Why ‘Social Customer Service’ needs to be part of your online strategy

July 3rd, 2013

 
Big brands are rapidly adopting social media as part of their customer service offerings, and yours should too.

 

There have been numerous conversations in recent weeks surrounding the role that social media plays in a brand’s customer service strategy, with a Mashable post stating that as many as 80% of companies plan to use social media as part of their customer service by the end of 2013.

That’s a big statistic, so let’s take a step back for moment and look at why companies and brands are so keen to tie social elements into their customer service offerings. First of all, the prevalence of social media in our day-to-day lives has grown exponentially over the past five or six years through increased web access via smartphones and tablets, as well as through the rise of 4G data connectivity. This has meant that the online world is now accessible almost regardless of location. This growth in access has particularly influenced 18-25 year olds, who have grown up inextricably linked to the social media world. A recent article from ‘The Drum’ stated that 31% of consumers will take to social media to vent about poor customer service, with the figure rising to 40% for the 16-24 age group. This influence and trend is clearly shaping the way we, and future generations will engage and converse with brands.

 

Multi-channel offerings

With a plethora of social platforms lending customers a voice online, it is now impossible to prevent people from talking about your brand. The question is — should the brand itself join this conversation or not? The Traffic view is that brands in fact have no choice whatsoever but to engage with their consumers in the digital space. Moreover, that if brand wants to capitalise on its digital reputation, it should have its own online voice in order to augment its profile as well as offering a better customer service experience. Similarly if customers are communicating with a brand via multiple channels, the brand in question must ensure that it is offering the same level and commitment of service across the board.

 

Responsiveness

People use social media to vent their frustrations with a brand, and it’s often due to the fact that they either have been, or don’t want to be ignored. It is also a lot easier to post a bad experience on Facebook or into a 140-character tweet than it is to hand-write a letter or to pick up the phone to make a complaint.

Customers want answers to these queries in real-time and it’s a brand’s duty not only to the customer but to themselves to make sure that questions are answered swiftly and effectively. A study by A.T. Kearney found that 55% of consumers posting a complaint online expect a response the same day. Answering in a timely manner will not only prevent customers broadcasting their problems further, but it will also help your brand earn trust and respect in the digital space, if dealt with in the right way.

Think of it like this; in day-to day-life, there are twice as many listeners as there are actioners, which means that dealing with an issue in a timely and decisive way could even turn a negative situation into a positive one. If people see that a complaint has been resolved immediately, then they can see for themselves that you’ve played an active role in endeavouring to satisfy your customers, further installing confidence in the listeners.

 

Limitations

We understand that there are limitations to using social media as a customer service channel; for example, the complexity of the complaint or the inability to verify the validity of a complaint may prevent the issue from being resolved simply with a Twitter mention or a Facebook comment. However, maintaining an active social customer service offering can help to resolve the majority of issues and complaints. For the issues that cannot be resolved on the spot, social can still have a role to play — by integrating social data with CRM systems, brands can ensure customer service is fully connected and can even simplify the process for the consumer by catching social media grumbles early. There’s nothing more frustrating for a consumer than being asked to fill in yet more details of the complaint on yet another platform in order to progress any further.

 

Help yourself out

Make it easy for customers to find out information. Intuitive website design, targeted SEO and comprehensive FAQ sections can all aid customers in finding solutions to answers and may possibly prevent them using their own social channels to vent frustrations.

 

Customer service should be a proactive issue for a brand, rather than a reactive one. The more you seek out and participate in online conversations regarding your brand, the easier it’ll become to steer the ever-increasing amount of online chatter into a positive direction.

 

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