The rise of the internet and social media has transformed the ways consumers and businesses interact and communicate with each other. These shifts in technology have had huge impacts in the realm of customer service. As such, businesses should not overlook social media as a means of building authentic relationships with their audience and providing phenomenal customer experiences. In this article we discuss customer service, why it is important and the role that social media plays in it. 

What Is Customer Service?

As defined by Salesforce, “Customer service is the support you offer your customers – both before and after they buy and use your products or services – that helps them have an easy and enjoyable experience with you.” If you’ve ever had to set up your Wi-Fi at home, you’re probably familiar with your internet provider’s customer service: a support agent might come to your home and help you install your router, or maybe they guide you step-by-step over the phone to ensure that everything works properly. If you experience any issues with your device or your internet services in the future, you know exactly who you need to call to get help.

customer-service-representative

Traditional customer service relied heavily on call centers.

Customer service goes far beyond this however, and is now available via email, internet, text messages and social media. While all of these different means of communication play into the customer experience, social media especially shines through as an invaluable tool for your business. 

Why Is Customer Service Important?

In addition to a business’s marketing, advertising, products, services and other customer-facing details consumers form opinions about, customer service is an added avenue for people to experience your brand. If your product or service is designed to elicit positive responses from people but the customer service falls flat, your brand fails to keep its promise of being a trustworthy and reliable source. This disconnect and lack of customer care has the potential to hurt the company and lose customers to your competitors. 

Outstanding customer service can look like many different things. It provides answers, is timely, drives a pleasant experience and keeps people coming back to your business. This last piece is precisely where customer service becomes important! It is an essential part of every company’s branding. Your brand should reflect all aspects of your business in its marketing materials, products, services and in customer service interactions. It is the foundation of your company’s mission, the benefits and features of whatever you offer, the qualities you want customers to associate with your company and what consumers already think of you. To learn more about branding, refer to this Three Girls’ blog post

The customer experience (CX) is so important that according to a survey by Gartner in 2018, it is “the new marketing battlefront” and 81% of marketing leaders say they expect companies to be “competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX.” In a market that is more saturated than ever, consumers are drawn to the businesses they have a positive experience with. According to the HubSpot blog, due to the popularity of the internet, power lies with the customer, not the seller. To maintain your consumers, it’s incredibly important to use customer service as a way to build relationships with those who experience your brand. 

Social Media’s Role In Customer Service 

Now that you understand the importance of customer service to the success of your business and relationships, how does social media come into play? First, consumers expect brands to be available on social media. Additionally, social media provides fast, easy and direct communication with consumers as well as a way to strengthen your brand and manage your company’s reputation. All these topics are elaborated on below. 

1. Fast and easy communication with consumers.

Three Girls’ CEO, Erika Taylor Montgomery, discusses the benefits of social media in a recent article. Most notably, it allows for faster and easier direct communication with consumers. She elaborates to say:

social-media-communication

Social media allows for direct communication with customers.

“Social networks give you the opportunity to interact directly with customers and fans, and likewise give them the chance to interact directly with your brand. Unlike traditional print or broadcast media, which offer only one-way communication, social media is a two-way street. Consumers can now easily reach out to a customer service representative thanks to social media. Businesses can also receive, review and respond to customers’ grievances faster and more easily than ever before. Often consumers don’t even have to pick up the phone to discuss a dispute with a company. Social media allows them to communicate on their own time when it is appropriate for both parties. No more having to sit on hold and listen to that awful elevator music. Customers can immediately write a review or make a post about a product or service in real-time, too. Social media is greatly impacting the way business owners value their customers and it’s all for the better.” 

This connection with consumers on social media is so important because the average American currently spends about 58 minutes per day on Facebook and 53 minutes on Instagram. With millions of people spending such a large amount of time on social media, it’s become a resource for consumers to easily engage with their favorite brands. Companies have a lot to lose if they fail to interact with their audience on social media. Additionally, social media is cost-effective and saves time compared to traditional customer service. In terms of what consumers want from brands on social media, according to Hootsuite, they “expect brands to be available on social media and seek out their social accounts for customer service – and beyond that, about half of social media users expect a response from brands on social media within three hours.”

