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May 22, 2012

Why Customer Service Should Be At the Core of Every Social Media Strategy

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It was a Saturday morning, the scent of rain filled my room and I could hear drops sprinkling outside my window. As a rain lover I was excited at first, but then I thought to myself, “crap, is the farmers market open rain or shine? I really need a new bar of soap.” The only means of communication for the farmers market was Facebook and Twitter. Surely on the day of the farmers market they’ll respond. I waited, and waited, and waited… no response. It was that day that it hit me.

No matter what your reasons for engaging in social media, customer service has to be at the core of everything you plan.

Two days later they got back to me, letting me know that they were in fact open rain or shine. Needless to say it was too late and I was still in dire need of a new bar of my beloved Wildwood soap.

Customer services

The golden rule of social media is that you have to set goals. Most businesses aim for more followers, greater online visibility, and oftentimes additional website traffic. They have a plan in place to draw those followers, promote their brand and drive traffic. But when it comes to dealing with issues pertaining to customer service they miss the mark.

Think of your social media channels the same way you would any other form of business communication. At its core, it is a communication tool and people are going to use it as such. It’s vital not to overlook the customer service opportunities inherent in social media.

Be Prepared

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. When building customer service into your social media strategy consider worst case scenarios and how you will handle them. What will you do if a customer lashes out online? What will your escalation process be if the issue can’t be resolved through social media? Think of how you handle customer concerns over the phone or in your place of business and identify how you will handle these same situations if they arise via social media.

Be Available

In the case of the farmers market, it was taking place during the time of my tweet. Ideally if you are open for business you should be available to potential customers via social media in case they have questions or need more information about your businesses during business hours.

Be Knowledgeable

Whether you’re personally managing your social media presence or have hired someone to manage it for you, it’s important that they know what’s going on in your business at all times. Make sure that whoever is managing your social presence is kept abreast with current promotions, changes to policies, current customer concerns and anything else that may come up online.

Be Connected

There will be times when questions or concerns will come up that are outside of what you can manage, or that you may simply not have the answer to. Be sure you have a means of connecting the social media customer with the right information or person to move forward. A couple Halloween’s back I purchased a box of adhesive bandages from a large craft retail chain and when I got home and opened the box I discovered the carcass of a very large beetle that could have only entered the box during packaging. The business support line was closed, so I reached out via Facebook for assistance. The next day the company offered an apology and directed me to who I could contact specifically via Facebook. When I reached out to the representative she was already aware of my problem and was quick to offer compensation. Had the company not been so connected internally, I would imagine this process would not have gone as smoothly.

Be Engaged

Social media can be a breeding ground for the passive aggressive. I see it all the time. “Company X is so mean. They make me want to cry.” They won’t @mention you directly, but the message will be out there. Monitoring your brand can help engage customers who are lashing out at your company without saying it to your face. I’ve done this a few times myself and in many cases the company has come forward to make it right, or even better a brand evangelist has stepped up for them. Just make sure to monitor these conversations as well as you want to ensure they are helping and not hurting your case.

Social media as a customer support channel continues to see demand yet many businesses are deaf to the cries of their customers. Ignoring a question, concern, or comment from a customer on a social media website is the equivalent to hanging up the phone on someone or slamming the door in a customers face. And even if not done intentionally, being unavailable at a critical time can be harmful to your brand. Add to the equation, social media communications happens in front of millions of people.

Take a look at your own social presence and identify if you are prepared to aid your online customers on social networks and if you’re not, what are you going to do to fix it?

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3 responses to “Why Customer Service Should Be At the Core of Every Social Media Strategy”

  1. Nick Stamoulis writes:

    Social media is a 24-7 medium. People can reach out to you publicly at any time. It’s important to have customer support monitoring it at all times. You don’t want to leave a question or concern unanswered for days.

  2. Kent writes:

    Agree with the article, partly. The reason is when comes to social media marketing, every single department should be involved (core). One great book from Seth Godin – Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing out of Sync? tells that it is technology which changes company. Company has to change t suit technology, not technology force to use in old traditional company.

    Which means social media change the whole management, marketing, operation, customer service and communication of one company. Top management has to be core team as well since people would like to talk to top management thru’ blog.

  3. Mike Wilton writes:

    I completely agree with you Kent, but I think company involvement in social media is a whole other topic/post in and of itself. I definitely agree that in a perfect world all company entities would somehow be tied/connected through social media, but the reality is if they can’t even manage the support side of things there is no way they are going to get company-wide integration.

    For now I think so long as the person on the front lines has a means of navigating difficult waters that may be managed by other departments/personnel they are better off than the companies who ignore customer engagement completely.



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