Many organizations struggle with setting up a social media (or email) response strategy.

How can you trust front-line staff to answer properly, if they don't know the policies? How can you have a consistent response, no matter who responds, or when? And how do you minimize service costs, while maintaining service quality?

One thing is certain: If you don't get this right, your members will complain: They don't care about me. How come they were able to do it for so-and-so, and not me? If they don’t deal with it, I’m going to quit. And worse, these complaints will be made public on social media, crowding out the impact that your organization was hoping to make.

Poor service response is the ultimate anti-membership strategy.

Here is how to start:

  1. Custom responses: For the first three months, have a more senior person answer any queries, based on the applicable real-world policies.
  2. Template responses: At the end of this time, analyze all of the responses and create a list of your top-10 prewritten template scenario responses. These can be delegated to front-line staff to use; any issues that go beyond these questions can be escalated. Periodically, these additional escalated responses can be added to the knowledge base for front-line staff use.
  3. Pre-empt with FAQs: The template responses can also be cycled back into the website in the form of FAQs, thereby reducing member frustration (and possibly also reducing the need for their outreach in the first place).
  4. Automate: Technology can be used to identify issues, delegate, improve efficiency and track social media-based service requests. It can also be used to auto-respond to emails with suggested answers. (I don't recommend using technology to auto-respond to social queries though: the risk is too high.)

This week's action plan: Every organization has a different front line. It could be the receptionist, the registration desk at your convention, a membership services officer, or the executive director's assistant. When was the last time you looked at the responses that everyone on the front line uses?

This week, double check that the message that is sent out is consistent (and that it is templated, pre-empted with FAQs, and possibly automated).