How Social Media is Changing Customer Service

Now, more than ever, customers have more power because of social media.

According to Smart Insights 2016 Social Media Report, over half of U.S. consumers use social media to ask questions, report satisfaction, or to complain, and a third of social media users prefer “social care” to the phone.

Customers expect more and more engagement, and many businesses struggle to manage their reputations online. Monitoring dozens of customer review sites and social media platforms for mentions of your business can be difficult.  And as many businesses know from experience, one bad review from a popular social media user can make an impact on your business for years.

Simply having a few social media profiles is no longer enough. Your social media manager needs to be an extension of your customer service department.

While managing your reputation and customer service online can be a challenge, it also creates the opportunity for your business to stand out in a crowded market.

Meet your customers where it matters

The first question most businesses ask is “Which social media platforms should we be on?” The answer is simple in theory, but requires a deep understanding of your core customer base. You won’t be able to respond to every comment and answer every question on every site, so find out which platforms your customers use and focus your attention on those. Facebook and Twitter will be the primary focus for social engagement, but some brands may find that their customers also frequent Yelp, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, or other social sites.

Search for mentions of your brand or your direct competition within popular social sites. In the digital world, the opinion of the user is often more powerful than the brand. According to Brandwatch, in 2015 Facebook influenced 52 percent of consumers’ online and offline purchases, up from 36 percent in 2014.

Listen First

Social media monitoring tools are commonplace in marketing departments. Many customers assume their comments will be heard whether they post to the business’ page or not. 96 percent of the people who discuss brands online do not follow those brands’ owned profiles.

It’s important to watch and listen to your brand from the customer service perspective. You can learn a lot from users when you listen to their questions and comments and look for patterns in their behavior. Look for comments written in moments of frustration, whether comments are about your service, product or technical experience, and what time of day customers are active on social media.

The answers to these questions can help you make smarter business decisions.

Customer service happens in real time

The speed of your response is critical. Social media happens in the moment. Poor reviews that are left unanswered can be devastating to a brand, but bad reviews that are managed in real time can actually result in improved customer loyalty and transformed into positive experiences.

Edison Research reported that 42 percent of consumers who complained via social media expect a response within 60 minutes, and more than half of Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting at a company.

Know when to take an issue offline

For questions that can’t be easily answered via social media, respond immediately by asking for contact information to call or email the customer. A correct answer and professional tone is more important than a rushed and faulty response.

Take the conversation offline if there are more than two to three replies, or if there is any need to share personal data or private information.

Monitoring your company’s social media pages and listening for comments and questions can improve your customers’ service experiences. Social media is the modern word-of-mouth marketing. The better your social engagement, the more your business will gain a reputation for responsive service and that can positively impact your business for years to come.