It can be hard enough answering customer’s questions when they’re standing in front of you, but what if they’re online? Words are misinterpreted and tempers flare much more easily. What you write as a humorous comment could be seen as offhand and rude.
Potential customers will always ask questions. They may be about your service, your product or when you can deliver. If you offer a service that needs a face to face meeting your customer must decide whether they want to spend any time with you.
When you have a social media presence, the way you respond to queries is crucial. You’re not just speaking to one person. What you say can be seen and read by not just their friends, but the whole of your customer base.
Individual messages or emails are more private but they still have the potential to be broadcast far and wide. It’s great marketing if you get it right. But get it wrong and it could be a PR nightmare.
How should I answer questions?
It’s all about getting the tone right. Here are my handy hints for making the right impression.
1. Leave your sarcasm behind
I have to check myself on this one. I’m very sarcastic but I save it for my friends, they know what I’m like. Sarcasm does not go across well in print. Even if you’re in a profession renowned for dark humour, the general public mostly won’t get it. They’ll just feel insulted.
2. Be friendly
You should be professional but you don’t have to be a cardboard cut-out. Use the person’s name and thank them for contacting you. Remember that you’re having a conversation, it’s just not face to face.
3. Be human
As well as being friendly and polite, you should always remember that there’s a real person on the other end of the comment. Your response to their question could be the difference between them buying a product with you and going to your competitor.
There’s nothing wrong with playing along with a joke if the customer started it, but it’s a fine line. Some customer service Tweets have misjudged their tone and ended up the target of complaints. If you want to judge for yourself, google ‘funny customer service Tweets’; there are lots of examples.
4. Don’t improvise
If you need more detail to answer the question properly, say so. Making assumptions about the information your customer already has could mean that something gets missed. If you need any personal details, direct them to an email address or phone number where the conversation is more private.
Also, don’t make something up to give a quicker response. For example, what if you normally only deliver within the UK and you get a query about delivery charges from the USA? Checking the costs means you give an accurate quote and don’t leave yourself out of pocket.
5. Answer the question!
No matter how much extra detail you need, always go back to the original question. Only politicians avoid a straight question and you’re not one of those.
One last thing: having an FAQ page is great but don’t use it as a substitute. Even if you just cut and paste the answer from your FAQ page, it makes a better impression. If your customers see you as being quick and efficient it makes it much more likely that they’ll choose to do business with you.
How do you deal with questions? Drop me a comment and let me know!