Why Brands Should Respond to Customers on Social Networks

A company's success can be built on its customer service. Grab this opportunity by engaging with your customers online.
July 05, 2012

Consumers expect companies to interact with them on social networks. Some companies see this as a hassle because they have to invest more resources to support their social media accounts, while others see it as a competitive advantage. Big-name companies like Zappos and Comcast have defined their customer services using Twitter. GoDaddy.com even uses the service to respond to customer complaints and questions.

Customer Service Satisfaction

When considering such customer service interactions, there are two factors to consider. The first is how responsive a company is to a consumer’s status update. If a company takes too long responding, then the customer feels like they don’t care and can probably solve the problem themself. The second is how helpful a response is. If the company responds and it’s not helpful, than the customer is unhappy.

According to a new research report by Maritz Research, consumers have a positive impression of brands that respond to them. Among customers who have received a response from a public comment, 85 percent had a favorable impression toward receiving the response through social media. Among those, 27 percent were happy to receive a response. Only 2 percent of those consumers were unhappy. This was different than other customer support channels including phone calls, e-mails and letters, where only 6 percent of consumers were happy to receive the same response. Consumers are also fine with how brands use their data to make decisions. 84 percent of them said that this data allows companies to help unsatisfied customers.

Real People, Not Robotic Answers

In order to manage relationships on social networks, you need to have real people behind the networks and a consistent protocol for them to follow. There should be corporate guidelines that show the most common complaints and the best responses to help get customer support fast. Also, the social media team should be aware of product bugs and fixes so that they can link customers to them. Next, you need to monitor all of your social media accounts and keep on top of what customers are saying at all hours of the day. Based on how many people are managing it, it could be helpful to use a tool like HootSuite to delegate responses.

Large brands typically have multiple accounts. For instance, they separate their jobs account from their customer service account. Smaller companies don’t usually have this luxury because of the lack of resources. Regardless, it’s important to share content, tips and resources in addition to answering customer questions. This shows that you’re staying active and trying to solve problems before they arise. It also helps to be transparent with your responses, not letting your PR team run the show. Once your responses become robotic, customers will resort to calling you.

Remember: servicing and marketing to customers has changed and customers expect you to be active and engaging on social networks. If you want a competitive position in your industry, then you need to start acting now.

Do you use social media for customer service? Are you planning on making this a priority?

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen-Y research and management-consulting firm. Subscribe to his updates at Facebook.com/DanSchawbel.

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