Have you ever tweeted about a delayed flight, or complained on Facebook about poor customer service? A growing number of customers are using social media to contact companies, whether their feedback is positive or negative.
According to social media expert Tamar Weinberg, if you view your social media feeds as a one-way marketing channel, then you’re doing it wrong. She argues that social media should be more about customer service.
A poll by NM Incite found that 47 per cent of social media users had reached out to a brand through customer service, with many saying they preferred this to using the phone.
There’s no doubt word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools. And retaining an existing customer is often easier and more valuable than winning a new one.
But how do you deliver a great social media experience and ensure you really listen to your followers and fans?
Listen to your customers
Social customer service involves hanging out where your customers do. Even if your contact details are displayed clearly on your website, your customers might prefer to get in touch via Facebook or Twitter. Make sure you have an up-to-date profile and monitor the main networks carefully. There are many tools that can help, including SoDash, SocialMention, or Salesforce Social Hub.
American Airlines was recently criticised for responding to all tweets (good or bad) with a cheerful message thanking them for their “support”. This is one area where automation is never a good idea – if someone has taken time to contact you, they deserve a personal response.
There’s a growing gap between what customers expect and what brands deliver on social media. The Social Media Marketing University found that most customers expect a reply within an hour, but only 17.6 per cent of companies aim to meet this target – and one in five almost never respond.
Ignoring a complaint won’t make it go away. On the other hand, a positive experience makes a customer much more likely to recommend your brand to friends.
Be proactive and helpful
As well as the main social networks, don’t neglect forums, LinkedIn channels and review sites. Joining in relevant conversations and reading posts can give you a better understanding of what customers want. And if you can step in to offer advice or solve their problems, then that’s even better!
Encourage customers to be social
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, according to Oscar Wilde. If your social media efforts are starting to feel like talking to an empty room, you need to get active and encourage people to get in touch. Share your social media details prominently and encourage customers to post online reviews. Asking questions, running competitions, or offering discounts can all help get the ball rolling.
Take difficult conversations private
Sometimes, a strict character limit is less than ideal when replying to an angry or disappointed customer. And unless you can resolve a problem quickly, it’s usually best dealt with out of the public eye. Ask the customer for an email address or phone number and get in touch as quickly as you can.
Have you had great customer service – or been disappointed – on social media? And how does your company respond to social queries? We’d love to hear what you think!