Social media has become a major force for businesses that want to promote their brand and build relationships with consumers.
As a social media manager, I completely support this – Social media marketing is no longer an option, but a necessity for the modern business.
The problem, though, is this. Every day businesses use their social media accounts to promote content, share updates and offer deals to their loyal customers. Although each of these is an important part of a successful social media strategy, there’s another key component that too often gets overlooked – social customer care.
Social media was never designed to be a one-way street, yet so many brands use their social media accounts like a bullhorn – they talk about themselves, but they never listen.
Consumers, on the other hand, view social media as an opportunity to start a conversation. They want to interact with their favorite brands, to feel like they’re not just another customer but someone the brand values.
This disconnect between how brands and customers view social media can do a lot of damage to your business’s brand and bottom line.
Why do customers reach out on social media?
Sprout Social surveyed more than 1,000 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users to ask about their expectations for reaching out to brands on social media. Around 90% of them indicated that they had used social media to communicate directly with a brand – in fact, social media surpassed every other form of communication (including phone and email) as the first place consumers would turn if they had a problem with a product/service.
What is it about social media that makes it such an attractive means of communication for consumers? The best way to answer that is by looking at the challenges traditional customer service channels present.
Option 1: Calling a Customer Service Line
Finding the right phone number is the first battle, but then customers have to deal with long waiting times, bad hold music and multiple transfers before they can get a solution to their problem. It all makes for a frustrating experience.
Option 2: Submitting a Contact Form
The thing customers don’t like about contact forms is that they have no idea where the information goes once they hit “submit.” It can feel impersonal and maybe a little confusing, because they aren’t sure what to expect in the reply.
Option 3: Sending an Email
We’re all guilty of letting email pile up every so often – your inbox can sometimes feel like a black hole because it’s so easy to pass over or even lose a message. However, when it takes days to hear back from you, your customers will only become more annoyed.
It’s so much easier for consumers to submit a question or voice a concern over social media.
For starters, social media is where they are – the average person spends around 2+ hours a day on social media and messaging services.
Plus, the experience tends to be quicker and more enjoyable. Think about it. With social media, communication is immediate; they get to talk to a real person, and the response is usually more casual/approachable than what they’d get on the 1-800 line.
Why Does Customer Service Matter on Social Media?
Besides the fact that customers want (and many expect) you to provide it, your brand could take some big hits if you don’t engage in social media customer service.
If you ignore a customer on social media, they are 30% more likely to visit a competitor, while 36% of people said they’ve used social media to publicly shame a company after receiving poor customer service. Yikes.
However, companies that took the time to respond to customer service requests on social media saw customers spend 20% to 40% more with them. Plus, 71% of people who had a positive social care experience said they would be more likely to recommend the brand to others.
How Can You Provide a Great Social Care Experience?
Providing quality customer service on social media is easier than you think.
Here are five simple steps that will ensure that your customers feel heard, and are able to get the help they need.
1. Reply Quickly
When a customer has a problem, they want it resolved quickly.
Social media is already a fast-paced, immediate-gratification platform, so this makes it even more critical that you’re responding to customer service questions as soon as possible.
In fact, 42% of consumers expect a response on social media within an hour, according to an Edison study, while 32% went as far as saying a response should come within 30 minutes.
Generally speaking, the sooner you can get back to a customer the better, but as long as you’re responding within the same day, most people will be understanding.
2. Treat It Like a Conversation
Just because you’re not on the phone or sending an email to someone, doesn’t mean you can skip all formalities.
Start by saying hello and addressing the customer by name if it’s available. This is generally just polite, while it also gives your response a personal touch, which could go a long way with your customer.
I’d also recommend signing your posts with your name or initials. This can help humanize your brand and make your customer feel even more confident that their concerns are being heard by an actual person.
3. Apologize and Offer Your Help
Start the conversation by apologizing for the problem the customer is experiencing and let him or her know that you’ll do whatever you can to help resolve it.
A simple “I’m sorry” can work wonders to repair a relationship with an unhappy customer.
4. Maintain a Positive, Friendly Tone
It can be tough to face complaints online, but you have to keep the conversation positive and polite. Don’t get defensive or aggressive with the customer you’re working with, and never try to hide the problem.
Transparency is extremely important in customer service, and social media users will be quick to call you out if they think you’re trying to manipulate the situation.
5. Stay on Top of Brand Mentions
To truly reap the benefits of social care, you need to stay committed to it.
The best way to keep track of all the opportunities for customer service engagement is to invest in a brand monitoring service – you list the keywords you want it to keep track of for you, it searches the web for them, then lets you know what it finds. Now you’ll never have to worry about missing a question or comment from your customers.
Getting Started with Social Media Customer Care
If customer service isn’t a part of your social media strategy, it’s time to rethink things.
Not only does social care encourage you to stay engaged with your audience, it can keep help promote positive brand mentions, boost sales and keep customers loyal to your business. These are all pretty great things.
You can start by digging through your notifications and looking for any questions or customer service requests your followers have made recently – take a few minutes to get caught up on responding to them and apologize to anyone who you’ve left hanging for a while.
Then, make a plan. Designate what members of your team will be responsible for monitoring and responding to customer service requests on social media. It’ll need to become part of the daily routine at the office, so make sure whoever you choose has time to really dedicate to it.
Determine what the process of responding to customers will look like. Maybe you’ll respond asking a customer to private message you to discuss details, or maybe your strategy will be to reply with an apology and a phone number the customer can call. Or, maybe it will be a combination of both, depending on the situation. Just make sure there’s a protocol to follow.
Lastly, look into brand monitoring tools. There’s a variety of options out there, so it’ll require a little research on your part, but it’s well worth it. Brand monitoring will make social care a simple, streamlined process and keep you from missing anything important.