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Consumer Amplification – Navigating Customer Service via Social Networks
Dave Theran, Account Director, Social Strategy
March 21, 2012
What do brick and mortar businesses, Fortune 100 companies and e-retailers all have in common? They all face the challenges of keeping existing customers content and swiftly addressing dissatisfied clients in an attempt to "turn them around."
Navigating customer service as existing social networks evolve and new networks are created makes this herculean task even more daunting as consumers now have the ability to broadcast satisfaction as well as frustration to a large number of users.
According to comScore, social networking now accounts for one out of every six minutes spent online for U.S. Internet users. More importantly, average user engagement jumped over 32% in the past year to over seven hours per visitor in December 2011 (Source: comScore U.S. Digital Future in Focus 2012). As consumers continue to leverage social networks regularly, B2C interactions will most likely continue to increase as well.
As the consumer's voice is amplified, what can businesses do to manage the influx of interactions? Below are three tactics businesses of all sizes can utilize immediately to improve the customer service experience via social networks:
#1 Take Control of Your Social Media Assets.
Have you delayed creating a Facebook Page, Twitter account or foursquare location for your business? If you have, there is a distinct possibility certain social assets have already been created through platform crowd-sourcing and your brand/business is being discussed by countless consumers – without your knowledge.
If you find your business already exists on a social network – claim the asset! It's important to note that most social platforms allow "rightful" business owners to "claim" their Page, account or location via a variety of authentication procedures.
The benefits of taking control of your social media assets include the ability to: communicate with consumers, view statistics and engagement metrics, and control your brand's integrity.
#2 Listen. Think. Respond.
According to a study performed by Cap Gemini, 60% of companies don't respond to customers via social media, even when asked a direct question (Source: Social Media Customer Service Report by TNS). If someone walked into your store to see if you had an item in stock or an online shopper asked a product-related question via your "Live-Chat" service, would you ignore those inquiries? Of course not!
The foundation of social networks is based on the community of its users. Whether you manage the social accounts of a non-profit or a retail outlet, expect to engage in a two-way conversation with others in a timely and thoughtful manner. While it's appropriate to have outgoing messaging highlighting news, events or special promotions, be prepared to interact on topics related to customer questions or service issues. Responses should be well thought-out and tailored to suit the needs of the inquiry. "Canned" messaging with minimal personalization will feel disingenuous to your user base.
#3 Tailor Your Platform Strategy.
As your business continues to embrace social media, you will need to take a variety of factors into consideration specific to your industry or area of expertise when planning your customer service strategies.
Staffing & Resources
How many social assets are you managing? According to Altimeter, global corporations are struggling to manage an average of 178 business-related social media accounts (Source: Altimeter Report: A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation 2012)! While your business may not be managing over 100 accounts, staffing should always be a priority.
A community manager should be at the center of the social media ecosystem, managing responses to inquiries and concerns in a timely fashion. If the need arises, a company should consider the use of a social media management system (SMMS) and/or a social media monitoring platform to streamline efficiencies in monitoring social assets and reporting.
You may need to consider the legal ramifications of public interactions via social media. For example, the finance and health care verticals are highly regulated and as a result you may not be able to openly discuss client or product specific information in an open forum.
Certain networks provide features that allow consumers and business owners to take privileged and confidential conversations "offline." Both Twitter and most recently, Facebook, provide the ability for users to directly message businesses within the platform. Another alternative is to provide an email address or phone number specific to your social media channels for additional tracking and engagement measurement.