It goes without saying your that customers or clients are the most important element when running a one-person (or micro) business. Given the complexities of the client-developer relationship, you’d be well-served by making it a priority. This is especially true when dealing with a customer or client who’s had a less-than-stellar experience.

For better or worse, you’ll probably discover their problems first through social media. Given the high level of activity on those platforms, this is understandable. However, as you’re no doubt be aware, social media is less than forgiving towards poor experiences. This means you’ll need to make sure your processes for dealing with issues and managing the fallout are airtight.

In this post we’ll look at how to handle support effectively through social media. However, before that, let’s talk about why it’s so important to focus on social media in the first place!

Why Social Media Has Become an Unwitting Customer Support Channel

Although it’s been around for just over two decades now, social media is still relatively new. This means we’re right in the middle of its evolutionary gestation. As such, we’re still sorting out the answers to a few key questions, such as:

  • What is social media best used for?
  • Is it a sound replacement for human interaction?
  • Can you use it as a learning tool?
  • Does it make a good platform for handling business requests?

While all of those questions are interesting, it’s the last we’ll focus on in this article. As you may be aware, social media has become a crucial starting point for many support queries. The reason why is actually pretty simple.

Social media serves a huge number of people, and there are currently billions of active users. It’s easy to see how it’s become a central hub for people to connect, regardless of the topics they’re interested in. By extension, when a problem arises with a product or service, the first place many will turn to is social media. After all, they’re already connected, so carrying out a quick search for a particular business is simple and quick.

Once everyone realized that companies were willing to converse over social media, the number of customers using those channels as a primary contact point grew exponentially. We’re now at a point where many businesses employ social media teams to conduct support requests across various channels. In other words, social media has become a place of resolution as well as conflict.

The Intricacies of Delivering Quality Customer Support

For a moment, let’s set aside the social media factor, and simply talk about what it means to offer quality support to customers and clients. At the highest level, customer support is based around a simple task: helping the customer with whatever they need.

However, we can narrow this down further, as it’s important to clarify what constitutes ‘helping’ in this context. In our opinion, support can be boiled down to the following two elements:

If both of these boxes are checked off, your support query has been successfully dealt with. Missing one or the other, however, is likely to result in a lot of unhappy customers.

Breaking Down the Customer Support Process

You want your customers to stay happy, of course. That’s why you need to pay attention to all the moving parts involved in delivering strong customer support. This includes:

  • Optimizing the time it takes to make your first response
  • Providing authoritative and actionable advice within that response
  • Keeping the lines of communication open while you investigate the issue
  • Providing a clear resolution (and an explanation where relevant) once the issue has been fully resolved
  • Following up with a customer to ensure that no further problems have arisen and that they’re happy with the support received (otherwise known as ‘aftercare’)

You’ll notice that this is a linear approach, but isn’t terribly specific. Your exact process will be shaped by a number of key factors, such as how customers contact you, what self-help options you have in place, and much more.

If you’re looking for more micro-management than what we’ve outlined here, you could break each of these steps down even further. For example, keeping communication channels open could involve regular check-ins with the customer at specific intervals. It could also include issuing an automated update whenever a ticket has been amended.

The sky is the limit when it comes to developing an effective customer support process. However, do be wary of dealing so intensely with the minutiae that the broader goal gets lost in the shuffle.

A Developer’s Guide to Social Media Customer Support

When it comes to putting your customer support plan into action, the challenge is to collate everything you’ve learned into a focused (yet easy-to-manage) package. To begin with, as a developer there are usually a few specific situations when customers will contact you through social media:

  • They want to know how they can get in touch with your support system.
  • There’s an issue so simple to explain that it can be done through a character- or word-restricted post.
  • They simply want to complain about your products or services.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it constitutes the majority of situations. Your task is to deal with each scenario efficiently, which requires planning carefully. In a nutshell, you want to make sure that if someone contacts you, there’s a clear procedure in place for dealing with the matter efficiently.

Deliberation isn’t going to be your friend, and neither will inconsistency of approach. In other words, knowing what to do and carrying out the exact same steps each time makes the whole process run much smoother.

Dealing with Specific Support Requests

As for the requests themselves, the easiest to deal with are messages from customers who simply want to know how to get in touch with you. You’d do well to have a pre-written draft or canned response on hand, which you can use to reply with the relevant information.

When it comes to more complex queries, there’s one question you should ask yourself: Is this issue suitable for dealing with via social media? The answer isn’t always straightforward, given that you’ll essentially be conducting a public support request (although there’s always the option of asking to speak via private message).

You’ll find that some situations, such as very simple requests (for example: “How do I toggle dark mode on and off?”) are low-risk. Nothing is likely to go wrong in the course of answering this query, so it may be safe to respond openly. In other cases, you’ll have to weigh up both the question itself and the person asking it before making a decision.

Often, it’s best to try and move anything but the simplest of queries off social media. This can be handled with a simple: “Can you drop us an email with a detailed explanation please?” At that point, you’ll be able to handle the communication in a more traditional way. Ultimately, you want to minimize any complex interactions via social media and keep each conversation fast, concise, and above all deftly handled.

Handling Negative Responses

Of course, it’s also important to consider the more negative customer communications, given how crucial it is to get those right. The danger with offering support through social media is that plenty of people will be quite happy to air their grievances in public.

‘Twitter beef’ should not be your goal here, so it goes without saying that if you’re thinking of responding in anything other than a cooperative tone of voice, you’ll want to step away for a few minutes. It’s hard not to take these situations personally. However, thinking things through from the customer’s viewpoint can be helpful to align your mindset.

When you’re ready to return to the fray, we’d again advise keeping things short and sweet. For example, you might respond: “We appreciate your predicament, and if you drop us an email, we can begin to resolve things for you.” If you get no response, there may be no more you can do. After all, you can’t force a user to contact you further.

Alternatively, you may have to conduct the support query via social media. In those cases, you should at least explain to them the dangers of posting personal information in public. Ultimately, it’s your job to meet the customer wherever they are. Plus, going above and beyond to help them is a key marker of quality customer support.

Conclusion

‘Customer support’ is a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of many a developer, mainly because it’s tough to get right. These days, social media is often used as a de facto support channel by both developers and end users. Not knowing how to handle the queries that come through social media platforms can leave you coming across as unprofessional.

Fortunately, the process isn’t difficult to get right. As a rule of thumb, complex queries should be taken off of social media as quickly as possible. This is because you don’t want to publicly showcase your support process – especially in situations where your products or services may not look their best. For all other queries, a series of canned responses combined with short and sweet resolutions will be the order of the day!

How do you handle social media customer support queries? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Featured image: marcoreyesgt.

Tom Rankin is a key member of WordCandy, a musician, photographer, vegan, beard owner, and (very) amateur coder. When he’s not doing any of these things, he’s likely sleeping.

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