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Social media as a customer service priority

No brand can exist without customers or clients. Most brands and products are created having the end user in mind and a key part of that involves customer service. Every stage of interaction between brand and customer creates a relationship. How a brand chooses to engage with their customers forms a baseline of customer service. Naturally every company offers differing levels of  service. From committing to 24/7 customer care to automating every stage of interaction, there is no one singular way. What is clear however is that using the pathways of social media to improve customer service has become a firm differentiator between the success of brands.

What exactly is it that social media offers that makes it a non-negotiable when it comes to quality customer service?

Customer service optimisation

These days, life is immediate no matter the medium. From streaming any programme to overnight shipping, downloading a radio show you missed to reading press online day and night. We’re habituated to wait for nothing. Customer service expectations are no different and social media provides a way to offer prompt and efficient engagement directly to customers.

With up to 79% of social media users looking for a response within the first 24 hours, it’s clear that companies need to put in place clear social media guidelines as well as a protocol for escalation. The gap between customer expectation and company performance can be hard to close. As expectations move, demands spike and the tech requirements of social media shift so the onus is very much on companies. From training and retraining staff to drafting style and content parameters it’s no small task to set up a realistic and functional social media schedule.

The upside of social media pressures are that customers are documented to spend 20-40% more with companies that respond to them on social media. This is compared to companies who don’t engage with their customers on social media and as a result lose market share year-on-year. It shows that laying the social media groundwork is worth the effort. Doing nothing really takes you out of the running.

Go public

For better or worse, committing to social media as part of any customer service and communications plan means that you’re taking your business public. Whether that is a negative review that goes viral or a positive interaction that boosts your brand, there is no hiding. But rather than shy away from this, brands who are winning loyalty are those who volunteer to make things public. It’s something that many customers have come to rely on.

Sharing a positive experience on social media is common and the viral spread of a great review is hard to replicate in traditional forms of press. When it comes to a negative social media moment, a bad product review, an underwhelming customer service experience or a product complaint, it’s not all doom and gloom. Companies who take the time to respond quickly, honestly and openly can actually use the negative moment to their advantage. There’s always the option to move to direct private messaging but actually keeping things public shows the rest of their community just how committed they are to dealing with customer concerns and improving their service. Winning trust and loyalty can be worth being hauled over hot social media coals for.

Broad scope

If you consider traditional forms of customer service – phone calls, emails, meetings – these are all limited in scope. Whether limitation by time of day, by scope of request, or by location, each has its purpose and does not extend outside of that. Social media offers no such limitation. Companies flexing their social media muscles can profit from an extensive reach.

Starting with the more basic customer service of direct engagement to answer questions and complaints, the opportunities don’t stop there. Smart companies are sharing positive news and reviews as a form of PR. They are creating content to showcase the life of their companies, the stories behind their products and the benefits of their brand ethos. From video content to direct messaging, brand ambassadors to social media takeovers, every post on social media creates a ripple effect. While many of these engagements may not be classed as traditional customer service, they each offer something to a brand’s clients. They answer questions customers didn’t realise they had, they offer a shared community and they push out offers and experiences. Each piece layers on peripheral customer service that will sustain a brand as it moves forward.

Social listening

Making best use of social media as a form of customer service is not limited to the brand itself. Yes it’s incredibly useful to monitor your own brand. To watch what your customers are talking about, when they mention your brand, and in what context. All of these moments are useful. We can see which conversations end up with the most engagement, work out how to avoid engaging with trolls, and base future product decisions on direct feedback. But more than that, social media offers competitor brand monitoring as a means of customer service.

What are your competitors doing on social media? Are they offering their customers something you are not? Could you improve what you offer your customers, what you provide your community? Might there be ways in which your social media activity can better drive your brand forward? The volume of information available via social media trackers, analytics and basic research is fascinating and free. Any brand planning growth would be foolish to look past learning what it can from what’s on offer in the market.

Create a community

Social media offers a brand the opportunity to build a community. To reach its people where they are already, without having to knock on doors or buy contact information.  Social media brings the world right to a brand no matter how niche your audience is. Identifying your customer profile and targeting content to fit means that brands have the chance to speak to their audience in an unparalleled way. Editing customer service responses, learning from customer feedback and building a social media strategy around an evolving community is an incredibly powerful thing.

Stay up to speed

Using social media as a mainstay of customer service brings its own complications and challenges. The speed at which tech and specifically social media platforms evolve is an obvious hurdle. Keeping teams skilled and retrained across all platforms can be a real challenge. Many employees have some skills, but not across every platform. The financial and time demands of constant training can present difficulties. Add the regulatory changes that rise up across all platforms, whether relating to data regulation or adhering to advertising requirements? Managing a social media profile well is not a part time job.

Let’s not forget that each platform appeals to its own user group. Twitter appeals to an older demographic and we’re eternally tracking down the younger demographic between Instagram and TikTok, YouTube or BeReel. It’s an ever-moving target. Taking time to lay out a strategy around how you train and retrain your team is key. Creating content specific to each platform and demographic lays the foundation for better performance. And being realistic about the changing parameters is advisable.

Customer service necessarily involves social media these days. Companies that choose to ignore that do so at their own risk. It’s clear that customer expectations are only growing. We all want and expect more from the companies we choose to spend our money with.

Developing a clear and flexible social media customer service strategy is the first step in optimising any brand social media presence.

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