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Four Customer Service and Social Media Myths

I’m still surprised at the number of restaurants that refuse to use social media at all. They tell me, “it’s for kids.” “I think it’s stupid.” “They’re too busy.” “Our customers don’t use it.”

Wrong. That’s unfortunate. No, you’re not. Yes, they do.

They’re missing a valuable customer service tool. Social media is an excellent — and inexpensive — way to monitor whether your customers are happy, whether they had a good time at your restaurant, and whether they’re going to tell their friends about the good or awful time they had. Basically, if you want to keep an eye on customer service, start paying attention to what your customers are saying on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

Here are our four answers to the customer service = social media myths we hear most often.

Social media is for kids.

No Bullshit Social Media cover. The book explains a lot about customer service and social media.

My friends wrote this book, and it taught me a lot about customer service and social media.

Two things wrong with this statement:

1) The fastest growing demographic of Facebook users is women between the ages of 50 – 60. That’s not kids. And women make the vast majority of buying decisions in this country. Want to reach the biggest number of people who say “let’s go out for dinner tonight”? Connect with your customers on Facebook.

2) If we define “kids” as Generation Y (ages 16 – 26), then yes, they’re on social media. You can also can be sure they have money. This is the golden fleece for marketers — young people with disposable income. And these kids are avoiding traditional marketing. They’re not reading newspapers, listening to their radio, or watching TV. They’re reading their mobile phones, listening to iPods, and watching YouTube. Connect with them and their customer service needs on their phones, and they’ll pay attention.

I think social media is stupid.

Really? Know who doesn’t think social media is stupid? Your customers.

According to the latest figures:

  • Generation Y now outnumbers Baby Boomers, 81 million to 78 million.
  • 96% of Generation Y uses some kind of social network.
  • More than half of everyone in the US is on Facebook.

It doesn’t matter if you think it’s stupid. Your customers love it. Your customers are using it. And your customers are going to visit the restaurants that learn how to talk with them on it.

Most importantly, they’re going to make their customer service complaints on it (not the comment cards, not a quiet word to the wait staff; they’re going to tell all their Facebook friends).

I don’t have time to use social media.

We know running a restaurant takes a lot of time. We feel for you. But consider this one of those necessary evils you have to put some energy into. This is a marketing and customer service feedback channel that needs to be nurtured, watered and fed every day, and in general, have some basic attention given to it on a regular basis.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to be on it constantly. There are a few tactics you can use, assuming you’re on Twitter and Facebook already. (Just do it. Trust me.)

  • Don’t spend more than 30 minutes per day on social media. Not 30 minutes all at once. 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes after lunch, 10 minutes after dinner.
  • Download Tweetdeck and set up a search for any mention of your restaurant name. Check it once a morning
  • Set up a Google Alert for your restaurant name and your name at google.com/alerts
  • Part of your job is bringing in new customers and keeping the old ones coming back. Find the tasks that don’t make you any money or bring in customers that you can turn over to an assistant manager. Focus on the things that bring in customers. Or if your strong suit is not marketing, give that responsibility to someone who can do it.

Our customers don’t use it.

If you don’t use it, you have absolutely, positively NO WAY of knowing this. We’ve already been over the stats. The basic implication is that nearly anyone between the ages of 16 – 26 is on some kind of social network. That half of your customers use Facebook. And that your fastest growing customer base of people on Facebook are the moms and grandmothers.

Before you decide your customers don’t use it, ask them. On your regular walkthroughs, when you’re making your table touches, take an informal survey. “Are you on a social network? Which ones? If we had a Facebook page, would you ‘like’ it?”

The whole reason you want to use social media is that many of your customers have taken to telling their friends about good and bad customer service they have gotten, whether it’s at your restaurant or someone else’s. Now, dissatisfied customers are no longer telling their close friend via phone. They’re telling their hundreds of friends on Facebook and Twitter, and those people are choosing not to come to your restaurant for that reason. Do you really want to miss the complaint and find out that people have been talking about an otherwise-solvable problem for several weeks?