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Done in 30 Minutes and Other Records of Social Media Support

The world is changing, and with it, various spheres of our life are developing. Technical support services are no exception. In the age of social networking, helping clients and answering their questions directly on Facebook or via other means of Social Media Support (SMS) is the order of the day. 

My name is Maria, a former technical support engineer and a present-day senior engineer for Social Media Support at Parallels and I would like to share some facts about Social Media Support today. 

Despite the obvious similarities between conventional support and SMS, it is important to remember that SMS has its own characteristics, and you should keep the following differences between conventional support and SMS in mind when creating your support dream team. 

Style of Communication

The first and perhaps main difference between conventional support and SMS is the language. Regardless of whether you talk to your customers in Russian or in English, your style will change. When it comes to SMS, formal language is replaced by an informal manner of speaking.

Habitual phrases and templates used in correspondence with users are transformed into short phrases such as “Please check this out,” “Give it a shot,” and “Thanks for sharing,” and after a while, those phrases become even more compact, such as “plz,” “thx,” “ICYMI” (in case you missed it), or “w/” instead of the usual “with.”

Of course, abbreviations should be used only when they are really needed. An example would be when you need to keep your tweet under 140 characters. Unlike Twitter, forums and Facebook let us write full words, but the style of communication is noticeably different. Thus, “Hey” or “Hi there” is often used instead of the usual “Hello. Thank you for contacting Customer Support.” You can also add “I mean …” to explain yourself in a post, or ask a user for something by saying “We’d need more details on this” to get some additional information about the issue at hand. Asking a customer if their issue has been successfully resolved is also much easier in a forum: engineers can ask users “Does it work OK now?”, for example.

This informal style is dictated by the users themselves, and there is no getting away from it. Answering a cheerful, smiley-littered question with “Thank you for contacting us. Please try these steps as a potential solution and let us know how it goes. …… Also, verify these settings and provide us with the steps to reproduce the issue if it doesn’t help” would be not only irrelevant but also time consuming. 

End-of-life License

Another thing that sets SMS apart from conventional support is helping customers with their expired licenses or their questions about other applications. In a conventional support ticket, you can explain that a version is no longer supported or that an issue is related to a different application, and then just close the ticket. (You give the customer a couple of links regarding how to fix or update the application without wasting any time.) On social networks, on the other hand, in addition to noting that an issue is caused by another, incorrect application, we try to come up with a solution that is likely to help our customer. Moreover, telling someone with an end-of-life version in a forum that we cannot help them because something is no longer updated, fixed, or supported would be just impolite, wrong, and/or against our work ethic. SMS is an official channel that does a lot of informal things in addition to official work. Therefore, when dealing with such a question, you should try to not only describe the features of a new version, but also do your best to help the customer find a solution. 

How to Help “Mr. It’s Not Working,” or the Third Difference

Another distinction of SMS is that engineers often suggest a number of possible solutions to customers when answering their questions. More often than not, users do not describe symptoms in as much detail as in a ticket because they don’t have a questionnaire to complete to support the process. On Facebook, a forum or Twitter, people are more likely to post generalizations such as “Everyone’s a jerk! Everything’s broken!” or just “Hello there! Something isn’t working!”

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