social customer service

Empathetic Social Customer Service Means More Than Typing Sorry

Ever heard the expression “don’t be sorry, just change?” Sure, you have. Nowhere is this more applicable than in social customer service. It’s easy for brands to say or type “sorry,” and that’s exactly what makes the phrase less-than-helpful for customers.

Everyone on social media – which is just about everyone – knows how little effort it takes to type a reply, so customers require more personalized attention when things go wrong. What unhappy customers want and need from brands is what people have always needed when they are wronged: a convincing change in behavior, not just lip service. In an age when the most beloved brands go out of their way to surprise and delight, an easy apology won’t cut it, nor will simple satisfaction.

Satisfaction is so last century

In case you haven’t noticed, social media has revolutionized the way we do customer service. Not only is it faster and more efficient, customers have higher expectations and less patience. And every time a story about extraordinary customer service goes viral, other customers begin to long for a comparable level of service from their brands.

In the old days, “a satisfied customer” was the pinnacle; the best outcome a brand could hope for. But just as the immediacy of social media has led customers to expect lower first-response times, it has also led to expectations of tailored service that goes beyond simple satisfaction. Think about it: on the spectrum of customer service emotions, satisfaction is neutral. It is basically the absence of feeling. If you’re satisfied, you’re not disappointed, but you’re not thrilled either.

That’s why when things go wrong between a customer and a brand, saying sorry isn’t enough. If the adage “the customer is always right” remains true, then the customer is extra-right when the brand does something wrong.

Empathetic = An extra mile

Every satisfied customer is poised on the edge between delight and disappointment. When something goes wrong, the customer gets a nudge toward disappointment. If a brand only apologizes, they are just pushing the customer back into position between disappointment and delight. But brands that stand out because of their empathetic customer service know that a disappointed customer is an opportunity for delight.

The reason these brands go the extra mile to really wow disappointed customers is because that journey from disappointment to delight can inspire life-long loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations.

So, what does truly empathetic customer service look like? It comes down to three steps:

  1. Solve the problem: It’s imperative to respond quickly when things go wrong, but more than that, customer service must be result-driven, changing the situation as soon as possible to rectify the wrong the customer feels he or she has suffered.
  2. Surprise the customer: Unfortunately, simply fixing the problem isn’t enough. Customers expect that things won’t go wrong, so when they do it’s the fault of the brand. Not only do they need to fix the problem, they need to surprise the customer with a bonus. Anything that’s more than a simple fix.
  3. Be friendly and follow up: The third step might be the most important because it’s the one that really solidifies the sense of delight that leads to customer loyalty. After you know you’ve delighted the customer it’s important to follow up with them to reinforce their positive emotions. Whether it’s the same day, the next day or a week later, a simple message will show the customer you’re still thinking about them and that you weren’t only concerned with solving a PR problem.

Brands that can master these steps are more likely to have happy customers. And happy customers are more likely to be loyal, to spend more, and to recommend the brand to friends. That’s one of the reasons why great social customer service is so important. It’s not just a good idea, it’s a must.

Being empathetic is about going the extra mile to turn dissatisfaction into delight. To do that, you’ve got to know exactly how to please your customers, and I don’t mean discounts. Social customer service software like NICE inContact CXone tells you more about your customers so you can know them better – and know how to serve them better, both when things are going right and when they go wrong. But don’t wait until you have to say sorry.

To learn how the digital age is transforming customer expectations for call centers, watch our webinar, Digital – First Customer Service: The Future is Here Today.