Customer Service Enabled by Social Media

Most businesses spend the majority of their resources on customer acquisition, rather than serving existing clients. As a result, customers often feel left out or unappreciated, subsequent to a product installation or service on-boarding.

Traditionally, Customer Service departments have had the responsibility for answering customer questions and resolving issues. They’ve also contributed by saving disgruntled customers from leaving.

<img src="sad.jpg" alt="Sad customer" />However, the widely held belief that unhappy customers will call Customer Service isn’t reflected by reality.

A survey conducted by 1st Financial Training Services of Schaumburg IL reported that:
<img src="4%-1.jpg" alt="Chart illustrating effects of poor customer service" />

What is at the root of this great upset?

  • Customer service agents failed to answer customers’ questions 50% of the time (Harris Interactive)
  • 68% of customers who left perceived an attitude of non-caring, 14% left due to companies not staying in touch and 9% due to dissatisfaction with the product or price (U.S. News & World Report), and
  • 40% of Canadians believe businesses are paying less attention to customer service: more than any other country surveyed (2014 Amex Canada Survey)

Compounding these intimidating numbers is the ongoing customer power shift fueled by social media opinion sharing. In view of the stats above, it isn’t surprising that news of bad customer service reaches twice as many ears as good.

Short of a company-wide appraisal, what can be done right now to demonstrate care, concern and appreciation for customers?

Apply Social Media Channels & Email as Customer Service Enablers

To communicate gratitude to customers and to bridge the information-attention gap, a 3-step process can be undertaken and begun immediately. Please note that this is an ongoing process.

Does this seem daunting: too much? I understand that. It can be a little intimidating but proactive customer service is the new black. The customer power shift is only going to intensify.

<img src="goethe.jpg" alt="Goethe says customer service is the answer" />For inspiration, I give you statesman and writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832):

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

Step 1: Address Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
<img src="question.jpg" alt="social media solves FAQs" />Customers ask us questions each day. Start keeping track of them. Write them down and solicit feedback from anyone who deals with them. Far too often, vital info is silo’d in people’s minds and activated only when prompted.

If employees are in different offices, create a Wiki (a type of website that allows users to collaborate in content creation). They’re easily setup and simple to use. If you’re using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, review the files for any notes on questions.

According to their industry or type of business, Solo-entrepreneurs can search for articles on questions, issues and problems. Then write out the answers.

Organize the questions and answers into topics, categories and/or departments.

Step 2: Conduct Social Media Audits on your Customers
As a starting point, you need to find out their social media status or level of participation.

  • Type your customer’s company name into the search box and see what info presents itself.
  • Pull up their website and see what social media channels they’re using, or
  • Make customers aware of the platform you’ll be using and monitor which ones pay attention.

Depending on your industry or field of endeavor, your customers may not be terribly savvy or engaged with social media. If so, position your company as a helper by:

  1. Emailing them to let them know about your blog.
  2. Sending out a notice that you’re starting a blog and provide an overview of the subject matter. Take the time to create a content strategy so your efforts are focused.
  3. Refer them to your favorite YouTube How-to video on whichever platform you’ve chosen or find a printed version online.

Step 3: Customer Service Measures
While it likely isn’t possible to implement all that follows, it is hoped that some progress is made.

Regarding the frequently asked questions from Step 1, you may present them in blog posts or email them, depending on customer preference. If some questions are more prevalent, integrate their answers into your website, sales and post-sale product-service content.

As FAQs accumulate, organize them by subject or category in a web page. In time, search capability can be added.

<img src="Facebook.jpg" alt="Facebook private group" />Establish a Facebook (business page 1st) private customer group and introduce your customer service personnel. Photos and bio sections do much to personalize the customer experience.

<img src="HappyCust-1.jpg" alt="Happy Customer Service" />

Contests can be held for clients who volunteer an idea or discuss an application they’re using your product-service for. Winners get featured in your website each month or receive a Monday morning coffee delivery announced on Twitter.

Via an emailed newsletter, a points reward system could be originated based on your clients’:

  • Community involvement
  • Extra services purchased or 1st to order a new service
  • Toughest question of the month or a combination of activities.

Post-sale customer service can take the form of:

  1. Providing helpful tips related to products-service
  2. Telephone follow-up with emailed references to new articles, learning guides or even educational (YouTube) videos, or
  3. If customers are using Twitter, recognize them via an appreciative shout-out, calling attention to their fine services. That’s just good PR.

Positive Results
Proactive, appreciative customer service works. 76% of Canadian respondents said they’ve spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service. On average, they’ll spend 12% more. (2014 Amex Canada Survey)

The numbers in the U.S. were similar. 70% of respondents were willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believe provide excellent service. (2011 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer)

Added Bonus
Listened-to customers are also more likely to Like, link to, follow, share and connect with companies perceived as being helpful. Wouldn’t you? You’re someone’s customer. And good news can travel just as fast if it enhances the self-esteem and reputation of the person passing it on.

Greater social proof, all Google, Bing and Yahoo ranking factors, results in your company being found more readily online. Everyone wins.

Closing Stat: Social Media Enables Customer Service
In the previously quoted Amex Canada survey: 21% of Canadian respondents used social media to get a customer service response in 2013 and 55% felt Canadian companies improved their response times over social media channels.

That’s a proof statement.

Can anyone share some ideas as to how they would use social media to improve customer service?

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