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

  1. brad says:

    Good article. However, I don’t understand why some companies won’t simply augment their system in their customer care departments. Why wait until people like you and me are blogging about it? It seems as though they are trying to avoid helping their customers, and then if there is no social media damage, then they just forget about their customers. I think if they really cared about customers and having a good name, they would train their reps to listen, and not be so stone cold and inflexible. My current experience tells me that Dell Sucks. Inspiron sucks. Specifically, the Inspiron 3737 sucks. In January of 2013, my brother and mother went in to buy me a new laptop. Someone had broken into our house and stolen our previous 2 laptops, and our flat-screen TV. So, for Christmas, they bought this new laptop for me… although I didn’t receive it until late January, as it was in the mail. The laptop was up and running quickly, and we all loved it. Nice wide keyboard, big screen, fast. Loved it. During the summer of 2013, the laptop started acting a bit funny. At first we didn’t know what it was. The cursor was hi-lighting things, and not allowing the clicker to work properly. This happened occasionally – once or twice per day for a couple of months. It began getting worse. By late October, we figured the problem out. It was the left “mouse” or clicker button below the touch-pad, which was sometimes sticking. Somehow my son figured it out, as he’s fairly savvy with computers. So, I called my brother first, and told him of the problem. Right away, (in early November) he contacted Dell, and told them of the problem. Whomever he spoke to at Dell (which may have been the “wrong department”), they told him that he would need a purchase order number, since he had bought the Inspiron 3737 online. It took him several weeks to find the number, but found it eventually. As we continued to wait for the “purchase order number” from my brother, it became eventually obvious that the button had completely failed. I received the purchase order number from him during Christmas break, since that is when I was in contact with my brother. I called Dell to follow up, and was passed around, and the call was disconnected. Very frustrating. Dell Sucks. No matter, this was an ongoing issue, so I wasn’t worried. Then, I called back after New Years on the 10th (so I was told by Dell Support). They told me that first they needed a number on the bottom of the laptop. I was out of the house, but I had brought the laptop with me for the phone call. (I was on the phone for a long time, and had to go to a doctor’s appointment). Dell Sucks! They told me that my warranty was one week expired. I told them the story, and let them know that this was our 3rd time calling, and second time getting through. So they put me on hold. Dell is so bad. I was on hold for just under an hour and twenty minutes! When I finally reached a person, they apologized and told me that there system was down, and it would be a couple of hours before their system would be up again. He said I’d need to call back some other day. Nice guy, but it really sucked Dell. I wasn’t worried though, since we’d started this process in early November. So, I called a 4th time, which was today – Jan 15, 2015, before noon. They asked for the same code on the bottom of the computer, and I told them the whole story. They said they would forward me to a different person, and escalate my issue. Instead, my call was routed right back to the same department! So, I re-told my story, and they again requested the number on the bottom of the computer. They told me that they would escalate the problem again. Dell Sucks, because it happened AGAIN! I was re-routed to the same department AGAIN! Do not buy Dell if you’re interested in getting any help with a faulty computer! I told my story for the 3rd time. This time with the number on the bottom of the computer all ready to go, as well as the purchase order number which we were told to find. This guy was probably from India or Pakistan, due to his obvious accent. I had a really hard time understanding him. His demeanor was actually great though. Nice guy. But, he seemed to totally ignore my entire story and told me that I would be charged money since my warranty had just expired!!! I explained to him that it expired AFTER we first began calling them and explaining to them that the laptop was totally lame, and not working properly. Dell’s computer is faulty. He just repeated himself, and mentioned that there was no record of my brother calling him, that my brother failed to give them all of the information regarding the laptop. I asked him if there were departments that might not know about the special number on the bottom of the laptop (like me…we didn’t know.) He said yes, but it was my brother’s responsibility to give Dell this specific number. Ridiculous! Dell did not request that number when he called. My brother was given wrong information BY DELL about what number he will need in order for the laptop to be fixed. Then, I’m told by this (relatively nice) guy that we don’t need that number at all! Then Dell blames us for the misinformation that came from them! So, after going back and forth with the guy, and telling him that I do not want to go back and forth, but to have Dell’s mistake fixed, I asked him if we could please escalate this problem, since he COULD NOT HELP ME. Dell sucks so much. Dell’s customer service is terrible. The guy wasn’t terrible, but if that is the way that they work… to GIVE MISINFORMATION UNTIL THE WARRANTY EXPIRES, SO THEY DON’T HAVE TO FIX ANYTHING? Inspiron’s customer service design is definitely lame. The guy agreed to escalate the issue, put me on hold for about a half hour, then he or the system hung up on me. Ridiculous, so far my brother has had one “successful” phone call which was completed even though THEY TOTALLY MISINFORMED HIM. Then, I’ve had 3 incomplete calls, and I’ve been blamed for DELL’S MISINFORMATION to boot!!! Come on! What does it take to get Dell to fix their manufacturing mistake, to honor their warranty, and to give me one customer service experience where I am not cut off in some way? Dell, why? Is this how you sell computers? Stonewall the customer until the warranty “expires”? Somebody, help, since it’s clear that DELL CANNOT HELP ME!!