Social media is increasingly used by small-business owners as a marketing channel. But beyond promoting our wares, social media can be a useful tool for providing customer service.
DMG Consulting found that 67 percent of enterprises are using social media in a manner that includes some form of customer service. The study drilled down to specific usage purposes, finding that most companies are using social media as a branding and crisis-management tool. However, many are also using it for informal product testing, to monitor networks to spot common product and operation issues and to identify other customer service concerns.
Facebook and Twitter
Some small businesses wholly embrace social media as a customer communication tool. Trish Sweeney of Topcor, the company that makes Clipa, a purse hanger which doubles as a bracelet, says her company has used social media for customer service since its inception in 2009.
Customers ask product-related questions via Facebook and Twitter, inquire about product availability and get help with placing orders. “Although we also get phone calls and e-mails, our fans and followers know we're available this way as well, so they just post questions on our wall,” Sweeney says.
Earn Your Customers' Loyalty
Simon Tam of The Slants, a touring performing arts group, advocates the use of social media to offer the unexpected and generate customer loyalty. After seeing a post from someone whose car was broken into and CDs were stolen, Tam immediately made contact with the poster and offered digital versions of all the stolen music for free.
The fan, of course, was pleasantly surprised by the gesture, earning The Slants immediate lifetime fan loyalty. The icing on the cake, however, was that he shared the story with all his friends and contacts, giving the group a positive word-of-mouth marketing boost.
Take Sensitive Issues Offline
It’s not always the best idea to discuss a highly sensitive customer service issue online. Sometimes, a customer’s temper is flared and the discussion is best moved to phone or e-mail for resolution. Or maybe the customer’s issue is simply too complex to be realistically resolved in 140 characters or less.
Such is the case for Grubwithus, a company which aims to make networking more personal by getting groups of people with similar interests together at local restaurants. A user recently tweeted to the company that the website’s layout wouldn’t render correctly on her screen, so she wasn’t able to use the service. Because more information was needed to resolve this issue, Grubwithus responded via Twitter “Hmm, can you e-mail us: email@example.com with more details? We'd love to fix the bug for you!”
Thanks to the company’s quick response and attention, the customer e-mailed the necessary details, the Grubwithus development team resolved the issue, and the now-happy consumer happily tweeted kudos to the company for the quick fix.
Make the Most of Customer Posts
David Burrows, vice president of corporate marketing & PR at Cinsay, which sells an advanced e-commerce and video integration service, says the company gets a lot of questions and inquiries via its social networks. “We've noticed that many customer service opportunities that arise on Facebook and Twitter tend to come from users who initially found our company on those social platforms, so they return to that same location for help,” Burrows explains. And with more companies using social media to market their services, social media is likely to become a primary platform for consumers with questions or complaints.
Cinsay takes its social engagement one step further, by utilizing some of the social media inquiries to generate ideas for blog posts. As an added bonus, they’ll feature the company with the question and even offer them a free Smart Store to try.
Think about your Facebook or Twitter news feed and how many times have you noticed your friends or contacts complaining (or dramatically ranting) about the poor service they received from a company. If you’re on top of monitoring your online reputation, you’ll quickly uncover any positive or negative mentions and be able to offer a prompt response.
Interaction is key for customer engagement, so be sure to communicate with your followers and contacts in response to any mentions of your company. When fans see that you’re actively engaged with your audience, they’ll be more likely to initiate communication, creating more buzz for your products and services. When you’re faced with issues better handled offline, using a little creative diversion can keep major negatives out of public view and hopefully earn you some public props later.
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.