Social Media - Customer Service - November 2017

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Best practices for using social media to improve customer service

by Mike Bederka

More likely than not, customers these days do not use their smartphones to call an attraction to ask a question or lodge a complaint. Instead, by way of social media, these devices have morphed into a direct line to a facility to inquire about things like hours of operation, or to voice displeasure about an issue like a ride’s wait time.

“Guests feel they will have a better chance of a response on social media,” says Scott Brown, director of marketing for Family Entertainment Group in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. “That’s where they have gone and what the rules of the game have become.”

With that fact in mind, venues of all sizes need to realize how they handle customer service on social media will make a huge difference in the public’s perception of the facility. In addition, effectively answering routine queries and making announcements about pending schedule changes can increase guest satisfaction.

I-DRIVE 360

A social media expert who works with the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye and I-Drive 360 says customers on Twitter expect a response from corporate entities within 30 minutes.( Credit: I-Drive 360)

Dedicate Resources

First off, attractions must make sure someone regularly monitors their channels—an issue that likely impacts smaller facilities more than larger ones, which generally have more social media personnel at their disposal, says Kevin McNulty, president and CEO of NetWeave Social Networking in Palmetto, Florida. At mom-and-pop facilities, in particular, the employee assigned to check social media might be expected to handle a handful of other duties around the park.

“And when they do that, they’re not really paying attention to social media,” says McNulty, whose company provides social media management services to places like Zoo Miami, I-Drive 360, and South Florida Museum. “Then, maybe someone waits a whole day before they get an answer, or maybe they never get one at all.” 

Thirty percent of customers on Twitter and 25 percent on Facebook expect a response within 30 minutes, he says. More than 80 percent want an answer in the same day at the very least.

If attractions cannot meet that level of customer service, they should reorganize staff priorities to move up social media or outsource the responsibility, McNulty says: “You want to be on top of it. If not, they might just go to the park that did answer them.”

How to Handle Complaints

The Power of Positivity

Want to cut down on your attraction’s negative feedback on social media? Be the kind of facility people want to say positive things about, says Kevin McNulty of NetWeave Social Networking. 

“If you haven’t checked off that box, you’re in for nothing but headaches on social media,” he stresses. “You will get complaints and pushback. However, if you have a good relationship with your customers, your social media will reflect that, and you will have a much easier time. Love your guests, and know who they are.” 

Social media has become the go-to sounding board for voicing complaints. Anything from cold pizza, to dirty bathrooms, to grumpy staff members earns a mention. When guests come at a park aggressively, the social media point person—ideally a manager—must resist the temptation to respond defensively, and avoid the use of emotionally charged language, McNulty says. De-escalate the situation by responding with facts and looking for ways to calmly resolve the issue.

“If they have a legitimate beef, like they were on a ride that broke down, then go ahead and acknowledge it, apologize for the inconvenience, and say what you will do to make sure it never happens again,” he notes. “Especially if the complaint is public, you want everyone to see that you own up to your mistakes and you’re committed to giving your customers a good experience.”

When possible, the attraction should try to transition the public conversation to a private message via social media or a phone call, Brown says. Strive to calm the situation quickly, and avoid any back-and-forth public debate for the universe to see. 

Facilities will ideally want to move to the point where a satisfied guest will publicly share the problem was fixed or even remove the post altogether, Brown says. Otherwise, the dirty laundry could hang out there for a while. 

Some complaints, though, fall into a gray area. For example, guests may have a valid concern but use offensive language to make the point, or they will not ever be content despite an attraction’s best efforts. McNulty suggests the sometimes-overlooked option of hiding the comment on Facebook in these situations. Here, just the comment writer and his or her friends can see the message (and the park’s response, if warranted), but the public cannot view it.

“They feel like they’ve been heard, and they don’t know you’ve hidden it,” he says. “You can let it die right there.”

Pay no mind to the spammers and trolls without any substance to their complaints, McNulty adds: “The choice is clear: delete and ban.”

ZOO MIAMI

Attractions such as Zoo Miami use proactive social media posts to inform visitors about potential service interruptions. (Credit: Zoo Miami)

Surpass Their Expectations

Along with grievances—legitimate or not—facilities will field a host of general questions through social media. Attractions should certainly respond to the basic query (hours of operation, ride height restrictions, types of food available, etc.), but train guests to realize the answers live online, too.

“Don’t just send a link—that’s rude,” McNulty explains. “Say you’re open these hours today and give them the link for your hours on other days. Next time, they will just click the link to find out your hours.”

Brown agrees, stressing attractions should work to surpass expectations: “Like if you’re at a grocery store looking for a box of cereal, a staff member can just point to Aisle 2, or he can say, ‘Let me take you over there and show where it’s located.’”

Along these lines, when a guest asks about a facility’s prices, share that info, but also provide the link for specials or promotions, Brown says. 

Be Proactive

Effective social media efforts should not just be reactive. Attractions can use the platforms as an outlet to make important announcements, and smooth over any potential customer service issues, such as a restaurant closing for a few hours for a private event, or a favorite ride being down for routine maintenance. 

“The information might be posted big and bold on your website, but your guests may only see it on Facebook,” Brown says.

For another smart way to be proactive on social media, routinely search channels for mentions of the park as well as its rides and attractions, McNulty says. This extra step can find issues bubbling up around the facility (and help to quickly resolve them), and can also generate content when happy guests share their photos and experiences.

“Other people talking about how great you are is much better than you talking about how great you are,” he says.