When most marketers and business owners think about the advantages of social media for their business, they think about attracting new customers to the business. Smart business owners and marketers focus on relationship building, either through regular content marketing or by having conversations with customers who are already familiar with the brand.
Straightforward and effective, this type of strategy has helped thousands of businesses spark new life into their marketing campaigns—but I believe social media has a much broader potential for business development and customer retention.
Customer service is evolving to match the rapid growth and development of new communication media, and today’s most popular social media platforms are the perfect opportunity to capitalize on that trend. When today’s customers try to get in touch with a customer service representative, they encounter various challenges:
- Find and call a phone number. Unless the number is immediate, just finding the number can be difficult. Wait times, lengthy unproductive conversations, and multiple call transfers are all disadvantages that can leave a sour taste in your customer’s mouth.
- Submit a contact form. It’s an impersonal experience, and customers never know where the contact form is going, when it will be replied to, or by whom.
- Send an email. Invisible and impersonal, much communication can get lost over email, and responses often take days.
- Seek out a service representative. It’s the best option for most customers, giving them a friendly, personal, and authoritative response. However, it can be costly and inefficient to have dedicated account representatives ready for each customer.
Using social media as your customer service portal can compensate for many of these disadvantages. While it’s still developing as a medium, there are a number of reasons why it’s possible and advantageous to get started with it now.
Reason 1: Communication Is Immediate
When people are upset, or when they need answers to their questions, they want a response right away. They don’t want to wait 24 hours for their email to be read, sorted, and responded to. They don’t want to wait on hold for 30 minutes.
One of the most beautiful elements of social media is its immediacy. The minute somebody makes a post on your Facebook wall or a post mentioning your brand, your admin will receive a notification to take action. This is also a slight vulnerability—customers expect immediate responses when posting on social media, so if your response team isn’t prepared, it could cost you—but if you can respond within minutes of the original post, you’ll be able to make your customer very happy. This is especially effective for customers dealing with an urgent problem, such as a flight delay or a technological malfunction before a presentation.
Reason 2: You Give People a More Personal Brand Experience
People tend to favor dealing with other people rather than corporations. Managing your customer service through social media will give you the best of both worlds. People will immediately recognize and call out to your brand, but it will be a person reaching out in response. There won’t be any automatically generated emails. There won’t be any tone-based phone menus. It’s just a question, followed by an answer.
Social media also allows you to think carefully about your response and present it in a more casual, conversational tone. This way, you can retain your brand voice while writing and communicating like a human, thus humanizing your brand.
Reason 3: The Conversation Is Transparent
This works both ways. For the customer, transparency is all about vindication. When customers are upset, they want to be heard, and posting on social media is the perfect way to be heard. By allowing your customers to make their complaints or questions public in this way, you’re giving them an immediate outlet. They feel in control, and appreciate the urgency companies feel to respond when the issue is made public.
For companies, transparency means that other potential customers get to see how well you handle the situation. If you can answer a customer’s concerns quickly, nicely, and effectively, you’ll instantly leave all of your followers with a good feeling—confidence that your customer service is top-notch.
Reason 4: You’re Encouraging More Brand Mentions
More interactions on social media means you have more opportunities to point back to your own brand. Your customers will mention your brand in their posts, making you visible to all their contacts. Even if they come to you with a concern or an issue, you’ll get brand visibility and an opportunity to show off your ability to quickly and effectively and correct the problem. When relevant, you can also post links to your site for more information. No matter how you handle questions and comments, you’ll be encouraging more activity and more brand mentions, which can help your SEO rankings.
Reason 5: Follow-up Is Easy
Depending on how long it takes for the problem to be resolved, following up with your customer is fast and easy. If you manage to resolve the problem with a quick answer, you can immediately ask whether or not the interaction was helpful. If it wasn’t, you have an opportunity to take further action—rather than forcing the customer through another round of calling or emailing. If it was helpful, you have a publicly visible follow-up interaction that ends on a positive note. You can also make a note to follow up a few days later with a private message to make sure the customer is still satisfied.
Reason 6: Social Users Are More Likely to Talk About Their Experience
This is a selfish reason, but it’s an extraordinarily advantageous one. Intuitively, the people most likely to use social media are the people who like to socialize. The most active users have hundreds of followers and friends on various social media profiles, and they’re used to posting updates regularly.
How you respond to these people is significant, because they are more likely to tell others about their experience with your brand. If you treat them well, they’ll share a positive experience with their extended social network—and you’ll get access to new potential fans and customers. Harness their popularity by giving them an unforgettably positive interaction.
Reason 7: You Eliminate the Funnel
Customers hate the funnel. When customers reach out to you, they want to be responded to in the same medium. Otherwise, they feel like they are being sent through a mechanical series of hoops, which leaves them with an alienated, impersonal feeling. Many major companies make the mistake of ushering people through one dedicated communication channel, usually a phone number or an email address, and isolating customers who reach out in any other method.
For example, if a customer reaches out on Facebook, they want to be responded to on Facebook. They don’t want to see a formulaic welcome message with instructions to call an 800 number. Eliminate the “funnel” by having dynamic customer interactions on every platform.
Resolving issues and answering customer questions through social media does give you a few more vulnerabilities, but the risk is worth the potential rewards. By using social media, you’ll be creating more substantial, personal relationships with your customers, and you’ll be increasing the visibility of your brand in the process. Interested in more benefits of social media? See my article, The Essential Guide to Jungle Social Media