Social media has radically transformed how we interact with the world around us, empowering both companies and consumers alike. Businesses left, right and center have social media as a crucial component of their marketing plans, sales strategies and of course their customer relationship management.
With social media, a consumer can do research on a company, get referrals from their friends and base a business’ “like and trust” factor solely on what they see on social. When it comes to generating awareness, educating your customers or promoting your services, social media sites are where it’s at for many companies.
Social media brings with it a deluge of opportunity, perhaps none so striking as the effect of social media on the customer service side of things. With social media, companies now have a platform for listening to, getting a better understanding of and responding to their customers and their target market.
Good customer service is more important than ever
Customer relationship management is an essential component of developing a thriving business. After all, the key to success lies in the satisfaction of customers. It is extremely important that you keep your customers happy and show new prospects how promising your products and services are. Customer service performance affects your brand health to a great extent and also directly impacts customer acquisition and their loyalty towards your company.
And social media has completely changed the way service is handled and what customers expect from companies online. Social media allows your customers to share their experiences with your company instantly and widely. Now, any bad experience can come back to haunt you on social sites. Not to mention the great deal of influence on personal opinion social sites carry – we listen to and value what our friends and family have to say. We will trust that above any marketing message a company can throw at us.
Companies can no longer trudge along with mediocre service levels with fingers crossed that word won’t get out. With social media, there is nowhere to hide.
The good, the bad and the ugly
When it comes to social media, customers have expectations. They expect a response, and a quick one at that. Good customer service on social media is prompt, helpful and polite, no matter what kind of attitude a customer might bring to the table. Customers really appreciate quick responses, and are often quick to praise good service even when they are complaining about something. A complaint, when handled well, can actually be a positive thing. It can allow your customer service to shine.
Many companies fumble on integrating their social media with their customer service management. They might not be proactive about monitoring their accounts and lag in responding to queries. Or even worse, they might not bother responding at all. Some businesses also falter with etiquette – since a social media conversation is totally public, it’s crucial to stay level headed and keep things courteous, no matter what. This is no time to try to shift blame – whether the problem was your fault or not, the most important thing is that your customer service team is available to acknowledge the problem and offer a resolution.
Don’t be a sitting duck
You don’t just have to use your social channels to deal with customer service issues as they arise. Take a proactive approach with your social media.
Let’s say that there is some planned maintenance on your site. Use social media to let your customers know in advance. Or perhaps there is an unforeseen issue that has cropped up – rather than waiting for the complaints to start coming in, take the proactive approach by communicating what the problem is and what you are doing about it. In so many cases, customers really just want to be informed and only get angry when they are kept in the dark.
Don’t sit in silence
Many companies, rather than fess up to negative situations, prefer to sit in silence. But with the advent of social media, avoiding problems simply does not work. The fact that you have not responded and are not engaged in conversations online is plain for anyone to see. Not responding can not only further aggravate customers; it can seriously tarnish your company’s image and reputation. It’s crucial to show publicly that you are working at resolution.
If you are not there communicating your position, who knows what speculation will spread. Prevent the social wildfire of bad press or mentions by being available and being transparent. Ignoring conversations is not the solution; they will go on without you. You must be a part of them.
An Example of Twitter success
Telecommunications giant Comcast generated a lot of buzz when they started to use Twitter as a communications channel for customer service and customer interaction. The social network allowed them to publicly resolve complaints and reach out to customers needing assistance. Twitter has by no means replaced traditional modes of customer service contact, such as phone and email. Instead it has supplemented these channels and given customers another way to reach out and improved their customer relations. Get an inside peek into one hour of Comcast’s Twitter communications and learn from their success here.
Which social channels should I use for social media?
When it comes to social media channels, there are lots of options. Which ones are the most important for customer service? It will depend on your business and where your customers spend their time online. It will also depend on whether your business sells directly to consumers, or whether you are engaged in B2B.
Facebook is the largest social network in the world and is where most people spend their social media time. Twitter is also popular. These two channels are where most companies concentrate their efforts. Some businesses even open channels that are strictly for customer service use, such as a dedicated Twitter account for handling support queries.
If you are engaged in B2B services, LinkedIn should also be on your radar. Google Plus, while it does not yet have the same adoption of other social channels, is growing in popularity and should be considered.
On social media, feedback about customer service experiences flows freely. So, no matter how good your products or services are or how great your marketing efforts are, your customer service strategy needs to be proactive and include social media as part of the service management mix. Changing trends bring new possibilities, opportunities and threats, directly impacting businesses and brands. Social media is one trend that is not going away…now it’s time to get your business and your customer service teams on board.