “We can discuss next steps.” Could you have worded things better? Remember for next time.
  • Review – Before you send that email, take one last look.   If you were on the phone, think about the conversation you had. It’s worth the extra effort to make sure everything is as you want it to be.

These steps can help reduce customer interaction time, and, quite honestly, can leave the customer with a more positive view of the interaction because less effort was spent attempting to decipher the conversation. They’re in, they’re out, they feel better, you feel better.

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Are You There?

Recently there was a story in the news about a store that didn’t clearly have its hours of operation listed. The store was in a shopping mall, and it kept different hours than its neighbors. One night the front door wasn’t properly secured. A group of shoppers entered the store, selected their items and, confused, left money on the counter to pay for their selected items.

Open sign in Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA

Open sign in Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Customers should not have to guess whether you are open and ready to serve their needs. Hours of operation and support should be clearly indicated on digital properties (web sites, Twitter and Facebook, etc.) just as they should on premise at a physical location. Representatives should be punctual to make sure that the posted hours are consistent with the actual experience. You know that feeling when you call into a call center and the hold message just spins and spins? If you later find out the business wasn’t even open but no notice was given that you should not wait on hold, you will likely wind up feeling cheated out of your time. Likewise, sending a tweet out to the universe with no response can feel like being ignored.

So, clearly post those hours of operation, and then live up to that brand promise. That’s what it is, after all: a promise of service available during a certain time period.

Sign Your Name

English: marcelina fernandez signature. Españo...

English: marcelina fernandez signature. Español: Firma de marcelina fernandez. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may seem obvious, but I think it deserves stating. In social media, especially in a corporate social media channel, it’s so important to sign your name at the end of your post. If you are using a page or handle that other people also use, make sure there is a signature on that post.

Social media is the perfect vehicle to personify brand image with cheery, helpful customer support representatives. Customers can develop a relationship with the person that helps them, and warm feelings associated with a particular representative are then (hopefully) associated to the brand itself. If you can achieve this, you have something special going on with your social presence.

In order for this personification to occur, the customer must be able to identify the person they are interacting with and remember that person. People cannot identify with or build a relationship with a nameless string of text coming at them through social media. People can identify with Patty, or Bob, or Sarah.

So, go ahead and sign that tweet. It makes a difference.

When To Step In on Forums

English: Tech Forums Thumbnail

English: Tech Forums Thumbnail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, here’s a question. On a new support forum, how long do you wait before you jump in and respond to customer questions? When I look out across the vast sea of forums, the response times are all over the place. For seasoned forums, where the base is large and the community is strongly rooted, it seems that very little moderator activity will still allow helpful conversations to flourish. On newer communities, though, it seems like more nurturing is required to get things going. I can tell you that without any tending at all, a new forum is not likely to spring to life and turn into a lush garden.

My thoughts right now are that if someone in the community posts a question that could be answered by other community members, giving between 12 and 24 hours on a new forum will give enough time to allow forum members to step in and participate, yet be responsive enough so that members don’t feel abandoned. I’m also thinking that if there is a question that no other community member could possibly answer, that the moderator should step in within an hour to provide assistance. This is especially true in technical forums, where the forum member is trying to complete a function or action and likely cannot complete this action without the aid of another forum member.

Do you have thoughts on this?