Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why Social Media Is Important for Customer Service

It’s easy for many companies to avoid social media. Even though the public has embraced it, some businesses have a hard time overlooking the costs and intricacies related to handling social media effectively. If you’ve been hesitant due to horror stories of other companies’ reputations taken down by angry customers on Twitter, or a novice social media person who doesn’t represent the company well and instead generates negative PR, it is important to do your homework on the benefits as well. Otherwise you’ll miss the triumphs that can come from a well thought out and executed social media strategy. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool for promoting your company and providing instant customer support. Anyone ignoring it completely is missing a huge opportunity to build even more customer loyalty by putting a real, relatable face to their business. They are also losing the chance to deal with customer service issues before they get out of hand, resulting in a more positive customer experience and a better overall perception of your company.

If your company has not embraced social media, you may not realize that your customers are already there, and they are talking. Run a search on the words “customer service” in Twitter and you will get pages upon pages of customers complaining about companies. That’s not to say people aren’t saying good things, because they are, but it’s the negatives that get people’s attention and can, in the worst situations, lead to some serious damage to your brand. Even if you don’t want to invest in a person dedicated to social media, having an employee who keeps an eye on the various social networks will help you head off any major customer service disasters. Make sure this person is skilled in customer service so they can immediately take care of complaints as they arise. Don't forget to empower them to properly handle customer issues with whatever solution fits best. It’s worth it, and even worth spending time training someone specifically for this, because when used right you can turn a bad customer experience into praise for how well you handled the issue.

Just as customers are embracing social media, chances are your competition is too. Spend some time on a few social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin) investigating other companies, and you’ll see that the ones who have a strong grasp on social media are the ones building solid, long-lasting relationships with customers. One of the benefits of building these relationships is when people are excited about the brand, they share their excitement with friends and followers. Look again at the successful companies in social media. They have photos taken by customers smiling with the product and then posted on Facebook to share. You can't ask for better free advertising, especially when you consider that picture not only shows up on your Facebook page, but also their wall. Every one of their friends and followers can see that photo, your product, and that smile. Social media gives you the opportunity to share the personalities behind your company and give customers positive interactions that result in feeling more connected to you.

Use social media to talk directly to customers when things are going right and you might also get valuable feedback. People are pretty fearless on social networks and will come right out and suggest features they’d like to see. This is a great opportunity to ask your customers what they want. Plus, when someone suggests an idea that later becomes implemented, you have validated them on a personal level, which will make them feel more connected to your company. Before you know it you will be creating life-long customers.

Businesses are continuing to find ways to use social media to their advantage. There is still room to grow, but if you wait to begin these online connections, you may be forfeiting your social media success to your competition. It’s well worth taking the time to at least set up accounts for Twitter and Facebook, and have someone check on both daily. Only 5-10 minutes a day can make a difference, and allow you to catch any issues that arise. This way you are prepared when a customer has an issue and takes to a social network instead of giving you a call. Even better, once you get the hang of it and can spend more time interacting with people, is is possible to use social media to build your brand awareness and generate more sales. These are tools that are available for you to take advantage of in order to provide the ultimate in customer service. Use them and you will not only make your customers happy, but also build brand awareness that can positively impact your business.

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