The Six Holiday Commandments for Exceptional Customer Service

January 3, 2013
Posted by: Matthew Hammer, VP- Marketing
“Bah, humbug!” No, that’s too strong
‘Cause it is my favorite holiday
But all this year’s been a busy blur
Don’t think I have the energy
– The Waitresses, Christmas Wrapping
For brands large and small, customer service conducted online and via social media is crucial, and this time of year, it’s an even bigger deal.
Going above and beyond for your customers is integral to all businesses, even more so during the holiday season. Here’s why:

  • It’s the most wonderful time of the year: The holidays are big for most brands, from the true meaning of Black Friday to accelerated gift and service purchasing. People are shopping and spending, and you’re competing for both dollars and loyalty.
  • …and the most stressful: Your customers balance work, family, and social obligations all year long. This time of year, add meal and party planning, finding the perfect gifts and getting them there on time, dealing with kids’ wants and needs, possibly inclement weather, travel, holiday visitors and juggling an expanded social calendar to the list.
  • …and the media are watching: Fail to ship by the promised holiday date and ruin a child’s holiday? Did your website crash because your Facebook promotion was TOO successful? Have a confusing layaway or gift return policy? Accidentally do something Grinch-like? Unfortunately, disappointed customers are very vocal, and your brand could easily make the news over a bad risk, online or off.

There are several ways you can position your brand as a trailblazer via social media throughout the holiday season. These proven methods will keep you and your customers cheerful, while positioning your brand as a customer service leader. Here are our 6 Holiday Commandments:
1.    Listen
Use all the tools available to monitor your social networks. Should any problems arise (a misquoted price on a holiday flyer, advertised items that are out of stock, people complaining about your franchise’s horrible, or too-loud Christmas music), you had better believe that someone will voice their complaints via social media. While they might bring the issue to you, more than likely they will just mention the brand on a public platform. Either way, you’ll need to be aware of what is being said before it spreads.
2.    Reach out
If someone is blogging or posting about your brand on your Facebook fan page or tweeting about a customer service issue, address it: Ignoring complaints is a luxury you don’t have when your competitors are tackling similar problems in a timely fashion through social media.
Don’t have the staff available to sift through customer feedback posts on your wall? There’s a simple solution: Add staff. You might be adding extra personnel to handle the holiday rush on the sales floor, or an uptick in catalog ordering calls, but don’t forget about your customers’ online transactions and interaction experiences. These are just as important.
3. Fix the problem if you can
If the issue being raised is something you can do something about, then do something about it. Today’s customer now turns to online venues to voice their feedback or complaints rather than marching into a store to speak with a manager. Either that, or they do both. More than likely they will still take their issues online and will talk about whatever problem was/wasn’t handled successfully in person. Regardless of the avenue taken, if the complaint occurs on social media, others can see it, and others can also see your response. Do follow policy, but make sure you’re consistent, fair, and kind to those who air their complaints.
Regardless of whether or not you can fix the issue (take care of a return or honor a holiday travel reservation after a mix-up) or you can’t (due to long lines in busy stores during peak hours or an out of stock product due to high demand) you would be wise to follow these six customer service Holiday commandments.
4. Empathize
Let your customers know that you relate to the issues they raise on a human level, because you should. You’re in charge of a brand, but a brand is made up of the people who stand behind it. It’s far too easy to become defensive; you’re proud of your brand and all it has to offer, but we’ve all been disappointed by a company we normally like after something has gone awry. Put yourself in the shoes of an unhappy customer and demonstrate sincere concern when things go wrong.
5. Apologize
If something doesn’t work out in your in your customer’s favor, say you’re sorry. A genuine apology really does go a long way.
6. Make it better
Fix the problem. Give the customer a credit or gift card. It’s the spirit of the season; Giving and making things right is one of the costs of doing business. You can make the best impression on an upset customer by going out of your way to make them happy.
Most of the time, social media crises that brands have to deal with aren’t minor hit-and-run trolling attacks. Sometimes they are just pranks by bored students or comments from a social ambassador from a competitor. However, legitimate complaints from individual customers about product issues, problems that haven’t received adequate customer service attention, misunderstandings, or legitimate objections to policies or advertising, must be addressed. Quickly and proactively.
These social media techniques have proven highly impactful for our clients, especially during peak shopping seasons. Our team of 24/7 human moderators are on standby to help with any of your social media needs – and anything the Internet throws your way over the next few months. We can help you to respond under any and all circumstances with efficiency, grace, and even a dash of holiday cheer!

Call to action: What has your holiday customer service experience been? How could your social media interactions improve? Whether good or bad, we want to hear from you!