Whether it’s Snapchat’s GeoFilters or Facebook’s 360 Photos, more businesses are finding that social media is one of the most powerful tools available today.
Whatever industry you’re in, you simply must have a social media presence these days. For one, it offers an easier way to connect with customers and keep abreast of what’s happening in your marketplace. Of the 60 million internet users in the UK, over 38 million of them are active social media users!
Can your business afford to ignore those numbers?
However, most businesses focus on using social media only for marketing – and that shouldn’t be the case. It’s called social media for a reason, after all. So, how about putting marketing aside for a minute and being a little… social?
By pushing for the sale in all your Facebook posts and tweets, you end up ignoring many of your customers. How about being a bit more personal and actually communicating with your customers?
Remember when customers were limited to using the telephone if they wanted to contact businesses? These days, there are multiple digital channels for customers to choose from; everything from email, live chat and of course, social media. Thanks to increasing connectivity, your customers can now voice their frustrations to everyone on social media. Research has shown that in the period between 2009 and 2014, the number of Twitter users using the platform for customer service doubled to 22%.
Smart brands have embraced the concept of social customer service and know that it makes sense to engage with their customers, right there on social media. Think about it: why would a customer wait for weeks for an email response when they can tweet a brand and get an answer immediately?
In the UK, more and more consumers are refusing to accept poor quality customer service. According to a January 2016 report from the Ombudsman Service, 82% of consumers said they wouldn’t put up with poor service without taking action. The report also states that 36% of them will turn to social media to get a complaint or problem addressed.
Do you see why listening to your customers and engaging with them on social media should be a top priority for your business? Or still not convinced? Then think about the following points.
Deliver prompt responses
Whether it’s a complaint or a simple inquiry, a prompt response is always welcome. The accessibility offered by social media has blurred ‘business-hours-only’ boundaries and now your customers expect you to be available 24/7.
In one Social Habit survey, 32% of respondents said they expect a reply within 30 minutes of contacting a brand on social media. If they don’t get a response, 36% of them would post a negative comment about the unresponsive brand. 30% said they will switch to a competitor based on this alone!
Takeaway: Don’t delay with your responses; your customers won’t wait.
Let your customers rave
Two things make customers share their experiences with a company: when their expectations are exceeded or if they are dissatisfied.
With over 95% of consumers admitting that they are influenced by what other people say about brands on social media, shouldn’t you be focused on boosting customer satisfaction levels?
Remember how I said more businesses should put marketing to the side for a minute? Why exhaust your marketing budget when you can get your customers to spread the word for you?
An American Express report showed that consumers who use social media to engage with businesses on customer service issues exhibit more loyalty and are even willing to pay more. See how one good response can pay for itself over and over again?
Takeaway: Want to grow your business without breaking the bank? Wow your customers on social media with excellent service.
A stream of new ideas
Starbucks launched My Starbucks Idea, and with it, a multi-channel social media strategy to support the program. Originally branded as a way to listen to customers, there have been over 235,000 unique product, exposure, and involvement ideas submitted!
I bet you didn’t know your customers could also be one of your best sources of ideas. Social listening is a vital tool in business development as it can help you uncover customer needs and gain valuable customer insights.
Don’t hesitate to engage
In a Socialbakers report, Virgin Media responded to 97% of customer queries posted on Facebook! This figure outstrips the industry average of 76.9% – so how’s that for social listening and fast responses?
More UK businesses are nailing both metrics; but customers aren’t after just a quick response. How you respond can also result in some fascinating wins.
In 2014, comedian Chris Ramsey used Twitter to get a meatball pizza delivered to him during a journey from London to Newcastle. After tweeting several different pizza delivery firms, he got a response from Domino’s. His posts, with the hashtag #PizzaOnATrain, soon started trending as they were retweeted thousands of times.
Arriving at Doncaster station, Domino’s even threw in more pizza for other passengers and train guards. Talk about over-delivery!
Above all, be human
When customers reach out to you, they may already be in a heightened emotional state. The last thing they want is a dull, robotic and often unhelpful answer.
On social media, companies should aim to employ a more personal tone in their interactions. Remember, the key is in the word social.
Some firms have refined their approach almost to a science. Based on data they collected, Walmart found that their customers respond more favorably to an empathic, female tone. Using this tone, evocative language and even emoticons, they allow the personality and humor of their tweeters to shine through.
Takeaway: Putting the customer at ease, by offering a personalized response, while helping them can make the issue they’re having a little easier to bear. It’s also a great way to show others that your brand cares about them.
So, which companies do social customer service right?
No list of companies that get customer service on social media is complete without mentioning the American airline JetBlue. Using proactive monitoring, their social media team is constantly on the lookout for customers who need help or just mention the brand. From responding to tweets in under seven minutes to holding a small welcome home parade for a customer, they have earned a reputation for surprising people with their rapid engagement and for going the extra mile.
Worried that you may not be able to contact someone that can actually help? Nike and ASOS get around this by setting up separate customer care Twitter profiles to ensure their customers have access to help 24/7.
To make all customer interactions as smooth as possible, it pays to announce any problems as early as possible. In response to Hurricane Madeline making landfall, Alaska Airlines sent out a tweet informing travelers of possible delays due to the hurricane. Notifying customers early allowed them to make alternative arrangements.
While you may not have a social media team like Tesco (who managed to answer 2,288 customer queries in Q2 2016), or Wholefoods which maintains over 300 different Twitter accounts and 250 Facebook accounts, you can start where you are.
If you have your own business or manage a customer service team, before taking to social media, it is a great idea to send your employees on a customer service training course. This way they will know exactly what to say in tricky situations with customers, and it minimizes the risk of a customer service blunder in front of (potentially) millions of people.
The most critical element of successful social customer service is in the term itself. Social media is an avenue for conversation, so use it to communicate with your customers. Customers will remember the experiences that displayed empathy and understanding, and will reward your business with their loyalty.
Love it or hate it, social media can only grow as a customer service channel. The earlier your business gets on board, perfecting your responses and delivering quality experiences, the better.
Do you use social media to provide customer service? Have you come across any really creative uses of social media for customer service? Do tell us about your experience in the comment section.