In today’s advanced digital marketplace customers are no longer stuck with only an automated phone system to respond to their customer service needs. There are a wide variety of service channels to choose from that cater to different customers - self-service knowledge bases, chatbots, and social media messaging services.
And it seems that companies are seeing the value of social media customer service. In their “2016 State of Social Business” publication, Altimeter analysts Ed Terpening and Aubrey Littleton report that among 523 respondents in big companies in the US and Europe “social customer service” is now the top external objective for social business functions, just ahead of “relationship building” – which also focused on current customers, not customer acquisition.
For customers, interacting with brands via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, etc. is often faster and easier, and many customers believe they receive better care via these channels than they receive via phone and email. According to a new report from Conversocial, 54% of customers prefer customer service via social media and SMS. Because of this, Twitter and Facebook have rolled out several tweaks and enhancements to their platforms to make them even more viable replacements for traditional contact channels.
So what is Social Media Customer Service?
Social customer service is the practice of providing consumer support through social media channels to quickly answer questions. 69% of customers believe fast resolution of the problem is vital to good service, making social consumer support invaluable. While Facebook and Twitter have proven to be vital platforms for marketing, they are also important channels through which consumers solicit and receive customer service. According to the Q2 2016 Sprout Social Index, 90% of surveyed consumers have used social media in some way to communicate with a brand. And, over 1/3 (34.5%) said they preferred social media to traditional channels like phone and email.
How can you improve your Social Media Customer Service?
1) Be where your customers are.
Where should you focus your time and efforts? Facebook and Twitter will be the primary focus for most companies, but other brands may find that their customers also frequent Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, or other social sites.
To find out where your audience is, search for mentions of your brand within popular social sites. If you find that your audience isn't yet talking about your brand online, look for ways to include yourself in conversations relevant to your industry. The way, for an employee to be welcomed into social conversations is to add something of value.
2) Listen to what your customers have to say.
Many marketers are already familiar with social media monitoring tools that automate the process of searching for mentions of a brand name, but listening is equally important from a customer service perspective. Research from the Institute of Customer Service reveals 1 in every 3 customers turns to social media to seek advice or communicate with a business.
Depending on how much volume your brand's social media pages generate, it's important to collect and analyze activity so that you understand the issues being raised over social media. This information allows you to determine:
How many comments reflect a poor customer experience, in person or online?
How many comments provide feedback, positive or negative?
How many brand mentions require, or would benefit from, a response?
What time of day are your customers most active on social media?
The answers to these questions will help you define priority content, make decisions about self-service options, and determine whether you'll be able to handle the majority of issues directly through the social media channels or directing users to other lines of support.
3) The speed of your response is critical.
Studies have shown that most customers want a response over social media within the same day. The Northridge Group reported that 42% of consumers expect a response to their customer service inquiry within the hour. Because tweets and timeline posts can be submitted overnight, this presents a challenge by driving your response time from just a few hours to 10-20 hours later.
As a best practice, always respond with immediacy—or with the promise of. A good strategy may be to set up an automated response letting customers know you received their message and will respond the next business day. At least then they know their message was received and you are working on a resolution.
4) The success of your social care efforts will depend on the quality of care you provide.
Agent responses must be timely, accurate, sensitive, brief, and friendly…which is a lot to ask. Agents must be able to read into a customer's emotional state and determine an appropriate response. That may involve a message conveying friendliness and willingness to help or possibly sending a more formal statement of empathy or apology to address an issue.
So what can you do when you receive negative feedback? This is an opportunity to rectify your brand's image and, more important, your relationship with the customer. The customer must feel like they've been heard and that you're willing to do what it takes to make them happy. Research for Hug Your Haters (conducted by Edison Research) studies found that customers are more likely to advocate on behalf of brands who answer their complaints.
When a company answers a customer complaint via email, it increases advocacy by an average of 8%.
When a company answers a customer complaint via phone, it increases advocacy by an average of 10%
When a company answers a customer complaint via social media, in increases advocacy by an average of 20%.
Regular monitoring of your company's social media pages combined with savvy use of the sites can elevate your customer service efforts from acceptable to exceptional. The better your social care, the more social traffic you can expect, and ultimately more loyal customers.