Social media marketing isn't just for brand recognition or creating leads anymore. Savvy companies such as Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Dell, and Whole Foods have figured out that engaging in social media can be a great way to expand their abilities to give great customer service through online channels. They've figured out that their customers aren't just on the phones, in their stores, or on their planes; their customers are actively engaging in social media communities.
There was a time when the employees in a company's customer service department were the long forgotten people who just "answered the phone." Back when marketing was more push messaging, these tireless employees listened for hours on end to customers who had stories to tell (both good and bad).
With the advent of the Internet and the wave of sites that encouraged users to create their own content and share their stories and experiences, no longer were customers subjected to only having a phone number to tell their stories to and only one person on the end of the line to listen. These new communities gave customers a voice and allowed them to connect with one another in different ways to share their experiences. In essence, these communities became another way for customers to get "service" even if it wasn't from the brand or company who made the products or services.
As social media has grown, so have the outlets customers have to express their opinions about companies, the company employees, the products, the services, and so much more. Trying to keep track of it all can be a tall order for any company, but engaging in these communities can be a difficult task as well. Who do you send in to engage with these very passionate customers?
Many companies look to their marketing team. Whether it's an offline or online marketing team, most of these experts are acutely aware of the kind of marketing powerhouse these social communities can be. While it's wise to have your marketing team involved in your social media efforts, it might not be wise to leave all of the engagement up to the marketing team.
Members of your customer service team have been trained and on the front lines of engaging with your customers. They know how to listen, and that skill enables them to decipher a complaint's root issue. They know how to draw out the special stories and how to get your customers to share what they find most valuable from your company. This team has finely honed skills for listening, relating empathy, and engaging, not for pushing messages, and that set of skills can make your social media strategy all the more successful.
Your customer service team can do much more than just answer the phone lines in their department; they can solve problems and prevent minor issues from turning into full-blown PR nightmares. By taking the time to train your customer service team to take their skills and apply them to the social media communities, you can take your social media marketing initiatives to an entirely different level of success.
Training is the essential piece of this puzzle. While your employees have the skills to listen and resolve problems over the phone, and they might also have a Facebook profile, that doesn't mean you can totally let them loose in the communities you've chosen to engage in. Giving them the understanding of the implications of their actions will show them just how powerful engaging online can be. Ensuring they understand messaging, policies (of what can and cannot be stated in these communities), and how they represent your company and themselves is vital to creating a successful social media customer service channel.
Many companies are now looking to social media to help with customer retention, resolving customer complaints and issues, and making it easier for customers to share their experiences and find what they are looking for. The key to all of that is realizing that this requires a special set of skills that marketers might not have, but a customer service team does. Including them as part of your social media marketing team can give your strategy more depth, reach, and a much better chance at being successful.
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Liana "Li" Evans is the author of the award winning social media marketing book, "Social Media Marketing: Engaging Strategies for Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media" and she is the president and CEO of Da Li Social, as well as an adjunct professor for Rutgers University's Mini MBA Program. Liana has also been featured in the books "Online Marketing Heroes" and "Video Marketing An Hour a Day." As an established online marketing industry veteran with over 15 years of experience she's focused her unique skillset to specialize in integrated marketing and how companies can successfully strategize integrating all online marketing channels as well as offline traditional media. Her deep technical combined with a public relations background enables her to partner with clients for establishing successful online marketing campaigns that combine cross-channel tactics cohesively.
Li was the search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing architect for such companies as QVC and Comcast (Fancast) and has consulted with several other different sized companies such as AOL MovieFone. Her wealth of knowledge in dealing with large e-commerce and content sites allows her a wider perspective into what it takes to launch successful marketing campaigns in the online space.
March 19, 2014