Employ Social Media as a Customer Service Tool: And Keep Up with Clients' Needs in Real Time

Article excerpt

Many businesses have come to rely on social media as core to their customer service. The benefits include providing rapid responses, combating negative comments and positioning their brands as thought leaders--all with minimal overhead. As customers increasingly turn to social media to obtain and share information about all aspects of their lives, brands that are behind the social media curve have little choice but to extend their customer service to these channels, too, says Dave Capuano, vice president at Internet marketing research firm Verint/Vovici.

On one Front. "negative online comments are permanent; they're inked," Capuano says. "Social media is something a business has to take into account from a liability point of view: "The other critical component is that customer expectations now demand rapid-lire response, and people aren't afraid to post negative public comments to get what they want. "Businesses trying to drive that great experience need to find channels to engage customers to give them what they demand."

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Successfully incorporating social media into your customer service plan should not be attacked willy-nilly. Man out what experience you want your customers to have and how you want to interact with them: Capuano says. Would you prefer they dial an 800 number Or post a concern on your brand's Facebook page? Make the medium explicit in all your marketing collzacral. "Typically, when customers have an issue, they try to go to self-service channels on the web or the contact center to get it resolved. If their experience is bad there. then they turn to social media": Capuano says. By this time, they are angry and more likely to post negative comments. However, if they know that tweeting request to your company's Twitter account will produce results, their ire may be tamed.

Keep the following in mind for devising and executing a successful social media customer service program:

* Determine the role of social media in your customer service. Is it to resolve the issue directly on the social medium or connect the customer with an expert to tackle the question or complaint offline?

* Decide which department(s) will oversee your social media presence. Marketing? Customer service? Product development? The CEO? A combination? Clearly establish who is in charge of which social media tasks and how any overlaps will be coordinated.

* Does your customer relations expert tweet using her own identity, or does she hide behind a generic business account? Consider making all social media interactions attached to a real person on your team.

* How does customer service fit with your other social media practices? Will a single account serve for both marketing and customer service agendas. or will these be discrete accounts?

* How will you track social media and customer interaction? This mechanism serves as a critical tool for improving customer satisfaction. resolving product issues, monitoring trends and keeping up with the public chatter about your brand. "Glean that information to figure out how to better your program over time and better engage the customer," Capuano says.

* Cull Twitter or bldg postings for questions related to your industry and offer practical advice that may not be directly related to your brand.

* Institute a training program in-house that formalizes how social media builds on your customer service and business objectives. S

RELATED ARTICLE: Julie Cole, owner

Company: Mabel's Labels, maker of labels for kids' stuff

Where: Toronto

Tactic: Collaborate the work of a designated social media coordinator with customer service to build community and brand.

Early on we realized that moms--our core customer base--were not responding to traditional advertising. But they did respond to other moms. Social media has been a critical part of building our business for that reason. …