Social media’s marketing influence extends beyond advertising, public relations, and promotions. The voice given to customers via social networks demands that businesses be equipped to deliver customer service online. Whether it is responding to customer complaints, answering questions, or acknowledging praise, the interactivity of social network sites creates a natural channel for responding to customers’ needs. How well marketers are doing with social customer service is unclear.
A recent survey reported by Social Media Today found that 7 out of 10 businesses said they use social media in their customer service efforts. Of those businesses, 87% have experienced a positive impact from social customer service. Those numbers might suggest a shift toward social media as a key channel for managing customer relations, but other findings from the survey run counter to that notion. Social customer service accounts for less than 5% of all customer issues handled by 4 in 10 companies.
One explanation for the relatively light usage of social media to resolve customer issues is that many businesses do not have a social customer service strategy. Evidence of this weakness in how social media is being used for customer service includes:
- 38% of companies have no formal process for using social media channels for customer service purposes
- 6% do not personalize responses when interacting with customers via social media
- 6% monitor questions asked but do not answer them
Customer service is challenging when a business does not know what customers are thinking or feeling. Social media alleviates that challenge by creating a direct communication channel with customers. However, the capabilities of social media as a customer service resource cannot be realized if a strategy is not put into place that specifies which social network sites to monitor, who is responsible for monitoring, how will customer service issues be resolved, and what level of empowerment will social customer service personnel have to satisfy customers.
An unintended consequence of social media could be alienating customers because of inadequate response or worse yet, no response at all. If you are going to use social media in your business, be prepared to listen and ready to respond when the conversation puts the ball in your court. You would not let the telephone go unanswered when calls come in; “calls” made via social channels must be acknowledged and answered, too.