Customer Service & Social Media – Hand in Hand

We live in times of dynamism and swift changes. What is trending today recedes into the background the very next day. In spite of the information overload that the Internet has made possible, our appetite for more and better data continues to increase. What you end up getting is the information consumption version of the hedonic treadmill – the more information you get, the more you want. What’s more, this behavior is completely rational.


The contrast of ages

You see, thousands of years ago, the masses didn’t have the luxury of picking up a book and perusing it at leisure. The printing press didn’t exist, and information was a privilege. That may seem downright absurd now, but those were relatively simpler times. It was the Agrarian Age, after all, and humans could get by with simply knowing how to work on and manage land.

This is not the case today when we are living through the Information Age. The most powerful among us are the ones with the greatest access to information, which is why we crave it. One of the biggest drivers of information exchange on the global scale has been social media, which most people view as the platform that enables us to connect with friends and family all over the world. A plethora of data – videos, pictures, news articles – is shared every other second.

However, it is immediately clear that since social media platforms are gold mines of data, they serve as a marketplace for entities that need data. For the most part, these entities are businesses, which brings us to the next section.


Businesses on social media

The pillars of a business are not its managers, employees, or even its products; what keeps every business stable is its customer base. The moment that vanishes, the business falls and becomes rubble. Therefore, it is no wonder that businesses invest so much time in designing customer support and outreach plan. The success of a business can be measured by the satisfaction of its customers, and every business understands this.

Unfortunately, understanding a principle does not equate to perfect execution. Many businesses suffer immensely because they are unable to determine the needs of their customers, how to reach out to them and above all, how to be consistent regarding customer support. It has become obvious to businesses that the best way to gain visibility among the masses and reach out to them is to gain significant social media presence.

With billions of people all over the world actively using at least one of the main social media platforms, businesses have realized that they are ideal for advertising their products and boosting their brand image. With all the user data that platforms such as Facebook willingly share, businesses have an asset that can be wielded to target and to attract customers.

Increased outreach and product promotion notwithstanding, the most impactful thing that having social media accounts has allowed brands and businesses to do is to interact with customers one-to-one more efficiently.


Serving the customers

Dealing with customers and keeping them satisfied was a relatively subdued affair in the pre-social media age. A satisfied customer would bump into an employee or manager somewhere in the street and tell him what a wonderful difference their company had made in his life.

Similarly, a disgruntled customer would send a scathing letter of complaint, which the business could either ignore, or it could improve itself accordingly. It’s important to note that regardless of what the business did, the repercussions were not huge. For instance, ignoring a customer’s letter did not result in a huge public relations crisis. Of course, you can’t say the same now, because of the existence of social media.

The emergence of social media has given consumers and customers a highly convenient way of interacting with the brands they love.  It has also given them a forum to complain when brands end up disappointing. Businesses have come to realize the importance of interacting directly with customers by responding to their posts, but once again, realization doesn’t mean that every business ends up performing successfully in this domain.


Customer service mistakes made on social media

For the most part, businesses will respond to a customer complaint by provoking them further, either by neglecting them or by simply denying the validity of their allegations. Of course, this aggravates the already dissatisfied and frustrated customer. Businesses might have been able to get away with this during the simpler times of the past, but its borderline suicidal in this age.

Social media platforms allow individuals not just to voice their opinions, but do so on a public scale. Responding poorly to a single customer incites a reaction that does not go unnoticed by other existing and potential customers since social media makes everything so visible.

The statistics make this clearer. According to the 2011 Customer Impact Report, 89% of customers began doing business with a competitor following an undesirable customer experience. Similarly, Dimensional Research reports that 45% of customers share bad customer service experiences on social media platforms for the whole world to see.


Conclusion – how businesses should conduct customer service

It is clear that poorly responding to customers on social media platforms leads to terrible consequences for businesses. They would be wiser to change the way they interact with their posts, especially if they contain complaints and criticisms.

For starters, brands should make it a point to stay in touch with the disgruntled consumer until he or she is satisfied. The issue may be a petty one, but as numerous cases have shown, it can be dangerous to ignore them as well. It is only through active engagement with the customer that a business can craft a clean image and develop a loyal customer base.


Bain & Company reports that when companies engage with customer service requests on social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more with that business. The lesson is glaringly obvious: social media is more than a mere promotional platform; it is valuable as a means of interacting with customers and ensuring their loyalty.

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