You’re a business, you have a certain image and professionalism to maintain. That’s fine - in fact, that’s necessary, but if you stay too straight-laced, too tight-lipped, you’re apt to find you’re keeping your customers at arm’s length.
This professional coldness didn’t work when shops only had a man behind a counter to promote their brand and it certainly won’t work in the social media era. When so much interaction takes place through screens, it’s vital that you assert your humanness when you engage with others online.
Social media has made communication with your business available permanently, and people expect to be welcomed with open arms. Or at least treated like human customers - regardless of the distance between you. So if you want to keep them happy and coming back then follow these 3 simple ways to improve engagement:
Think again about the words you use
When you write a post or respond to a customer message, always bear in mind you are a human talking to another human; it just so happens there’s a screen between you.
So be polite, be considerate (surely something you would be even if you weren’t representing your business) but be a little colloquial too. Make a joke, use an emoticon if you really must.
Whatever you do, don’t rely on a series of robot like pleasantries and business speak. The internet is young, accessible and familiar and so too is the tone of voice employed online. Customer expectations have moved on and no one wants to engage with someone who won’t drop the script.
Learn to be a conversationalist
Take on board verbal cues and employ mimicry. This goes hand in hand with don’t be a robot. 9 times out of 10 you can tell how the customer wants to be engaged with from how they initially interact with you.
There will be some on social media who do want you to stick very much to the script, at least in terms of formality. Their post will be concise and polite and will likely not have an opening or end pleasantry. They’re there to give you information and to come away with something valuable in return.
If you do get a ‘Hello’ and it ends with ‘Have a great day!’ then this someone who is receptive to familiarity – utilise it. An exclamation mark (at least when not used to express displeasure) is usually a sign that you can have some mild banter about the weather, how you’re glad it’s Friday or how lunch can’t come soon enough.
If you get an emoticon this is all but a green light that an informal approach is the best way to engage.
Master being assertive while avoiding aggression
When presented with an unhappy customer - something every business will unfortunately face at one time or another - it is pivotal you walk the fine line between assertive and understanding.
This is the rare instance where mimicry won’t work, meeting anger with anger will only lose your company business and threaten its reputation. In an age where customer complaints are written for the rest of the world to see, it’s essential that the way you deal with it is quick, professional and ends in some form of resolution.
Your sole aim is to calm the situation down and ensure the customer walks away feeling as though they were listened to, sympathised with and that a resolution was reached.
Everybody has the right to complain when a product or service doesn’t deliver what was promised. Once that complaint has been made and you’ve apologised for any disservice, move swiftly on to a solution. As social media is a window into your business, the last thing you want is to drag out a conversation that focuses on a mistake or flaw of your business.
However, don’t allow this to lead to overcompensating and going too much the other way, apologising profusely and allowing the customer to build up steam. If they’re angry then sympathise, don’t shrink. Remember, engagement online is just a person speaking to another person, with all the trimmings of respect still applying.
Social media may be a new form of communicating with your customers but there is already an etiquette to work to, so it’s more important than ever that you engage with them well.