There has been a dramatic shift in the way consumers are communicating customer service needs in the last three years. Traditionally, customer service has been conduct via phone and email. Now, consumers are using social media channels to shout their problems from the rooftops and demand quick solutions. These social channels have become very noisy as a result of this shift.

Today, the three main ways to communicate to a brand or company with feedback about their products and services are:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Social Media

When using the phone, an immediate response is expected as in the problem is solved while on the phone. With email, consumers expect to wait days. For social media, 42% of consumers expect a response within 60 minutes – day or night, every day of the week and holidays. This is a pretty high expectation.

But companies are delivering on this. At least the successful companies are delivery on it. Why?

What is the difference between phone/email and social media? Social media is public. Not only do the networks of the consumers posting the message see it. But anyone who searches for a brand or company name, or even key words related to that industry, are going to see what that consumer has to say – good or bad. And 80% of customer service mentions on social media are negative. Companies don’t want unhappy customers and unresolved problems in the great wide open for potential customers and competitors to see. They want to resolve the problem, and resolve it fast.

As consumers, we use social media to voice our complaints because it is public. But to make sure you get the prompt and appropriate response from companies when you are seeking customer service through social media, there are a few simple tips you can follow:

  • Use the company’s handle and/or tag them in your post. This makes absolutely sure that they won’t miss the post. With Twitter, this means using the @ symbol in front of their Twitter name. On Facebook, you can use the same technique with the @ symbol and the name of their page to tag them.
  • Do not stretch the message over several posts. Be succinct. State the problem and make a request for a resolution. Ask for what you want in order to solve the problem. Do you want a phone call back? A replacement product? An apology? Ask for what you want.
  • Be polite. Remember what your parents taught you: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Do not try to pick a fight and argue with your initial request.
  • If the company is polite, personal and addresses your issue, be sure to post a thank you and let your followers know that the company helped you and your issue is resolved. And if they don’t, share that too. Be fair to the people that are working for the company you are complaining about. There are people behind all of those posts, just like you.
  • If you are going to post a rant about a company, realize that social media is a two-way street and is about conversations. Don’t expect to be anonymous. Expect a company to respond to you and join them in that conversation that you started; don’t leave them hanging. And when they reach out, respond – help them help you.

If companies don’t respond to you within 24 hours, then you have a right to be angry. While most of us expect a response within an hour, the reality is that many companies can’t keep up with 24/7/365 social media mentions. Give them a break and allow 24 hours for response. But definitely expect a response.

Social media is a great channel for reaching companies with your concerns. But remember that your messages are public and will live online forever. With some common courtesy and the right approach, social media can be effective and efficient for communicating with companies.

With the holiday season approaching, we can expect an uptick in customer service conversations online. Getting your voice heard will be more challenging that usual. Use these tips to get faster and better service.  Thank you to KARK for having me on to speak about this topic yesterday.