Social Media for Customer Service. Why? How?

By: Lien Brusselmans

September 25, 2012

Companies can no longer deny it: customer service through social media is becoming a must.
Up until now many customers had only one way of reaching the companies whose services or products they use: the telephone. Some companies have their own callcenter, others work with external partners. Whatever the case, these phone calls almost always involve music on hold, waiting, being put through, and so on. Social media however, has provided customers with a new way of getting in touch with companies.

What’s in it for the customers?

As with the telephone, social media offers a direct line between companies and customers. However, as most of social media conversation takes place in the public space, customers can feel more powerful towards bigger companies. Other customers can and will be listening as well. It’s even possible that they come up with an answer. And the best part: no more being put through and no more holding the line while listening four times in a row to a clarinet solo!

What’s in it for the companies?

Companies might regard this as extra work that makes customer service too complex. They can choose to remain mute and not answer the customers’ questions online. However, I would warmly advise you not to think this way. Why not?

  • What is now considered extra work, will soon become the norm. More and more people will discover the benefits of asking questions through Twitter or Facebook. Gradually the telephone use flow will decrease, and the social media flow will increase. It’s best to adapt to this new situation now and not in a few months or years.
  • Social media and especially Twitter, urges people to be clear and concise. This way many customers will ask straightforward questions. Internally you can pass these questions on to the right people in your team, who can come up with the correct answer. It avoids some typical back and forth communication. With the right tool, frequently asked questions can even be answered automatically, further improving your speed of service.
  • It can drastically reduce the cost of your callcenter. After receiving a complaint, you can quickly send out a message such as ‘We noticed you had an issue with our product. Please pass us your customer number so that we can help you.’ The customer feels as if he is being helped instantly, while the customer service employee does not lose time waiting untill the customer passes his customer number. In fact, he or she can answer other questions in the meantime!
  • It takes a lot of stress away from the customer service employees, as they have to deal less with impatient men or women at the other side of the line.
  • Your social media customer service will be visible to everyone online. If you handle your customers’ questions in a polite and efficient way, your brand’s reputation will definitely get a boost!

How should we get this organized?

At the moment, many companies still use a variety of tools and services to handle their online presence. However, managing it all from one and the same tool, is the best solution: it’s a time-saver, supports your workflow and it keeps everything structured.

Expand your customer service with social media

Will you handle all messages in which your brand is mentioned, or just the ones that are directly addressed to you? An example:

  • MissY tweets – “I hate my phone company! This is already the second time this week I can’t send any texts! #companyX”
  • MissE tweets – “@companyX I can’t send any texts. What’s the matter? #already-second-time-this-week”

As CompanyX, you can decide whether you will answer in both scenarios, or only in the second case.

The second tweet is really one you can’t deny. If you do deny it, chances are high this MissE will send another tweet into the world, complaining about not even getting a response from you. Make sure to always handle messages that are addressed to you.

The first tweet however, opens up an opportunity: it’s not like MissY is asking for help, but she is still tweeting for a reason. Reaching out to her will really help your reputation. It positions your brand as caring and helpful. No doubt very soon these customers will start praising your customer service. At least that’s what I do when I’m pleased with a company’s support, even when I did not really ask for it. Free publicity that is!

To remember

Social media is changing the way companies need to work, whether you like it or not. This definitely brings about many many challenges, but it also provides new opportunities. With social media there now is a direct line between your company and the people you want to engage with. It allows you to build up a long-term and loyal relationship with them, based on user experience and conversation.

Oh, and one more advice: don’t be afraid for the negative comments that will be visible to everyone out there. And definitely don’t try to hide or erase them (from your Facebook page for example). Perfect people don’t exist and neither do perfect companies. You can only show you are trying.

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