2. Reputation management.

In addition to being available to respond to customers’ questions or comments, managing your company’s reputation can be done fairly easily on social media as well. As mentioned previously, consumers will talk about your business on various platforms, and if you’re on the same platform, you might be able to “pick up on important social posts about your brand to highlight the positive and address the negative before it turns into a major issue” according to Three Girls’ CEO, Erika Taylor Montgomery. For example, many businesses receive comments on their photos that are both positive and negative. Businesses can engage with positive feedback to build a relationship with a customer and also address any complaints or negative feedback immediately. Sometimes the issue may be so large and potentially damaging that it requires these direct lines of communication to get ahead of the negative impacts of a scandal and assure your followers that you can redeem yourself. If your company’s reputation and therefore success is at stake, social media helps to remedy the situation as long as you have a plan for such an occurrence. Social media users pay close attention to who they shop with and by sincerely apologizing and communicating your plan of action directly to your audience, consumers will be more open to what you have to say.

3. Reinforces your brand and builds authentic relationships.

Customer service in social media should not be limited to answering questions and solving problems. Customer service is also a way to interact with users on a more personal level and communicate your brand’s personality. We’ve all seen how brands have made themselves more relatable on social media and it’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase your brand’s voice. 

customer-service-and-branding

Your social media customer service strategy is an extension of your brand.

This ties back to branding and how social media can influence public perception of a brand and humanize it, resulting in emotional connections and a stronger brand loyalty. According to Investopedia: “Brand loyalty is the positive association consumers attach to a particular product or brand. Customers who exhibit brand loyalty are devoted to a product or service, which is demonstrated by their repeat purchases despite competitors’ efforts to lure them away.” If consumers trust your brand and have a strong positive association with it, they’ll likely return for the same product and even try others from you. 

The social media interactions you have with your customers, whether helping them solve an issue, replying to their comments or building relationships with them, all serve to make their experience with your business better. The success of businesses today relies heavily on a company’s ability to be proactive, helpful and authentic in their connections with customers, and social media is one of the best ways to execute your customer service strategy. 

Best Practices For Customer Service On Social Media

The next step to providing phenomenal customer service to your audience through social media is to have a strategy. Your strategy will be stronger with just a few best practices at its foundation. 

  • Respond quickly and consistently.

Attempting to have a consistent response time of one hour or less might be difficult if your company does not have a team dedicated to customer service. Using a social media management tool will make it feasible to respond in a timely fashion by showing your engagements across all platforms in one simple interface. Blogging Wizard put together a list of social media management tools that can help with unifying the inboxes of all the social platforms you use. Most are highly affordable or free and have many features designed to help you easily oversee your social media activity.

  • Engage in social listening.

According to Ring Central: “Social listening is a technique used by social media channels in order to monitor your social media accounts to pick up on current mentions, customer feedback, or discussions of your brand. You can then analyze these posts to discover specific keywords or types of content that are circulating in your industry.” It’s incredibly important to know how your company is perceived in order to shape your customer service strategy. Pay close attention to what people are saying directly to your brand and how they are speaking about your brand. Social media gives you access to this crucial information and helps businesses strengthen their customer service if the information they find is used to inform their strategy.

  • Be consistent in your branding and voice.

Hopefully you’ve established your brand voice and have set guidelines for how your employees should interact with customers in order to reflect that voice. On social media, brands communicate in a specific way giving them a “personality” that resonates with the public and makes their company memorable. It helps to be as personable as possible. When responding to comments, tagging the person you’re replying to, using positive language and signing your name adds a personal touch that further humanizes your brand. If your brand can successfully integrate its voice into its social media, brand loyalty among your audience will be stronger, leading to long-term success.

  • Decide when to take an issue offline. 

If you are able to respond to a customer on social media in a short message, doing so will show other users that you are responsive, and most algorithms favor high engagement which can help grow your accounts. However, there are cases when publicly responding may not be the best option and the matter should be attended to privately. Zendesk suggests customer service representatives “should move a conversation out of the public’s view when …

  • There are many back and forth replies, like when a customer needs answers to a series of questions.
  • Sensitive personal data is required (email address, phone number, password, account or credit card number).”

You can go about this by resolving the issue in a private or direct message, or you can get their contact information in a direct message on the social media channel and help the customer quickly through email or another form of communication. Zendesk also suggests that you “return to the public channel and thank the customer for reaching out” after the issue has been sorted out. “This gives customers a chance to praise the support experience where other customers can see it.” 

Do You Need Help With Your Social Media Management?

Do you need help with your social media management? Contact us today at Three Girls Media for a complimentary consult with our CEO, Erika Taylor Montgomery, to learn about our content marketing packages.

Special Offer:

Sign up for a complimentary consultation during July and receive a Social Media Management Guide valued at $475!  We offer a 30-minute phone consultation with our CEO, and can answer your questions and discuss your specific marketing needs - no strings attached. Call 408-218-2391 or contact us today to arrange your consultation!