Answering The Social Media Call For Customer Service

Social media is dramatically altering the customer service landscape. With easy access to real-time information, a new generation of “always- on” consumers is more empowered and demanding than ever. This trend is on the rise as social media proliferates, both online and on mobile, across all age groups and demographics. To build trust and brand loyalty in this rapidly changing environment, companies must develop a multi-channel customer service strategy that is responsive, proactive and engaging in order to address customers' needs.

Findings from independent research firm TNS shed further light on these trends. Its “Social Media Customer Service Report” surveyed more than 1,000 people and found that social media is rapidly changing the customer service industry. Led by consumers under 25, this shift sees more and more people turning to social media sites -- from Facebook and Twitter to blogs and forums -- to solve problems, search for information and voice complaints.
Younger people, in particular, are opting for social media solutions for customer service and expect businesses to stay in step. Many prefer to interact with customer service on social media over any other method. In some cases, the first thing that many young consumers do when they have a problem with a product is complain about it on social media.

People often search for solutions online before calling customer service. While this helps to greatly reduce call-center volume and costs, companies with limited or poor online help forums are falling behind. When asked what companies could do to improve the customer service experience, 35% of all survey respondents said “post video demonstrations, tutorials and instructions.” By creating digital content that solves customers' common problems and making it widely available online, businesses can significantly reduce customer frustration and be seen as a user-friendly brand while lowering the costs associated with live agent support.

Consumers use a variety of social media platforms to get help with a product they've purchased. Across all demographics, 33% of them have used online forums or chat rooms, 25% have used video tutorials, 19% have posted a query on a question website such as Quora, Facebook Questions or Yahoo Answers, and 11% have used a tutorial or demonstration on a blog.

As important as it is to include social media and online support in the multi-channel customer service mix, maintaining strong phone support is still important. The survey found that fewer than one in three (32%) of consumers aged 55-64 goes online as a first step with a problem. The majority (64%) in this age bracket first contact the manufacturer or retailer where they purchased the product directly.

The key to effective customer service is to understand the demographics of your audience and be prepared with the right level of support at every potential touch-point. No customer care channel is effective in isolation, and a social media strategy should be viewed as part of the whole. As a communications hub, a contact center is well-placed to advise and deliver customer care on social media that is specific to your audience and business objectives and in line with the entire customer service strategy.

Follow these best practices to build an effective social media strategy for customer service:

  • Listen: Monitoring social media will give you a feel for what your customers are saying about you and where you may have issues with the product or customer service. Determine how frequently they are raising issues or trying to communicate with your company so you can assess how important the channel is for your brand.
  • Engage: Social media is about participation. For businesses, it's also about giving customers a direct route to your company. Set rules of engagement and establish a tone of voice that aligns with your specific business objectives while extending your brand's personality.
  • Analyze: You could be seeing thousands of comments every day so you need to establish a process to track these communications, determine the appropriate response and prioritize.
  • Adapt: Social media is changing every day, from the launch of Google+ to the increased adoption of mobile social apps, so there is a need to be flexible and scalable. Review your program frequently to keep pace with your customers.

It is increasingly imperative that businesses anticipate customers' needs and proactively address them via social media. Take the time to implement a thorough multi-channel customer care strategy to help capture brand loyalty and reduce reputational risk.

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