Why Your Brand Needs Social Customer Service

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Interact With Complaints In Real Time To Avoid Long-Term Unhappy Customers

Social customer service is more than just fixing a part, answering a question, sharing a new shortcut, or completing an upgrade. It’s about creating better a customer experiences. If you haven’t implemented social customer service, you probably should.

Everyday, users go online to complain about brands–with Twitter being the prime location for customers to share their criticism. Responding to these complaints in real time reduces the impact of them on your bottom line.

Hey, wait minute, you say. I have great customer service. We have an 800 number where customer questions and complaints are answered by knowledgeable and courteous employees.

Well, that’s so 20th century and that’s not enough anymore. Customers aren’t calling your 800 number. They’re getting on Facebook and complaining about you or sending a Tweet about your lousy service. Social customer service is a very different ball game with unique practices, plans and a different timeline. You’d better be listening for online complaints and be ready to respond in real-time or face potentially negative profits.

SEE ALSO: The Expanding Role of BPM in Customer Service and Why You Should Care

Social customer service emerged because organic online conversations require immediate response. When a customer complains about you on Facebook or Twitter, you’d better be listening and respond within a very short window or poor attitudes about your brand escalateSYNDanghaus

Social customer service is more than complaining. It connects your customers with people, both inside and outside of your organization, and with the information they need to solve problems and make better decisions. Social customer service empowers your customers to crowdsource support, share knowledge, discuss new ideas and connect with peers using today’s most popular social tools and social networks.

Why does social customer service matter to your business?

Your customers expect it. Yet, according to Hootsuite, less than 40% of large firms used social media as part of their customer service. This despite the fact that customers who engage with companies on social media spend 2 to 4 times MORE than other customers. That’s a BIG reason for setting up an effective social customer service department.

Want more reasons? Take a look at this infographic to give some ideas of how important social customer service is to your brand.

SEE ALSO: How Social Media Is Influencing Customer Decision Making

Yet, when you search for social customer service, what you get are companies providing social CRM (customer relationship management). Certainly, CRM can help with providing social customer service, when you look under the hood of most programs, you find they’re more interested in the company’s interest than customers — most are designed to help make more sales rather than addressing customer concerns.

The reality is that customers may never say anything to you about your brand when they’re disappointed—they might just leave and take a bunch of their friends with them. Based on the infographic, you can see that you can lose 85% of your business due to poor customer service.

Steps to creating better social customer service

1. Recognize that providing superior customer service is everyone’s responsibility.

Empowered, effectively trained employees in every department and every functional area are critical if you want to provide superior customer service — social or otherwise.

2. Hiring, training, and managing front-line employees effectively reduces the chances of poor customer service in the first place.

For social customer service, you’ll need tech-savvy employees to monitor conversations on social networks and respond appropriately. For instance, I had a student who complained about her airline’s policy in the face of a pending weather emergency. She quickly got a response from a representative, which made her happy and prompted her to take back her earlier negative comments.

3. Listening on social networks helps uncover poor customer service.

But, listening is only half the battle. You must establish procedures to handle these complaints and questions quickly and establish metrics to monitor your success in achieving service related goals. For instance, you might establish a 20 minute response time between the time  a question posted and your answer.

4. Have a contingency plan.

Things can always go a little haywire. Customers forgive a lot easier if you communicate with them and have a plan to ease the burden caused by your failure.

5. Encourage other customers to respond when customers complain or have questions.

Set up support forums and establish incentives for customers who respond. Not only does this reduce the load on your employees, but customers prefer getting advice from their peers.

RELATED: How To Develop A Good Relationship With Your Customers

This article originally appeared on Hausman Marketing Letter and has been republished with permission. If you’d like to submit a guest post or syndicate your content, join Firmology’s contributor program.

Infographic courtesy of Angela Hausman.

Image: iStockphoto

About The Author

Angela Hausman is a marketing professor at Howard University, Associate Editor for the European Journal of Marketing, a guest blogger, and the mother of 3 grown kids, 2 dogs, and 3 cats.  She operates Hausman & Associates, a full-service marketing firm operating at the intersection of marketing and social media. Connect with Angela on LinkedIn and Twitter.