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3 Critical Must-Haves for the Social Agent

With consumers turning to social channels to vent their frustrations and air their grievances, no longer can a company keep a customer complaint hush-hush and "take care" of it quietly. Once that irate customer hits the send or share button, the gripe is broadcasted in cyberspace for anyone with internet access to see.

Is it perhaps because consumers can hide under a veil of anonymity called handles, avatars and screen names that feedback is more freely and more boldly expressed in social media? Who knows? The fact remains that raw expressions of gratitude and dissatisfaction for your offering through social media are gaining a foothold. This new reality demands strategic attention from organizations that are serious about surviving and thriving in this new customer-support landscape.

Here are critical must-haves for your sales agents to provide customer care using social media:

Scripted messages won't cut it

Responses must be personal, and it’s crucial to strike the right tone. Can you use Tweet-speak or add emoticons, or even respond with a single Facebook sticker? Can this be handled with lighthearted humor? How personal is personal? What exactly is the “right tone?” You and your team need to tweak and re-tweak until you find the right balance. But that's not to say that templates are not applicable. On the contrary, you still need to put standards and communication etiquette in place by which you deliver customer services and support. Remember, you have a brand to protect and that directive doesn't weaken or diminish just because you're using a more casual medium of communication.

Dedicate enough resources for social media

Depending on the volume of feedback and customer requests that come in, you may have to add more people to monitor and respond in a timely manner. It may be a good idea to cross-train everyone so that they’re not only proficient at answering phone calls and emails that come in the Contact Us desk, but so they’re also skilled at communicating via the social channels. You may start with alternating shifts so that someone is always available to answer in real time or at least within an acceptable time frame.

Additionally, invest in programs and applications that allow your team to track whenever your company name is mentioned online. Remember, your customer won’t always complain to your company directly. There are numerous forums available for the social consumer and you want to be able to catch most, if not all, media mentions of your brand.

Put a crisis management plan in place

Not all customer complaints or questions qualify as crisis, but there will be rare occasions when a public customer feedback can do major damage to your reputation. Is there a strategy in place for such occurrences? Outline emergency-response procedures for different types of crises to limit the damage certain complaints might cause.

Ready or not, here it comes

Whether your company has gone social or not, your customers are heading that direction. One complaint that goes unanswered can have unimaginable impact. The power of the word of mouth has grown exponentially. It is a boon and a bane, and a company's ability or inability to rise to this challenge can make or break its brand.

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