Mary Meeker’s annual report on the latest Internet trends offered a number of interesting insights, and one of these areas was the usage of social media as part of customer support.
The rise of social media has opened up new opportunities for brands to explore a new method of communication with their customers. As social media usage increases, more customers turn to social media to contact a brand, seeking an immediate communication that wasn’t possible a few years ago.
This increases the chances of building an improved relationship between brand and customers, but it also presents new challenges in terms of customer expectations from brands.
So how has social media affected customer support? Mary Meeker’s report offered an overview of how customer support has evolved through the use of social media.
Here are four key areas social media has helped customer support:
Improving customer experience
Consumers were surveyed about the first thing they’d like organizations to change to improve customer service, and 60% of them focused on easier access to online support channels. This indicates the shift that has occurred in recent years towards online customer service. Consumers increase their expectations towards online communication with their favorite brands and this offers the opportunity to build a relationship of trust.
It’s not always easy to offer a seamless online customer service, but it’s still important to acknowledge that consumers increasingly prefer it as their first point of contact with a brand. This creates the need for proper planning when dealing with online customer communication, from the hours of availability to the response time and the best methods to deal with frequently asked questions.
For example, Facebook Pages can facilitate online customer support through:
- Setting “away” hours
- Displaying average response time
- Offering automated answers to direct messages
Moreover, the use of chatbots can also offer an interesting option for brands trying to be as responsive as possible.
As Meeker points out, social media has succeeded in driving accountability, which means that brands cannot afford to offer a mediocre experience to consumers. As it becomes easier than ever for a customer to share a bad experience through social networks, this can impact a brand’s reputation and as a consequence, its sales.
This can even be enhanced by the power of peer recommendations, as more people seem to be influenced by their friends when considering a purchase.
According to Meeker’s report, 82% of customers stopped doing business with a company after a bad experience, up from 76% in 2014. This means that there is an increasing focus on the best experience each company can offer and how this affects their future purchasing decisions.
Therefore, if a brand is already confident of its products’ quality, the power of social media can have a significantly positive impact.
Offering real-time customer service
It’s important for consumers nowadays to be able to contact a brand as fast as possible. The rise of real-time customer service can be attributed to the direct communication that social media offers and it can now offer a good opportunity to create a positive sentiment towards a brand through prompt communication.
Intercom conversations – a type of live chat – have increased in recent years, and it is a good indication of how more brands seek to offer the best possible customer service in real time.
More and more customers feel the need to understand how things work within organizations. A combination of curiosity and the fact that they are now used to accessing knowledge in a matter of seconds creates a rising demand for transparency.
Brands are exploring the best ways to showcase this transparency; some ideas include:
- answering questions before they are asked
- offering “behind the scenes” content
- updating on company news
- offering access to direct communication with any team member (even the CEO)
How brands can take advantage of social media in customer support
As brands discover the best ways to include social media in customer support, there is also a rising opportunity to include consumers in a wider and improved customer experience, from the first interaction to the last.
Here are the most popular methods that brands use to achieve it:
- Building a community: the idea of building a community goes beyond a positive customer support. It’s about making consumers feel included and valued. This can be achieved through a series of steps that go beyond sales or marketing goals. The idea of building a community can offer even more successful results, coming from customers who feel important and may even serve as a brand’s best ambassadors.
- Involving customers in content: user-generated content has been a popular trend in social media the last years and it also contributes to the goal of building a community. By involving customers into content, a brand makes them feel closer to the company, while it also gains a different perspective on its promoted products and services. This builds a special affinity between customers and brand, making the customer experience more positive.
- Blending online and offline experience: It becomes quite common nowadays for retail brands to blend online and offline experiences, in an attempt to create a single view of their message. As the ultimate goal is to maintain a positive relationship with customers, a holistic idea of customer experience can lead to even more successful results.
What can brands learn from the latest trends in online customer service?
- Go where the customer is
- Focus on offering a good customer experience through all channels
- Pay attention to their needs
- Be helpful and responsive
- Finally, don’t be afraid to try out new platforms.