We often talk about how content is now the runaway driving force for engagement and effective social marketing. But for brands, there’s another, often neglected force of equal power and potential we’d better not lose sight of. Customer service.
Here’s the good news. Customer service doesn’t have the challenge of how to attract fans and followers to the brand’s social assets. If they have a question or need, they will quickly and deliberately seek you out. What kind of experience they have with your company once they do will define how they view the brand and what kind of relationship they’re going to have with it.
Before you do an honest assessment of your level of commitment to social customer service, it’s a good idea to look at consumer expectations. A recent study of consumers in Great Britain by Sitel shows that especially with younger demographics, social is the first go-to for questions and problems.
- 15% age 16-25 use social to resolve an issue rather than any other method.
- The first thing 7% of 16-24 year-olds do when they have a problem is complain about it on social.
- The first thing 71% of 16-24 year olds, do when they have a problem is search for a solution online. This goes down as the demos go up, but even 64% of 44-65 year olds seek solutions online.
- 61% of men and 53% of women head to the Internet first to search for a solution.
As you can see, people are intuitively going online for satisfaction. The only question is, will they be getting it from you? Here are some things to keep in mind when grappling with how to use social customer service to create raving fans.
- If you recognize social is an important customer service touch point, but do nothing or very little about it, you’re out of your mind. If customers run into dead ends, walk away with no answers, or have to turn to external boards, they’re going to feel taken for granted, neglected, frustrated, and resentful.
- No matter your size, at the bare minimum you should be logging customer complaints. This informs you as to where you have real and noticeable problems with the product.
- Quick response time is a must. And by the way, a “we got your question and a rep will deal with it at some vague point in the future” response is no response at all.
- Staff up. Whether you train existing customer service agents to operate on social, or you train your Community Managers in customer service, the right person has to be in place with the knowledge and authority to address the issue. You can’t wait 2 days for some supervisor to approve a response tweet.
- Set up your systems in advance so agents will know immediately where to go for the answer they need. Uncertainty always grinds the gears to a halt.
- Consider social streams dedicated exclusively to customer support. This creates a nice forum where users can see other customers’ questions and potentially find answers. Or if you don’t want to take every issue public, you can communicate with the customer via DM on Twitter and now private messaging on the Facebook Timeline.
- Consider prominently featuring your customer support staff. Customers want to feel like they have a human advocate inside the company. Yes they want to reach out digitally, but they want a human on the other side of that digital contact.
- You don’t have to go to the expense of live customer assist 24/7 if your budget can’t accommodate it. But set live hours and be crystal clear about what those are.
- The Shangri-la of social customer service is total integration with all other facets of customer support such as phone and email. When a customer reaches out, being able to pull up a holistic look at all of that customers contacts with the company will make them feel like you know them intimately, and that’s a good thing.
- Transparency does not show weakness. A customer would rather be told you don’t know the answer and will have to look for it than get some patronizing song and dance.
- Some of the best customer service is, you guessed it, content! Making videos that address common issues pays off big time. When asked what companies could do to improve customer service, 35% said “post video demos, tutorials and instructions.”
- Stay loose. As with all things social, changes are constant and you’ve got to be flexible in how you handle your social customer service. New tools come along, behaviors change, and you have to be set to respond however the customer wants to reach out.
What are the rewards for getting all of this right? A study from American Express World Service showed customers are willing to increase their spending by over 20% with brands that offer “great” customer service. On the flip side, 80% engaged with a brand via social over an issue, but never made a purchase due to a lack of service. 48% who used social for customer service and had a great experience took the time to publicly post high praise for the brand. You are moving fans from like to love. More impassioned advocates, more exposure, more happy fans, more sales. What else do you need to make world-class social customer service worth doing?