Can you hear me now? – 8 Ways social media has transformed customer service

Marketing Research Roundup

Social media has provided consumers with new options and platforms for expressing themselves, sharing their opinions, and amplifying their voices.  When companies don’t perform up to customers’ expectations, they use these social media channels to express their dissatisfaction often bypassing corporate communications. Among the most notable cases are Dell Hell, A Comcast Technician Sleeping on my Couch and United Breaks Guitars.

For companies that aren’t listening, these posts can gain significant reach quickly outweighing your own marketing message.

Good customer service translates to increased business. Results from recent research by American Express: consumers spend 9% more when they receive excellent service and about 4 out of 5 customers buy again from a company providing good service. As a result, customer service, traditionally viewed as a cost center to be optimized, has broadened its mission to become a critical center for managing communications and interactions with consumers.

8 Ways social media has transformed customer service

Here are eight ways that social media has the potential to transform customer service:

  1. Provides more options for contacting companies, often with faster response since these newer conduits tend to be less utilized. Among the options are Twitter, Facebook and other niche social media sites. ComcastCares, the Twitter handle for Frank Eliason, the Senior Director, Comcast National Customer Service, is the poster child for providing customer service via social media since it’s contributed to a more positive view of Comcast.
  2. Gives customer service agents a human face and voice. This has a profound impact on customers. They are no longer talking to a big corporation but rather to real people. This provides more personalized feel than that automatically triggered corporate-speak communications. Zappos gained credibility through CEO Tony Hsieh’s active participation in and responsiveness on Twitter.
  3. Enables other consumers to answer customer questions and provide support, both before and after purchase. This non-corporate input can be quicker and more targeted from others who understand specific issues from a customer’s perspective. While still requiring monitoring, this support is cost effective since it reduces the burden on customer service agents.
  4. Provides helpful product information, often visual, through the use of blogs, photographs, videos and forums. These online forums, which can be hosted on your website or on a third party site like YouTube, can cost effectively support sales.
  5. Gives consumers other forums where they can express and share their opinions with their friends and strangers. These can be third party sites like Epinions and TripAdvisor or ratings and reviews on your own site or a competitor’s site. Since consumers tend to trust other consumers, this may outweigh your marketing message.
  6. Expands customer service’s ability to generate revenues by using these consumer-initiated interactions to close sales as well up-sell and cross-sell other products that a prospect might not have considered.
  7. Permits customer service to proactively interact with prospects, customers and fans. This includes proactively supplying useful information such as airline tweets about service delays and changes as well as participation on third party sites. One great example of this is FlyerTalk, an online forum targeted at business travelers, where the Starwoods Stalker has earned a reputation as a straight shooter.
  8. Offers a vehicle for listening to and gathering customer input. This can be valuable since customers may use your products differently than your employees anticipate. Unlike market research, tapping into customer interactions can provide insights that may not have been on your firm’s radar.

Social media has blurred the line between marketing and customer service by providing more platforms and entrance ways to your firm. In the process, both corporate and consumer generated content has provided a variety of types of customer support that can be easily shared. If used effectively, these tools can help you convert prospects to buyers at critical points in the buying process and provide insights that help to improve your offering.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Photo credit: Flicker/theparadimnshifter

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