Truth & Dare: Mastering Social Customer Care in Challenging Circumstances

One of the most important aspects of social customer care is setting the record straight — making sure consumers have accurate information, clearing up misconceptions, and protecting your brand reputation. It can also be one of the toughest parts of the job.

In February’s Forbes Insights webinar, AAA’s Mary Devine and Patagonia’s Scott Carrington shared some hard-earned wisdom from their experience, while Twitter’s Jeff Lesser offered best practices for turning these tricky situations into real success stories. Plus, Spredfast’s Chris Kerns offered a data-driven perspective that emphasized the critical importance of 1:1 customer care within a modern social strategy.

We learned four key truths from the webinar, which really apply to any social customer care situation:

1. Clearing up misconceptions takes persistence and consistency.

As New Year’s Eve approaches, people want to protect their friends and loved ones, so they frequently share social content about AAA’s Safe Ride Home Program, known variously as Tipsy Tow or Tow to Go. The problem? For years, inaccurate information has been shared and re-shared by well-meaning people across social. The Tipsy Tow/Tow to Go program is not available nationwide and its details vary depending on where the program is offered.

However, through a thoughtful, proactive campaign, the AAA team makes sure its fans and followers have the right information in easily shareable formats. It takes patience and persistence every year, but this kind of social customer care is crucial to the safety-conscious, customer-focused AAA brand.

2. When people are upset and passionate, be honest and heartfelt.

Since 1973, Patagonia has worn its mission on its rugged, outdoorsy sleeve: “to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Because of the company’s strong stance, conflict and controversies often arise on social—and the passion fueling them can make these conversations highly visible.

For example, when PETA exposed animal mistreatment by a wool supplier, @Patagonia received heated questions, comments—even death threats. The team monitored and responded 24/7 as the crisis unfolded, always with heartfelt and staggeringly transparent messages about the steps Patagonia was taking to remedy the situation (as opposed to canned copy blocks). Ultimately, the company cut ties with the supplier and launched cruelty-free products with PETA’s blessing.

It takes real guts to stand on the front lines of social customer care. But as Scott Carrington told us, “Complaints and criticism are our best opportunity to create brand advocates.”

3. In all instances, show you care—and be human.

Eighty percent of all social customer service requests come via Twitter. That means that as a network, Twitter has an intimate understanding of what works in social customer care. Product Marketer Jeff Lesser shared some best practices from the Twitter Customer Service Playbook:

  • Empathize with the customer (Brands do this less than half the time on Twitter!)
  • Offer to help whenever you can
  • Say the fan or follower’s name—preferably their real name
  • Be informal and casual, avoiding stock answers

When social customer care exchanges get heated or include personal information, moving them to direct messaging can be helpful. Spredfast recently integrated with Twitter to offer a new type of Tweet response, featuring a call-to-action button that allows the customer to reply via a Direct Message, quickly and easily. It’s a much more seamless and elegant way to transition to a private conversation, where resolution can be both more personal and more efficient.

4. Social data can help balance your team’s resources and priorities.

In our latest Smart Social Report, Spredfast’s Research & Insights team took a deep look at what we call The Social Iceberg—the 93 percent of branded Twitter content that’s actually one-on-one social customer care. Careful data analysis reveals that many social teams may have their priorities, budgets, and resources out of whack, focusing too much on the flashier seven percent designed for and consumed by the masses. Download The Smart Social Report, Vol. 4 for all the metrics, plus three key questions that could lead you and your team to a more robust, balanced social strategy.

Hungry for more important truths about social customer care? View the Forbes Insights webinar, Social Customer Care: Exploring What Works & Why, on demand at your convenience.

Jaime Netzer's picture

Jaime Netzer

Jaime Netzer is Content Marketing Strategist, leading content operations in marketing at Spredfast. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly.