Customer service is inherently social. There is a conversation happening about your company somewhere in the social realm right now, regardless of whether you have an official presence there. A lot of so-called ‘social media blunders’ have actually been ‘customer service blunders’ that gained traction as they were shared across the Net.
Without a solid social media strategy to monitor conversations about your brand and nip complaints in the bud, you risk damaging your company’s reputation and you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to improve your customer loyalty. The following characteristics of social media are those that present great opportunities for customer service – and potential pitfalls to avoid:
It’s public. One of the greatest advantages of social media is that you can now listen to your customers in real-time and instantly gather feedback. With applications like HootSuite, Tweetdeck, Radian6 and Sysomos, it’s easier than ever to find and listen to what your customers are saying. The world has suddenly become a free-form focus group for any company willing to take advantage of it.
Potential pitfall: Everyone else has the power to listen to you too, so make sure you mean what you say.
It’s fast. Not only can you hear what is relevant now, you can also react more quickly than ever before to prevent your customers getting frustrated.
Potential pitfall: If you miss an opportunity to react, it can be a heavy blow to your brand.
It’s where the action is happening. People are researching and actually purchasing your product in the same place that they are having conversations. Think of how much customer service there is surrounding the point of purchase in a brick-and-mortar store. This is to ensure that customers are getting helpful information that steers them toward a purchase, and so that they have a good experience to pass on. Social media now provides that same guidance to online shoppers.
Potential pitfall: There could be many competing sources of opinions about you and your company – you need to make sure that a customer is hearing what you want them to hear, but you can’t control all of it.
The ripple effect is exponential. Word of mouth has never been so influential. Due to the sheer number of people one individual can reach in a matter of seconds, good news travels fast.
Potential pitfall: Bad news travels faster.
It’s detached. The irony of social media is that it actually strips out a main component of social interaction – being physically present. This encourages very candid conversation that companies never had access to before.
Potential pitfall: It can grant the extra courage it might take to speak out negatively about something. What that means for a company is that you can quickly grab people’s attention, but you still have to have an overall strategy for customer satisfaction in order to keep them loyal.
It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that there are still human beings looking for a solution to a problem in a simple, personable way. How you address that overall depends on your personality, philosophy, and what you are willing to offer your customers – attention can go a long way to resolving issues.
(Paraphrased excerpts from Molly Privratsky’s post for Radian 6)