By Caitlin Brennan

May 25th, 2016

A room full of people wearing headsets at one end of an 800 number is not cutting it anymore.  When today’s customers need help, they expect brands to provide answers in a fast, friendly and intuitive fashion. Pressing “one for more options” can’t compete with the ease of engaging with customers on social channels. Brands that don’t answer customer questions on social media risk frustrating their customers and wasting money on outdated service methods. The benefits of social customer service are tangible, but the greatest risk may come from doing nothing. 

Find the nearest millennial – it could be you! – and ask to see their call log. It’s older family members, offices, and others for whom the phone is the only possible way to communicate. The phone is the method of last resort. That’s why a hotline number written on the side of a box is quickly becoming a relic.

"33% of customers even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone."

Nielsen

Answering customer questions and solving their problems on social media is the most convenient way for both consumer and brand to communicate about post-sale issues. Instead of a minimally-trained customer service rep, a company can research answers sufficiently and choose precise language from a database of common answers. Instead of waiting on hold or bouncing from department to department, customers get a notification when you are ready with your answer.

Not only is it easier for the consumer, migrating customer service to social media is also cheaper. On social, companies can leverage existing digital resources and reach many customers with one message.

For example, Facebook has a new tool, “Bots for Messenger,” which help brands answer customer questions quickly. Brands can create chat bots to answer common customer questions, essentially creating an automated customer service page. The bots add to the customer experience by ensuring that customer needs are met and even anticipated.

Easy for customers
Both customers and companies benefit with social customer service. Customers who receive fast and thorough answers will be more likely to repeat purchases and refer friends. Anyone visiting your social media channels can tell the difference between a customer-friendly space and a place where frustrated people scream into the void.

Companies can better serve customers by accessing unified profiles to see conversation history and relevant information to create a targeted reply. Profiles are crucial for following individuals through all phases of the consumer life cycle.

Provide updates quickly
Consider you’re organizing an outdoor music festival when you learn a big storm is forecast to coincide with your opening act. Everyone planning on heading to the festival has the same questions.

“Is the show still on?”
“Will we be refunded if the festival is cancelled?”
“Will I still be cool if I can’t make it?”

Some answers can be given right on a public social media platform. By posting an encompassing update on social, you can inform everyone at once and post public replies to any additional questions that come up. If the festival does get canceled you can post information regarding refunds and direct customers to right place.

In both cases, concertgoers are directed to the most cost-effective communications channels now and will remember to check in at the same place in the future.

Make interactions meaningful
Engage your customers in more meaningful conversations. Years ago, if you had a barbecue grill, chances are you lost the manual with the customer service hotline number. Even if you had it, you would never think of calling it up and asking some faceless stranger when to put your leg of lamb on the grill. Things are different now. People are asking grill-maker Weber about all manner of cooking and product how-to.

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This is how you make a customer for life. During the phone era of customer service, most brands would be unable to maintain a high standard of accurate culinary expertise across a high-turnover rep workforce. The record is preserved, so your community manager can be accountable for the quality of his work and praised when it goes above and beyond.

Chances are many customers are already following your social channels. Providing customer service on social can elevate a brand beyond the products it sells by providing solutions to any issues with those products.

As always, none of this works without communication between stakeholders. Front-line community managers need to feel empowered to escalate pressing questions to everyone from product engineers to the warehouse. In turn, those front-line employees need comprehensive guidance and training so they can go beyond voice and branding for sales into adding value through the life of the product or service.

Effective Social Customer Service

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