Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have progressed to become more than platforms for marketing and advertising. Increasingly, they are also effective and important channels through which consumers receive customer service. According to J.D. Power, 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media channel for customer service, Nielsen found that a third of social media users prefer ‘social care’ to the phone and research cited by Jay Baer tells us that 42% of consumers expect a response within 60 minutes.

'Social care' is not a new concept, yet providing multi-channel support that includes social media can present real challenges. The reality is that customer service expectations are rising year over year and consumers are looking to brands to create a seamless experience that spans the showroom floor to the Facebook timeline. Simply having a social media presence is no longer enough; you need to be a social media guru. Why you need a

Social customer support strategy


Businesses need a well-planned social customer support strategy because people are going use their social channels in this way, whether the business likes it or not, your customers are already talking about you on social channels, so you need to agree what to do with those conversations, thus if you start with the assumption that any public facing channel will be used this way, you can plan accordingly. Tactically responses in the other hand will just lead to constant firefighting – and the chance of things going wrong, with the negative attention that can bring.”

The development of a strategy also ensures consistency with the other service channels that a customer could use – something that is increasingly important given the channel-agnostic nature of the modern consumer.

Integrate, Then Innovate
Hopefully, stellar customer service strategy is not a foreign concept for your business. You’ve already encountered several situations where an unexpected outcome of doing business became an opportunity to solve a problem.

Perhaps your latest product had a design flaw that required a recall, a trusted distributor fumbled on a shipment that left dozens of clients tapping their desks waiting for goods to arrive, or a product launch designed to convert customers from a local competitor was met with a collective yawn when released.

In each case, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare can offer valuable feedback and inform your actions as a manufacturer or service provider by allowing you to respond quickly when things get out of hand.

Integrating social media into your customer service strategy means allocating specific resources to monitor social campaigns, engaging followers and providing valuable, accurate information in conversations with clients.

Responding to comments, complaints, or questions as soon as possible then becomes a mandatory follow-through. People need to know you’re out there and actively listening before they’ll ever contribute to a mutually beneficial conversation.

Use Social Media Technology to Find Relevant Comments and Mentions
So where should organisations start? How can they lay the groundwork for a robust social media customer service strategy? A good place to begin is by listening to what your customers are saying, and where they are saying it. Once you’ve developed a customer service strategy that includes social media monitoring, use search capabilities on specific channels to find interest groups and scout for mentions and comments about your brand. And don’t be afraid of hearing what people have to say.

Sales professionals tend to view comments about their brand with one eye under a pillow, fearing the worst in terms of “constructive criticism.” However, those who shake the tree when they’re dissatisfied are just as likely to applaud good customer service with friends and relatives, as social advocates who like to stay informed. Colloquy, an Ohio-based marketing research firm, backs this up in a 2011 study about urban myths in social media.

Crisis management drills like this improve your sales force’s ability to solve problems creatively. A company that responds well to negative feedback and thanks customers for positive reviews makes a great first impression, earning the respect of valued customers with great long-term potential. Turning the tide on repeat customers has never been easier to manage.

Go above and beyond
If a visitor tweets at your handle or posts on your Facebook page and never receives a response, trust is lost. Due to your lack of communication, the dissatisfied potential lead is now turning to your competitors to seek answers to their questions. On the other hand, when you deliver a thoughtful response in a timely manner that visitor is flattered and intrigued by your brand. It’s humanizing to take the time respond to a personal inquiry, and it builds your authority.

A great example of this is JetBlue (not a retail brand, but the kings of ‘Social Care’ and a brand any company can learn from). Take JetBlue customer Alexa, for example. She jokingly tweeted that she expected a welcome parade at the gate when she returned home to Boston. Laurie's team in Salt Lake City responded:


But when the JetBlue folks in Boston saw that tweet, they took it to another level -- and ten of them greeted her at the gate with signs, smiles, and marching band music.


Hubspot have a whole post dedicated to the amazing Customer Service JetBlue offer and is a must read for any company who want to take their social care above and beyond.

Negative feedback needs to be addressed as well, preferably with patience and respect. But think of your social channels as an opportunity to display how awesome you treat your customers.

Take these four steps to boost the happiness of your customers:

  • Assign a first responder to post and monitor each channel your brand has a profile on.
  • Create a troubleshooting library of common bugs or complaints that arise, and how to handle these issues. This will ensure the issue is addressed properly and in a timely manner. (NOTE: If the issue needs further investigation or requires confidential information, have the user email support, send a private message, or call your help line.)
  • Be creative – use giveaways, personality, and a sense of humour to engage followers and convert them into free brand promoters.
  • DO NOT IGNORE any comment posted to your account on social, whether stellar or critical. No need to create brand detractors!

Key Takeaways and Benefits
Industry experts like Social Media Examiner contend that the key to doing customer service strategy right is shifting your focus from reactive to proactive customer interactions. This single concept alone can save companies time and money when nurturing a logical strategy for better customer outcomes.

Want inexpensive market research? Put your business on the front line of consumer conversations, using social media technology, and discover why they either love or loathe the things you are selling.

Define a central theme for social marketing efforts with specific goals and metrics that become reportable talking points with clients. Invite Facebook friends and Twitter followers to exclusive events to test trial products and encourage them to report their findings online, for example.

Consumers still expect the worst when dealing with customer support teams, so it’s important to exceed their expectations immediately by becoming knowledgeable, friendly partners in business empowered to do whatever it takes to satisfy their valued brand advocates.

Using social media technology to enhance existing customer service strategies not only improves your marketing reach, but keeps the wolves of competition at bay by inspiring your sales team to stay in the conversation, come what may.

Conclusion
This is an exciting and transformational time for customer service, while many of Generation X will still reach for the phone, Generation Y customers simply don’t dial in to call centres. With an estimated one in three social media users preferring social over phone support, companies need to offer robust and quality support choices for those ‘connected’ customer’s sooner than later. 

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By Jim Kander

Practice Leader - Retail, Global Sales & Services

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