Amanda Greteman Brent Thomsen Scott Holton
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Answering the Questions Your Customers are Asking

With the world becoming more connected by the day, the frequency with which customers and companies are interacting is increasing. Gone are the days of customer service representatives only handling customer complaints, salespeople only dealing with sales and marketers only making posters or ads. With social media, website chat windows, phone hotlines and more, customers have more ways to ask questions, access information and interact with your business than ever before. This interconnectivity and ease of access means that everyone in your company will most likely be asked a question about your products or services at some point.

Because customers have more avenues through which they can ask questions, your company must be able to find your audience (and vice versa) and answer those questions in multiple ways. While some will still use the tried-and-true method of calling your 1-800 number, most potential customers will be on your website, on Google or diving into your direct messages on social media.

Nicholas Wilkening, head of social media at AKC marketing, understands how to best interact with customers and provide answers to their questions in a quick and accurate way.

“Having a plan for responding to people who ask questions is important,” Nicholas said. “Whether someone is calling, messaging on Facebook or looking at your website, they should be getting the same information. Confusing a prospective customer is a great way to make sure they stay a prospective customer. And that’s not what we want.”

Active listening
Social listening is crucial to keeping a pulse on your customers, your prospective customers and how people are talking about your business and/or products. Monitoring your brand's social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions or discussions regarding specific keywords, topics, competitors or industries provides helpful insights and opportunities. Social listening finds root causes behind social conversations and helps you implement long-term strategy changes.

“Any successful social media listening strategy starts with having someone monitoring your social media channels,” explained Nicholas. “Being quick to like or respond to any comments or questions, whether positive or negative, shows that your business not only cares about its customers and its image, but is also accessible. That responsiveness makes people feel important.”

As the volume of messages your business receives increases, it will become more important to have a standard operating procedure for answering those messages. Having a quick reference guide for the common questions you receive allows your social listening team to be quick and nimble in responding. Businesses that respond quickly keep those interested potential customers engaged with their brand and will be more likely to make a sale or move through the sales funnel.

“Being timely in your responses can show that you care about your customers’ questions and helps cultivate brand loyalty,” Nicholas said. “A comment or private message that goes unanswered leads to friction and frustration for the customer. And most likely, they will start to look to your competitor to have their needs met.”

A connected experience
Having a well-organized, easy-to-navigate website full of information on your products and services is a great place to start when trying to answer your customer’s questions, whether on social media or elsewhere. Having all the information on your website serves as a “home base” where all other content can branch from, providing users with a more connected experience no matter where or how they interact with your business.

“Having a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that answers the most common questions can relieve the most potential stress,” Nicholas said. “The bulk of general questions and inquiries can be avoided if your website answers those questions first. A well-placed Contact Us form throughoutyour website can also act as a catch-all for very specific or individualized questions.”

Many businesses are taking a more proactive approach by placing chat bots on their websites. These chat bots can be manned by a customer service team or be completely automated, allowing customers to ask free-form questions.

“Keep in mind, when automating a chat bot, structure is important,” said Nicholas. “Do you have a pre-set list of options? Do you have a free-form question box that pulls articles from your website or knowledge base? Depending on your familiarity, it’s best to start small and work your way up to more complex conversation trees and automation.”

Utilizing a knowledge base for more in-depth answers
Unlike a FAQ page, a knowledge base is a self-serve customer service library that includes information about products, services and/or topics. It doesn’t simply have to be a reservoir of help center articles. It can also include functions similar to an FAQ section, a user forum, articles, white papers, how-to articles, video tutorials, case studies, and dictionaries or glossaries — essentially, anything that helps customers understand and use your products or services.

“A great knowledge base isn’t just another webpage,” Nicholas said. “It should also be used to support marketing content, explain sales presentations and convert leads. While its primary purpose is to answer questions and provide support to curious customers, it can benefit your entire company.”

What if I don’t know an answer?
It’s likely that your social listening team does not have all the answers to every possible question. For some of the more technical queries, even your knowledge base may be lacking information. Keep note of the questions you’re being asked. If your knowledge base can’t answer a question, consider adding that question in right away. Developing your knowledge base is only half the battle. An effective knowledge base is a living document, meaning it needs to be actively managed and updated to continue serving your customers.

When a question arises without a readily available answer, your standard operating procedure should involve contacting people within your organization who are subject matter experts to help answer those very specific questions.

“While you’re waiting for the answer, make sure to communicate with the person who asked the question that you have received their question and are working as fast as possible to get them an answer,” Nicholas said. “While it may not be the answer they are looking for, it shows that you value their time and are working to meet their needs.”

Available tools
There are plenty of paid and free tools available to help you keep tabs on social media, build a knowledge base or start a chat bot. Evaluating your needs is a good first step to determine whether you need to spend money on tools, or even build up an entire team.

“If you are handling a large amount of content, you might want to look into a more sophisticated paid tool like Sprinklr, Sprout Social or Hootsuite,” explained Nicholas. “Many of these tools allow you to create custom feeds to separate out comments and private messages, organize them and assign them to other team members to handle. These also provide very detailed analytics about your activity. Ultimately, you’ll have to evaluate your company and your customers’ needs to find the right balance.”

Where to go from here
For tips or help with social listening, setting up a chat bot or building up a knowledge base, reach out and let us help you get started. From experts on chat bots to in-house teams for business intelligence, content writers and social media managers, we have everything you need to answer the questions your customers are asking.

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At AKC Marketing we honestly assess the perception of your company. We push to market you above your competition. We do this by igniting your inner brand - focusing on what your true value to the marketplace is. To make it impossible to be ignored in your industry.
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