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Community Managers should be willing and able to provide customer service through social channels.

Last week I posted a photo on our company Facebook page. It was a teaser photo of a large pile of boxes in our warehouse. A shipment of strollers had just come in, and we were excited to share the news with our customers. As our Facebook Page administrator, I often post photos to Facebook and Twitter to spark conversation and create buzz about the great products available in our retail stores.

Inevitably, the questions started coming in via our social channels. “Do you have a red one available in your Boston store?” “How much does it cost?” “Will it fit in the trunk of my Mini Cooper?”

That’s when I put on my Customer Service hat. Because as you can imagine, Community Managers wear many hats. (Nine, according to Lauren Vargas.) That day, I called a Retail Merchant to check the stock on red stroller models. I looked up the price of the product and asked a Center Associate to clarify any discounts or promotions available to the customer. And I emailed a colleague who owns a Mini Cooper to ask if we can experiment with fitting an umbrella stroller in her trunk.

I posted the answers within a few hours. The next day, a customer posted a comment on our page reporting that she made a purchase and thanked the staff for their help. All in a day’s work as a Community Manager/Customer Service Agent.

Some would argue that Facebook and Twitter should not serve as a customer service channel for a company. But guess what? Customers are going to ask questions via your social media channels, no matter what you say they are for. It’s best to have a Community Manager (or two or three) who is ready to put on the Customer Service Hat whenever necessary.

These are my tips for successful Community/Customer Service Management:

Respond quickly. I like to post responses within a few hours during the workday, and within 24 hours if it’s off hours or the weekend. Our clients post questions to our page because they know we will answer. And when you provide customers with the answer they need, when they need it, they are more likely to shop with you.

Don’t delegate. You may be tempted to ask the customer to call or email customer service to get their answer. Don’t! Try your best to provide the answer yourself via the platform they asked the question. If it’s too complicated for you to solve, still answer via the social channel, get their contact information, and then have your customer service agents contact them.

Know who to contact to find the answer. I’ve been working for Isis a long time so I know exactly who to call for what. I have good relationships with my colleagues—I know who owns the Mini Cooper and it’s not at all awkward to ask her for a favor. Community Managers should have the opportunity meet with and communicate with different departments in the company on a regular basis. Those relationships are especially valuable to a CM, who tends to touch every part of the company at one time or another.

If you can’t find the answer right away, simply say so.  If you can’t post an answer right away, don’t ignore the question. Tell them. “I’m going to ask [department/staffperson] about that and I’ll get back to you as soon as I know the answer.” Most customers are very understanding and will be pleased that you responded, even if you can’t answer them yet.

Be prepared for complaints, too. Advice for handling complaints is another blog post entirely. But in a nutshell: 1) Don’t erase it; 2) Acknowledge it (perhaps with an apology, perhaps with an offer to look into the problem); and 3) Follow up outside the social channel.

Community Managers, is customer service one of the hats you wear?

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3 thoughts on “Is Your Community Manager a Customer Service Agent? Why (and How) They Should Be.

  1. Cindy, you are spot on! Sometimes we can’t wait around and delegate the response…we have to step up and be the right responder at the right time. Thank you for including my post. There are will be more hats we assume as the role continues to mature. Right now, we need to reflect and put processes into place to execute what we are doing currently.

  2. I too think it’s important to answer customer complaints as well as address any negative comments made via social media. Why? The rest of your followers are awaiting an answer as well as the person who made the post. Acknowledgement shows the customer they are valued, and offering a helpful solution can go a long way towards building a better relationship with that customer.

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