Social Customer Service Secrets to Avoid Negative Search Results

Search results beware and be aware, customer service is part two of the social media revolution. The new rules of selling and customer service are here, they’re social, they’re mobile, they’re visual…and most businesses are not ready.

new-rules-of-sales-and-serviceIf you think about it, everyone is selling, whether you’re a search marketer, yoga studio, doctor, lawyer, technology start-up, or retailer. All businesses are selling something and as David Meerman Scott reminds us in his latest book The New Rules of Sales and Service: It’s the buying habits that are changing.

And with that comes a new expectation – your business better be operating with a real-time mentality that is social-media-friendly.

  • We research someone online before agreeing to a first date — is he a deadbeat?
  • We fire up LinkedIn an hour before an interview — does she have anyone I know in her network?
  • We do a Google search before buying from a brand — what do people really think? Is this a scam?
  • We check Yelp before entering any restaurant — what did people like and how was the service? What do my friends think?

Let the games begin and the social side be ready.

Now buyers are in charge of relationships with the companies they choose to do business with, and when it comes to selling and customer service, search and social have never been more important.

“We are moving from a one-to-many part of the social media revolution to a shift focusing on one-to-one,” said Scott. “Most marketers and public relations professionals are on board with social media, but now it’s time for sales and customer service to say goodbye to old-school practices of dialing for dollars.”

8 Sales and Service Secrets to Avoid Negative Search Results

Social Customer Service Across All Time Zones

If your business is in San Francisco or Seattle, your New York customers are ready for action three hours before you. Rise and shine when they are already on social! Companies such as Moz and Buffer make it a point to have all times zones covered when it comes to social customer service. Letting those customers wait could be the difference between a cheering brand advocate and a ranting social customer spreading negative sentiment that is like poison to a brand’s reputation.

Take Complaints and Issues Offline as Quickly as Possible for a Resolution – or Else

Nothing good will come of getting into a heated and threaded discussion with a customer on social media. As a means to minimize the chances of exploding a can of bad publicity worms over the Internet, take complaints offline as quickly as possible. Put some scripted processes in place for your customer service department to transition a complaint originating in social media to a phone call or private chat as quickly as possible. This will make customer feel heard and diffuse a situation from the potentially viral social airwaves; ultimately avoiding bad reviews on outlets such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, or RipOff Report.

Random Acts of Kindness

When something goes wrong, it seems like nothing is going right for a customer. But when nothing is wrong, everything that does go right is amplified and a pleasant surprise. The art of the old-fashioned handwritten thank-you note that you send to a client or customer is suddenly revolutionary…and modern. Not as a make-up for doing something wrong, but as a random act of kindness just to make their day and acknowledge them for whatever you can think of, like being your 10,000th Twitter follower or being the 10th customer to order a certain cup of coffee that day. Making it a point to make someone’s day or acknowledgement can have a priceless ROI. Clearme sends out swag packages thanking its loyal customers who travel the globe and surprises travelers with random acts of kindness gate gifts such as bottles water and a healthy snack.

Keep That Happy Face Smiling

When the Four Seasons recently opened in Orlando, they had a job fair and tracked how many times a candidate smiled during an interview. They want to recruit happy employees to keep hotel guests happy. Speech coaches will tell you that smiles come through when talking on the phone. In social media, make it a point to keep that happy tone in the writing, taking advantage of the emojis when appropriate to help carry across the love. Buffer calls their customer service team Happiness Heroes, a title that sends a clear message to the customer that their mission to make them happy.

Less Than One Hour Response Time – There Is No Hold Button in Social Media

According to a recent study, 72 percent of customers tweeting complaints to a brand expect a response time of less than an hour. And if they don’t get a response? Expect a bad review and possibly a lost customer. Brands that do not step up to the social media response rate in a timely manner can bet on 60 percent of those unhappy customers taking a negative action. Dom, duh, dom, dommm.

Create Content That Helps the Customer

Yes we know…content is king. Can we retire that phrase for 2015? And change it to: Content is king only when your customer says it is. We are in content overload and so are your customers. If you are going to collect a customer’s email address, the least you can do is provide more than just special prices and discount offers. Scott uses the example of Costa Rica Expeditions, a Central American ecotourism company. They send customers who have booked a trip a link to 27 Things to Do Before Leaving Home. It’s a simple list of to-dos of things like “make a copy of your passport, pay all your bills before you leave,” and so on, but it’s valuable to the customer and a way to go above and beyond making a sale in order to build a relationship. Sometimes a reminder to feed the fish before you leave is the best-selling technique versus “we’re having a 20 percent sale of excursion trips promotion.”

Customer Threats Never Work

Fabletics is an athletic wear company co-founded by Kate Hudson. The membership-based online retailer has done an unbelievable job at creating an army of brand advocates through loyalty programs and offering custom outfits based on customer lifestyle profiles. Fabletics is also very social with customers and has developed an active community of reviewers. But the Fabletics social team can use a workout on negative customer responses to avoid negative search results. Threatening to block a customer from a social network seems slightly drastic, and if you are going to block someone – an announcement is not necessary, just block them. No comment necessary. And if you are going to have social media house rules and regulations, keep a positive tone. So now, Fabletics has a slightly tarnished page one branded search result.



Monitor Your Brand

More of your customers may be talking about you on social but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re extremely social-savvy and making sure you get the message.

Go beyond the @ mentions and page tags when responding to customer service queries. Set up alerts for your brand name using tools like Google Alerts, Mention, Topsy, and SparkCentral to find out what people are saying about you and then swoop in and save the day.


“People shared the secret that when customers are happy, they keep their product longer, they spend more over time, and they share their happiness with others either in person or on social networks. It seems so simple! Yet few companies actually use this secret weapon of business growth,” Scott shares in his book.

This underlines a study by helpscout pointing to the fact that many companies think they are delivering superior customer service, but only a fraction of the customers think so.

Ready or not, here they come. Your customers are taking their reviews and inquiries to social and expecting genuine and helpful customer service responses. Is your business ready to turn those frowns upside down in real time?

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