How to Use Social Media for Customer Service


Every business knows the importance of building a more effective social media strategy, but too many of them have no idea what to do once they've started blogging, pinning and tweeting. Social media management is more than just a buzzword; it's a vital way to connect with your customers directly and find out what's most important to them. Customer service also gets a boost from effective social media, and in today's service-oriented economy, that is vital.

How important is great customer service? According to the Harvard Business Review article Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers, it's the single greatest determining factor in how likely a customer is to give a company repeat business. To discover what fostered or foiled customer loyalty, author Matthew Dixon polled more than 75,000 shoppers and studied their interactions with customer service personnel. They found something astonishing: the less effort your customers have to expend to get their needs met, the more loyal they are. In other words, solving your customers' problems and making it easy for them to shop with you has a bigger impact than exceeding their expectations.

That knowledge opens the door to a new way to make life easier for your customers: social media. Roughly half of all customers now seek customer service through social media platforms rather than through traditional means such as a store visit or a phone call. With a strong social media strategy, your customers can find many of their own solutions without relying on your customer service department directly. Better yet, good social media management gives your clientele an easy way to let others know about their satisfaction, building great word of mouth that no advertising budget can buy.

Integrate your customer service with your social media management strategy and transform your service department from a means to placate dissatisfied customers into a tool for winning new ones.

Respond Quickly

Social media is constantly active, and so are your customers. While creating FAQs and troubleshooting guides on static websites can answer many customers' questions, others have specific needs that these tools don't address. Prioritize answering these questions directly by turning your customer service department into a rapid response team. Depending on the size of your company, you may not be able to read and respond to tweets 24 hours a day, but your service department can make answering questions via social media their first order of business.

Hire a Team of Professionals

If your company does business around the clock or has an international clientele, your customer service needs should expand to meet that schedule. Providing ways for customers to shop with you at all hours but no way to correct problems that inevitably occur is a recipe for dissatisfaction. Hiring a full in-office team for around-the-clock service may not be feasible, but you can have a remote staff of customer service specialists monitoring your social media channels and offering quick responses. Even if they pass a few challenging service issues up the line to in-house personnel, remote staffers keep the vast majority of customers who have simple questions happy with fast solutions.

Be Visible

One mistake many companies make with social media is responding directly to customers' posted questions via email. You may do a great job of filling customers' needs behind the scenes, but others reading your feed see questions with no solutions. When you answer your clients' questions, let your prompt, personable replies be as visible as the questions. You'll impress not only the customer with the question but also the hundreds or thousands of customers who silently follow you on Twitter or Facebook.

Thank Your Customers

When you do a great job, your customers will give you pats on the back via social media outlets. Those words of praise are more than just a morale booster for your team; they're also an excellent reason for you to show how much you appreciate them. Depending on your industry, you might even give something back to customers who are especially effusive in their praise. A coupon, gift card or free sample could win you a customer for life, and it looks great to others who see your generosity.

Acknowledge Negative Feedback

The flip side of opening conversations with your clientele is that you'll occasionally get some negative feedback. How you act on it is even more important than acknowledging praise or responding to questions. Whenever possible, keep one customer service representative in charge of the conversation from start to finish. Handing phone calls off to numerous departments is frustrating to your customers, but having a visual record of those hand-offs on your Twitter feed is even more exasperating. What's worse, everyone following you can read it and share it.

Make Smart Use of Social Media Tools

You don't have to negotiate the relatively uncharted waters of customer service on social media platforms alone. You have an array of tools to help you. Blog widgets that count down to your big sale or keep clients up to date on industry news can make life easier on your customer service team. Tools that monitor other feeds for your brand name give you an idea of what your customers are saying about you on other sites; that data can be invaluable for improving your customer service in ways your customers haven't yet mentioned to you.

Phone calls are so last millennium, especially to customers who have grown up in the digital age. Your customers already look to social media for their customer service needs; if you aren't meeting them there, it's time to upgrade.

For more small business marketing tips and advice, follow us on Twitter @TouchPointD.

About the author: Philip J Reed writes on behalf of Dex One, a company that provides local marketing solutions for businesses.

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