1. "Thank you for your patience."
People like to turn to social media when they are facing an urgent or desperate issue, and as a result, this channel can often be the scene of tense customer interaction. Not responding is not only poor form, but also very harmful to your brand's image, in the short and long run.
Etiquette is a key skill to have under your belt. Even if a customer or prospect is rude, resist at all costs the temptation of responding in kind.
The trick to defusing a tense situation with a customer is not to rise to their level of agitation, but rather to talk them down to your own. Always start off with an apology or an acknowledgment of their distress. Then, do your best to provide a decent answer. You could get the ball rolling with something along the lines of, “thank you for your patience”, or “I realize this is inconvenient, so thank you for bearing with me.” This gets the conversation off on a better foot.
2. "Let me make sure I understand the problem correctly."
Customer service is everyone's job, and being the first person to speak to a customer with an issue is a great opportunity to preemptively assist the support team.
Making sure you understand the customer's problem by reformulating it or repeating it back to them will help you qualify the issue. Qualifying a customer's issue first can have several advantages:
- Potentially solving an easy problem quickly, without need for escalation
- Leaving a customer with a lasting and positive impression of your attentiveness and availability
- Teaching the customer about product usage and avoiding further calls to your support team
- Possibly scoping out a sales opportunity or a need for further onboarding
- Bridging the gap between marketing, sales, and support, with improved collaboration and more visible customer insight as a result
Social media interactions are a great opportunity to gauge a customer's engagement, their adoption of your product, and their need for further assistance.
3. "Let me find out for you."
If you find yourself truly stumped -- even after clarifying the customer's issue -- don't give up, and don't panic. Instead of admitting defeat and saying, “I don't know”, include the customer in the resolution process.
Saying, “I don't know that off-hand, but let me find out for you right away,” reassures the customer in your ability to help them and your willingness to try. Most will even be willing to wait if you explain that you need a minute to consult a colleague, since they'll prefer you solve their problem on the first try.
Customers expect seamless service, no matter with whom they interact, and how. But not knowing off-hand the answer to a question happens sometimes, and the trick is to keep your composure. Confidence will make all the difference in how the customer perceives your hesitation.
4. "I can see what went wrong. Let's fix that right away."
Once you've identified and understood a customer's problem, you might think that the right thing to do is escalate them to another member of the customer support or product teams. While that is often the case, don't miss an opportunity to help a customer yourself, if you can. Quick fixes can be easily carried out over social media, chat, or emails, and customers will appreciate an easy resolution.
If you can't assist customers yourself, never tell them that it's not your responsibility to help them. Even if solving their problem requires technical skills, address their predicament, then transfer them to the appropriate team. Telling the customer, “I can see what went wrong, I'll fix that for you right away” demonstrates empathy and proactivity, two qualities which greatly improve even tricky service situations.
5. "I can't fix that for you, but here's what I can do."
Sometimes, a customer's request simply won't be realistic and you'll have to let them down gently -- a task both arduous and well-known to support agents. There's no clear-cut way to say “no” to a customer because every situation presents its own contextual challenges. Nevertheless, the key is to avoid a jarring and implacable “no”.
Try to present an alternative or a compromise to the customer. Even if you cannot satisfy their request, zero in on the need behind the request. That customer's need is the crux of the issue, and attaining their goal matters more than how you help them succeed.
No matter the subject of the complaint, put your best foot forward, and don't sell out another member of the team. Leave the customer with the impression of having been cared for and at every stage of the process. This will hopefully leave them with a memory of great customer service, even if their problem is one without a perfect solution.
6. "Thank you for your feedback, I'm going to pass it along and I'll let you know what happens."
Interacting with customers will give you insight into their struggles and expectations. Even though you might not be the person who implements change related to that feedback, you need to make the customer feel heard.
Of course, don't make empty promises to customers -- they can smell the deceit from a mile away. However, if a customer makes a valid point, or highlights an underlying trend, make them feel valued and heard. The customer's voice deserves to be heard in every discussion that will affect your client base.