Social media has changed customer service from being a support function to being an extension of marketing. In the social media ecosystem, customers want to know that you're listening and responding. As your organization's front line, customer service is where your company becomes real to prospects and buyers by engaging with the public and showing your firm is real and cares. (Here are 100 ways to show your customers you care!)
With social media, you have to win your prospects, customers, and fans with every interaction across platforms. As your company's point of interaction, customer service is critical to your social media marketing efforts. Zappos is the poster child of amazing customer service across social media outlets. From a customer service perspective, when it comes to social media networks, 46 percent of customers want to solve a problem and almost 40 percent want to give retailers their feedback according to research from Cone, Inc. Additionally, roughly four out of five customers seeks a special deal.
Here are 12 ways social media supports customer service and extends your marketing efforts.
Gives business a human face. Social media's engagement and interaction makes online businesses more personable and shows that someone is home. This transparency starts building customer trust. To this end, it's important to have social media guidelines in place to help employees with their social media interactions.
Listens to what customers are saying. With the help of social media monitoring tools, customer service can hear what consumers are asking, provide timely responses, and determine early warning signs of PR and other issues. (Note: social media monitoring may reside in different areas of an organization.) In the current social media ecosystem, it's critical to have a crisis management plan in place to mitigate potential problems.
Proactively engages with prospects and customers. This interaction shows that the people behind your company are real and care. Accomplish this with a wide range of interactions such as tweets, Facebook postings, and boards as well as unilateral communications like blog posts. For example, Two Peas in a Bucket, a scrapbooking site, has this message board.
Provides additional product-related content. Use a wide range of formats from online videos to blogs. In addition to specific purchase information, show how to use the products. Here is a consumer-made video explaining how to apply eye color.
Answers product-related questions. Real-time and asynchronous conversations can occur on your website, a third-party media site, or a social media network like Facebook. One benefit is that other customers can respond to a confused customer with a direct answer. While the answer may not always be to your liking, it has the authority of being from another customer and reduces your customer service department's workload.
Supplies alternative contact channel. Remember, prospects and customers will use any and every entrance to talk to a human and get answers to their questions. Social media-delivered customer service, at least for the short term, tends to be used less on a relative basis, translating to better service.
Gives customers a channel to talk to each other. As a marketer, get over yourself! With social media, on your website or on a social networking site, it's not about you, it's about the overall customer-to-customer conversations. You just provide the environment that they want to visit.
Shares customer feedback. Often it's ratings and reviews. The benefit is that reviews can help qualify and endorse your product in ways that your staff can't because customers trust other customers. The challenge is that negative issues like United Breaks Guitars' can be amplified due to social media's free media and distribution platforms.
Celebrates your customers. By gathering your prospects, customers, and fans on social media platforms, you shine the spotlight on your customers. Oreos does a great job of this with its Facebook page that shows customers eating Oreos.
Shows customers behind the scenes. Use social media to give customers a view of what your firm is like. Think broadly in terms of blogs, photographs on Flickr, online videos, presentations, e-books, and LinkedIn.
Makes special offers. Social media presents another venue to share the love with your customers. One way to do this is through social media-only deals. Consider it an extension of customer service's ability to close and upsell customers. Based on Cone, Inc.'s research, this is an important opportunity!
Create new purchase options. While many companies haven't started testing social commerce, it's a rapidly growing area. 1-800-Flowers was the first retailer to use Facebook's platform.
5 Ways to Measure Social Media Customer Service
As with any marketing and/or social media effort, it's critical to set your objectives and create related metrics to assess your success. Here are five metrics to help you monitor integrating social media into your customer service delivery.
Number of interactions. Track the number of fans and followers. Bear in mind you may need to entice consumers with special deals and bonuses. Additionally, understand how each platform works and how to be part of the community, or your actions will backfire.
Number of issues identified and responded to. In addition to participating in the conversation on your website and tailored company outposts like Twitter and Facebook, use brand monitoring tools to find and reply to consumer issues.
Content creation. Track the amount of content that users contribute in terms of ratings and reviews, social media interactions, photographs, videos, and other formats.
Sales. Measure sales related to your social media customer service efforts. Have they contributed to your overall sales? Are these efforts helping customers decide what to purchase and do they contribute in a positive way to your brand association and company revenues?
Customer service resources. Consider these three important elements. Are you reducing customer service inquiries via other channels? Social media translates to a lower cost channel in many cases. Are you allocating customer service headcount appropriately? Do you have enough people assigned to each channel? Also, monitor for increased usage as this channel becomes more efficient. People who didn't want to deal with customer service may do so on social media.
Social media has changed how consumers and companies view customer service. Now, customer service fulfills a variety of different functions including enhancing your marketing. Is your firm ready to meet these new opportunities?
Are there any other customer service points that you'd add to this list? If so, please include your perspective in the comments section below.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.