If you could pinpoint just one thing that the social media has changed forever, what would you suggest?
Some would no doubt say customer engagement or interaction, and both would be good shouts. However, if social media has changed anything fundamentally, then it’s probably customer service. Let’s face it customer service has at best been shoddy. No doubt it’s much better in America, but in the UK it’s generally been hopeless: if you’re not ignored or treated rudely, you’re viewed as an inconvenience. Well, those old traditions no longer apply. The social media has completely transformed customer service by raising the levels of expectation. We are no longer prepared to be put on hold and listen to some tinny version of the Four Seasons: we demand instant service and expect our queries to be dealt with speedily.
Some businesses shy away from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter because they fear negative publicity.
Statistically it’s been shown that any business would have to do something pretty inexcusable before their customers start to post negative comments. An IBM study has shown that in fact customers are 5 times more likely to post a positive comment than a negative one. Besides, if your business is providing good levels of customer service, what’s there to fear? All businesses regardless of their size should be seizing the opportunities offered by social media networking sites and using them to build the brand. However to do this, they need to spread the word: they have to get the attention of the buying public. Who’s the best ambassador for your business brand? Well, it’s the satisfied customer. They’re the ones who’ll spread the word and tell their friends. If you’ve treated them well, they’ll even defend you on social media sites when others criticise. So, how do businesses attract these loyal customers, and how do they turn them into brand ambassadors?
If one of your business’ social customers has an issue, then they’ll expect the matter to be dealt with speedily and efficiently. A recent UK eCommerce study discovered that 25% of customers expect to have their ‘issue’ dealt with within an hour, and 6% demand answers within 10 minutes. Now that’s obviously very demanding, and smaller brands may find adhering to these timings difficult. Yet it’s worth the effort. If brands pull out all the stops, then their customers will show their appreciation. If they fail to respond or take too long, then they’ll be seen as a brand that either doesn’t care about its customers or doesn’t know the answers.
Honesty and Transparency.
Some brands, given a choice, would prefer to deal with customer complaints in a down beat and private way. They’ll email customers or send them a private message to be more discrete. However, it’s often more useful to be completely open and transparent. If there’s a problem, then don’t be afraid to let your customers know. More importantly let them know you have the answers and you’re sharing these solutions publicly. Social media marketing is underpinned by engagement and interactivity. Brands are aiming to build a community. So the best way to go about this is to discuss matters openly and respond positively to negative comments.
Customer support needs to be consistent across social media channels. If you answer a common customer query on Facebook, then this same message should be broadcast on Twitter or LinkedIn. Customers appreciate consistency, especially when it comes to service levels. If your brand provides conflicting information for different channels, all you’ll do is confuse people. Brand accuracy and consistency will help to drive brand credibility and confidence, and will certainly help to drive brand loyalty amongst your customers.
The Human Touch.
Above all else, customers appreciate the human touch: it feels personal and special. Yes, applications like Siri are fantastic, but what would you rather deal with, a digital assistant or a human being. The answer’s obvious. Most of us prefer to interact with another person who speaks the sort of language they understand. The beauty of social media sites is that they’re informal, so people feel at ease using them. Brands can use this to their advantage by treating customers as individuals. The task of a customer support team should be to make customers feel comfortable: rather than posing a question to an inanimate brand, make customers feel like they’re simply posting a question on another friend’s wall.
Creating an all-round, positive experience for customers is the key to business success. Social media gives businesses countless opportunities to turn their company’s support system into an open, interactive community, where customers can share their positive experiences with one another and spread the good word about your products and services. If companies treat their customers well, then they’ll become your biggest ambassadors