Social Media and Customer Service—Reputation Is Everything


Consumer Power

Social media has given consumers a whole new level of power. It is now possible for a review of a product or service, cleverly written and coupled with an entertaining video, to go viral, resulting in either windfall profits, or huge losses. In addition to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, websites designed specifically for customers to rate local businesses, such as Yelp and Angie’s List are thriving.

Despite current allegations that some of the ratings and reviews have been paid for, rather than contributed by genuine customers, Yelp continues to attract an average of 6 million hits a day. To say that the success or failure of a business depends largely upon its reputation within the social media community has become an understatement. Social media has become the new word of mouth.

Necessity and Invention

The sheer number of customer service inquiries made via social media has made it difficult for businesses to meet the challenge of addressing them all. According to an article in Forbes magazine, a 2011 study revealed that up to 70% of customer service complaints made on Twitter went unanswered. In response to this exponential increase, IT techs have been working overtime to develop new products that can help streamline the process. Powerful new applications, such as zendesk apps, have been developed specifically to allow integration with, and collect data from, multiple social media platforms.

Use of these applications allow customer service departments to collect information from multiple sources such as texts, emails, phone calls, and instant messaging and import them into a single database for easy cross-referencing. They also allow customer service agents to work on multiple tickets simultaneously. One study found that with the use of these apps, social media agents were able to handle four to eight times the number of issues per hour as phone agents.

The Importance of Feedback

The use of social media in gathering and responding to customer feedback regarding products and services has become an integral part of the business landscape. It provides businesses with valuable information that they can use to make necessary adjustments and make positive changes in response to common customer complaints. According to one survey, customers spend 30% more with companies that engage their customers through social media than those who don’t. Research by Forrester Consulting showed that from 2009 to 2012, the number of people who utilized Twitter for their customer service needs doubled from 11% to 22%.

This shift to social media as a resource for information about products and services has created consumer demand for businesses to integrate customer service features into their social media platforms. Businesses that once maintained a presence on social media primarily for sales and marketing purposes are now racing to create separate social media sites to deal exclusively with customer service issues.

Measuring Success

In addition to serving as powerful collaborative communication tools, the apps record all interactions. Users can then use the raw data collected to easily create charts which provide a wide variety of statistical information useful for further improving customer service. For example, one chart may reflect the number of issues successfully resolved within a specific time frame, while another may reflect the degree of customer satisfaction following each interaction.

Each social media platform has its own strengths. For example, Twitter’s strength lies in its superior updating capabilities, while the Google+ platform can provide in-depth information about products. The customer service alternatives that social media provides, such as the ability to email a specific department or access a customer service representative via instant messaging, help reduce customers’ frustration with long telephone wait times. Just as importantly, they provide the immediate personal interaction so essential in building and maintaining long-term customer relationships.

Exceeding Expectations

The public’s growing list of expectations of customer service provided via social media includes quick response time, 24/7 availability, the ability to deal with a single customer service rep until a problem had been solved, and direct messaging for issues requiring longer explanations. One study showed that the average expectation for a response time was under 30 minutes. Great customer service is perhaps the most important tool that businesses can utilize to ensure repeat business and inspire brand loyalty.

Purposeful positive action as the direct result of successful communication between businesses and customers is the foundation of great customer service. One important aspect of successful communication is the ability to anticipate and answer potential questions. These apps provide both the necessary data and the platform for businesses to build a highly relevant knowledge base on their social media customer service sites using information gathered from their customers’ most commonly asked questions. This both reduces costs and results in a more effective use of customer service resources. Utilizing the powerful potential of these apps to measure and increase the effectiveness of your customer service on social media will increase your business along with your sterling reputation.

Consumer Reports


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