social customer service

The Social Media Customer Service Opportunity

Earlier this year I had an issue with an airline so, as many of us would do, I called them. I was greeted with an automated message telling me that the wait time is expected to be 90 minutes. Naturally, I did what many of my fellow millennials would do and took my issue to social media. Twitter was my platform of choice and I simply posted something to the effect of, “Hey @airlinename, I’m stuck here and need you help to resolve this, please talk to me.” After 20 minutes had dragged by I still hadn’t heard back. Apparently their social media was as backed up as their contact center. But, what did happen was both brilliant and disappointing. Within minutes of my tweet I got a response from a competing airline, inviting me to start flying with them. They offered me credit for future flights and would carry my status over from the airline that was causing my delay. I was astonished that they were able to steal customers in such a public fashion, and that the airline I’ve been loyal to didn’t care to fight back to keep me or to even resolve my issue. So, I left my favorite airline for another.

By now you’ve no doubt heard the resounding chorus of business experts giving their advice on why it’s critical for your business to have a presence on social media. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter can no longer be given the diminutive title of “Fad”. Many businesses have already jumped on the bandwagon and, without second thought, passed the responsibility of social media off on their marketing department to broadcast branded content to followers. For smaller companies without a separate marketing division, these updates are usually added to the workload of the most web savvy person in the office and content is created sporadically and without a clear strategy in mind.

To many, the end goal of social media is getting lots of page likes or followers without an understanding of the how, why or the ability to calculate ROI. Yes, there is a value in having a large audience, but the real value is in engagement with your social media audience. Social media is a great channel to use for building brand awareness, but the most important aspect is what that effect that awareness has on your company’s brand image. What’s the benefit of spreading awareness if you’re merely encouraging a negative narrative to take place among potential customers?

The most critical element of success on social media is hidden right in the term itself. Social media is an avenue for conversation; a two-way form of communication requiring back and forth participation from more than one party. Your customers are on social media, they’re talking about you there and they expect you to be there, too. One of the biggest complaints about companies’ social media presences is a lack of responsiveness, resulting in the appearance that they don’t have any social customer service. It’s one thing to not respond to every customer offering effusive praise for your product or service, but ignoring the complaints about your company is opening up an entirely different can of worms.

A Sprinklr study from 2015 found that nearly 50% of consumers are ready and willing to share negative experiences with a brand on social media. Many of these people will not call your contact center or email your customer service team prior to doing so. Everyone knows the long popular refrain about it being more expensive to court new customers than it is to retain the current ones. If you don’t have the tools or infrastructure in place to find this online feedback, respond to it, and service these customers in a timely manner on their platform of choice, you’re missing a huge opportunity to retain customers by repairing damaged relationships. Social media customer service is a real thing and the demand is coming like a tidal wave.

It’s imperative that your company be able to respond to these customers and turn the conversation around. For any business of significant volume, this makes social media customer service technology a critical investment. There are numerous platforms and tools now available to facilitate this new channel of social customer service on its own, as well as many companies offering the technology to integrate it into the operations of your current customer support teams. Additionally, there are a number of companies operating in the space of outsourced social media customer service. With all of the different solutions available to solve this need, there’s no reason for more companies not to take advantage of this massive opportunity. When customer experience is becoming a marketable differentiator for so many companies, social media customer service is one of the fastest ways to stand out from competition.