How to suck at social media customer service

twitter customer serviceLike it or not, customers have gotten accustomed to reaching out on social media channels when they have a comment, complaint or issue with your company.

And yet, even years after channels like Twitter, Facebook or Whatsapp have become commenplace for customer service, so many companies are still doing it wrong.

If you’re a company that REALLY does not like your customers, and your goal is to royally piss them off, here are 6 surefire ways to do that:

  1. Appoint a powerless intern.
    There’s nothing more frustrating than getting a stock answer from someone who clearly has zero power to resolve your situation. The people responding to your Facebook and Twitter inquiries should be just as empowered as your phone or other customer service reps.
  2. Request a private message… and then ignore (or worse) block it.
    Brands hate it when customers air their dirty laundry in public. It’s tempting to immediately invite the angry customer to send a private or direct message so you can follow up on their issue privately. However,  you have to actually READ your private messages and follow up on them. Worse are the companies who, intentionally or unintentionally, have set up their social media accounts to block all incoming private messages, making that advice the epitome of useless.
  3. Take too long to reply.
    Customers reaching out via social media expect speedy replies, rightfully or wrongly. Sometimes they’re messaging because they can’t get through via other channels and they have an urgent issue. Other times, it’s because their anger levels are through the roof. Either way, if you delay responding, even by 24 or 48 hours, a simple message can quickly devolve into a tweet-storm. Staff your customer service people in shifts, and make sure they’re responding quickly and promptly.
  4. Use bots or canned responses.
    With AI chatbots getting better all the time, many companies are experimenting with using them to respond to frequently asked questions and common queries. The problem is, your customer base is getting savvier about that as well. If they believe they’re talking to a human, only to be met with canned bot replies, they will get angrier.
  5. Delete negative comments.
    Angry comments are like weeds; pull one out, and ten more will spring back up.  That’s why it’s so important to be transparent. By all means, post clear community standards regarding spam or abuse. If you must delete a comment or block someone, post that you have, and state your reasons why. And use this tactic sparingly; it’s far better to reply openly to negative comments than to delete them altogether.
  6. Ignore social media altogether.
    You may think you’re being clever by simply ignoring negative comments in your social feeds — or, hey, even by not having social media accounts at all. But you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. Angry customers will vent. If they don’t get a receptive audience with you, they’ll vent elsewhere — on spoof accounts, on your competitors’ feeds, and even in the media. Ignore customer feedback at your peril.

Digital channels may evolve, but humans remain fundamentally the same. Good customer service is good customer service, whether by phone, by email, in person, or on Twitter. The only difference is that social media can vastly amplify their reach; in the old days, each angry customer was said to share their negative experience with 10 other people, but these days, they may reach hundreds, thousands or (in the case of social media influencers) potentially millions of people within seconds.

That’s why it’s so important to get it right: Resolve their issues to their satisfaction, and your brand detractors will quickly turn into your biggest advocates.

Or, you could continue to treat them with contempt, using this guide. The choice is yours.