Are your customers active on Facebook?

Have you got a plan to support your customers via Facebook?

To learn how to use Facebook to support customers, I interview Mari Smith.

Supporting Customers With Facebook

Recent Updates: Instant Articles and Facebook Messenger

Instant Articles were inspired by the video autoplay function on Facebook. Instant Articles, which make content more appealing, enticing and engaging, are only visible on the iPhone at this time.

Currently there are only nine media partners that can create Instant Articles, which are posts that come alive with audio and movement on the page (animation, video). The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, The Guardian and BBC News are some of the publishers creating these interactive articles.

At the F8 Conference in March 2015, Facebook announced they’re opening up the Messenger API. This means any third-party developer can create an app that will work with Messenger. So if someone sends you a link to something in a Facebook message, it may ask you to install an app when you click on it.

Messenger is also integrating with businesses, although there are only a few online merchants doing this as of now. With this functionality, when people make a purchase, Messenger will ask them if they want to get updates for this merchant via Facebook Messenger. That’s almost as good as having a person’s cell phone number, Mari explains, because there’s a high open rate for SMS messages.

Using this technology, merchants can make purchase recommendations or send shipment updates via Messenger, for example. It basically opens up the dialog between the business and the customer.

Why businesses should use Facebook for customer service

Facebook should be part of a business’s customer service plan, since most people are already on Facebook and many use Facebook through mobile devices.

Companies should also look at the features recently added for business pages on Facebook. The newest call to action button on ads is “Call Now.” Facebook wants people to call businesses. They realize if a phone is in someone’s hand, they can just press the Call button. The challenge is businesses would need to have staff on standby or a system in place to be able to handle the incoming inquiries.

How to make a Facebook page customer-service friendly

Businesses need to do to help consumers find their page on Facebook. First, give your page an obvious and intuitive name, so when users search, they will find you. (Hint: Do your own searches on Facebook and Google to make sure your page comes up.) Also, include good keywords in the About section.

Next, have a good cover image that you change regularly. Use the call to action button on your page, and possibly include text on the image itself.

Businesses need to consider whether they should leave their wall open to posts. If your wall is open, customers will write on it. If your wall is turned off, customers are likely to comment on an existing post. If a major brand with millions of fans gets thousands of comments, it’s just not humanly possible to put enough staff on to manage them all.

Your business may want to enable the Message feature, because Facebook strips out spam. Oreo, which has 40 million fans, keeps their Message button enabled. If a user sees “Message” on your Facebook page, they know they can tap it on their phone or click it on the desktop and write directly to the page admins.

Messages provide a golden opportunity for companies to develop relationships with the people who contact them. Note: the message must be initiated by the user.

For managing messages, there’s a Facebook Mentions appfor verified accounts (if you can use it, then you qualify) and the Facebook Pages app. Agorapulse, Spredfast, Sprinklrand NetBase are more for social media management and enterprise solutions.

Best practices for dealing with negative comments and spammers

If your page gets negative comments, respond quickly, apologize and ask the customer to email you directly so you can find a solution.

Some community members don’t want help, they just want to complain. Those are the ones to watch out for.

Where spammers are concerned, in addition to blocking and deleting them, page managers can change the profanity and page moderation settings on their business page.

If necessary, update the profanity section to block medium or strong language. Set page moderation to block posts and comments containing the keywords you determine.

People skills for page managers

The number-one skill page managers need is emotional intelligence. It means that you’re able to make logical decisions, and avoid getting fired up.

In this context of customer service on Facebook, if someone’s upset and their emotions are running high, the person managing your page needs to be able to realize the person is having a really bad day and not take it personally. Responding with emotion only makes things worse.

Sometime you just need to go off-script and empower your team members to do so, if they need to handle a dissatisfied customer.

That’s an important aspect of training and customer service. You can’t have people reading off of a script, because it feels canned and makes customers feel like you don’t understand their situation.