Written by Matt Thomson
Social media has established itself as a popular and effective marketing channel for Australian businesses but is marketing all there is to social media? Apparently not. The beauty of social media is, that it is after all, made up of people and the things they like and dislike, the issues they have opinions about, the stories they want to share and is a platform for them to voice their views, reviews and anything else that affects their lives.
As a result, customers are increasingly taking to social media for their customer service needs. But are Australian businesses responding to this? According to a recent study by FifthQuadrant - businesses are not quite there yet. The customer experience and research consultants found that there is an incredible disconnect in the service provided on social channels and the actual service used by customers. While two thirds of Australian businesses have claimed to offer customer support via social media, only 31 percent of customers are believed to have used it in the last three months.
Does this mean consumers aren’t quite ready for social customer service or is it simply that businesses aren’t really tapping into the right channels? As a business owner, if you would like to provide easy-to-access, social customer support, here are some tips to help you out.
Be Where Your Customers Are
It is naive to think Australian consumers don’t want support from businesses and brands via social networking channels. Social media makes customer service much more convenient so consumers love a brand that is easily accessible via social.
The Fifth Quadrant survey found that while more businesses are offering “social service”, they are taking it to Twitter as their preferred medium. However, the survey’s results found that Australian consumers prefer Facebook as the number one social channel for dealing with customer queries. This is why there is a disconnect.
If you offer customer support via social media, it is important to do so on channels your customers already regularly engage with. If the majority of your customers are Facebook users, there is no point adopting Twitter as a service medium as this will go unused. Many businesses offer both and that is great but if your audience is in a demographic that doesn’t really “get” Twitter, don’t waste time over it and stick to improving your Facebook support.
If you want to engage with your customers and encourage them to seek support via social media, it is important to make them aware that you are available.
Telstra offers really great 24x7 support via both Facebook and Twitter. If you go on to the Telstra website, you will see their social profiles listed alongside their contact details for customer support making it easy for us (the consumer) to know that if we can’t be bothered waiting on hold on the phone, we can just as easily tweet Telstra and find out if there are any service interruptions in the area.
Knowing this service is easily available makes it easier for the company and for customers to seek help via social channels.
Set Standards for Service
If you want to offer help via social, it is important to let your customers know the level of service they can expect via social media. Setting standards is important so you can avoid an unnecessary deluge of customer complaints.
Telstra, for example, provides round the clock service, and clearly mentions this on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Jetstar on the other hand is available only during office hours Monday to Friday and lets customers know this is the case. So I know that if I send in a query to Jetstar on a Friday evening, I will have to wait for a response until Monday and I will be fine with that because Jetstar has already set the standard for service and has not led me to believe support is available 24x7.
Train Your Staff
Customer service via social media isn’t the intern’s job. Just as you would have trained and knowledgeable staff answering customer phone calls, you must have a trained staff member manning the social media front. Just because the customer queries are coming in via a seemingly casual channel such as Facebook, doesn’t mean the customer doesn’t deserve proper support.
It is important to train your staff and ensure they provide the same quality and level of support that you would provide on any other traditional medium of service. AustraliaPost does this really well. Their Twitter account is manned by a trained staff member who is available to answer all post-related queries and problems and with a touch of humour too!
Respond to Negative Comments
Before social media, if a customer had something negative to say about your business, they rang you to tell you so and seldom were these negative reviews publicly available. Now, these reviews are online and freely available for the whole world to see. As a business, it is important that you address negative comments (even if they can sometimes be unfair). Responding to negative comments with the appropriate concern makes your business appear like one that cares about even its most disgruntled customers.
SofitelMelbourne does a great job of responding to reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor. It addresses negative remarks and tries to offer relevant solutions. By simply responding to these reviews, the hotel has proven that it cares about what its customers think about them.
Respond to Positive Comments
Finally, customers who sing praises for your brand deserve a bit of recognition too. Don’t let positive tweets and Facebook comments go unnoticed. Be sure to thank your customers for their support and praise of your business. Fashion retailer Asos does this very well by simply retweeting positive tweets. Once again, this makes customer’s feel like the business cares about their opinion and further amplifies the customer’s loyalty towards your brand.
If you’re a customer-facing brand, whether you like it or not your social channels could automatically evolve into a customer support channel. If customers are tweeting at you for help or sending you Facebook messages for support, there is no use ignoring it. You will do more damage by pretending it’s not happening. Instead, lend an ear to your customers and provide them with the support they need via a channel they are comfortable with.
Customer service done well is always appreciated - irrespective of the channel. If your customers are demanding social support, it’s time you listened and adapted or they might go to a business that is listening.
About the Author
Matt Thomson is the founder of Connect Social Media, a digital agency focussed on growing small businesses with the power of social media. Connect Social Media offer both a paid management service and free online DIY education. Download their free 'Just Do It' social media guideto learn how you can grow your business with social media marketing. You can contact Matt on Twitterand Facebook.