Organizations often cite fear that conversation will turn negative as the number one obstacle holding them back from engaging online. But in fact the percentage of social media users who are “all negative” is tiny: just 7% of the U.S. general population, according to Colloquy. The reality is that users who talk about bad brand experiences online are almost as likely (40%) to talk up a positive experience – if they have one.
Social customer service creates a unique opportunity for organizations to turn a customer with a bad experience into a social media advocate. But few organizations have put in place the training, tools and processes to properly integrate customer service with existing social marketing channels. In fact, two thirds of organizations currently piloting social customer service programs have no defined process, according to Sword Ciboodle.
Smart brands are transforming social media lemons into social media lemonade through social customer service. Here are two benefits to integrating social customer service into your social marketing strategy.
Increasing Customer Advocacy
There is good data available to help brands navigate their customers’ evolving expectations. Accenture found that customers ranked four aspects of a brand’s online behavior highest (4.4+ on a five-point scale):
- Employees who are knowledgeable and informed
- Employees who are polite and friendly
- Fulfilling the customer service experience promised by the company
- Having empowered customer service representatives who can resolve issues without referring the problem to another person
It should come as no surprise that companies meeting these four customer criteria take a more holistic view of the customer journey that blurs the lines between social marketing and customer care. A McKinsey consultant recently argued that social customer service is one of the most effective methods for increasing customers’ enjoyment of and advocacy for a product or service.
By listening on social channels, organizations can identify what questions or complaints are top of mind for customers and develop shareable content, such as how-to videos, to meet customers’ post-purchase needs for product information. An earlier McKinsey report from 2009 found that – to take one example – more than 60% of consumers of facial skin care products conducted online research about the products after purchase. This post-purchase customer touch point – absent from the traditional marketing funnel, which focuses on acquiring new customers – drives home the important role customer service teams play in helping customers make the most of the products and services they’ve purchased. Done correctly, social customer service leads to a virtuous “enjoy-advocate-buy” loop.
Increasing Customer Loyalty
With less money to spend, customers are looking for more value from brands they already buy from: according to Accenture, two thirds of global consumers reported switching providers in at least one industry in 2011 due to poor customer service. Likelihood to switch due to a bad service experience is up since the recession started, meaning that brands need to work harder to deliver good support in every channel or risk losing their customers to more able competitors.
In social as well, customers are defining new expectations for brands to match: a study by Relevation Research found that 32% of customers who followed a brand on a social media channel had subsequently “broken up” with the brand because the brand was coming on too strong with marketing messages and failing to offer real value.
Customers can and will respond to product-related posts with questions about features, availability and compatibility, all of which can be quickly handled by a customer service team. While marketing and community management play an important role, organizations should optimize their social media content by integrating tips-and-tricks, how-tos and other “help” material and ensuring they are doing their best to resolve customer inquiries.
Some Closing Thoughts
Companies have had a mixed record of following customers onto social media channels: while some are leading the charge and developing best practices, more are held back by fear and uncertainty stoked by “gotcha” media stories of social gone wrong.
On its own, a social marketing channel can become a lightning rod for customer complaints, which, left untended, can lead to dissatisfaction and negative media attention. A full social customer service program provides a ground for social marketing activities, ensuring “customer lightning” dissipates and your brand is insulated against negativity. Risk is a reality for all businesses. Finding ways to manage social media risk should be a top priority.
Image credit: Phillie Casablanca