Customer Service used to be a private transaction between a business and people interested or those who use a product or service. Not anymore. Social Media has created a public stage and businesses are forced to respond and manage their customers’ frustrations in the full glare of the public. Consumer complaints, issues and frustrations were managed by directing them to emails, customer care lines and support tickets that were either abandoned or overwhelmed with complaints and therefore created more frustrations than solve customer related problems. With the advent of social media, more and more people are turning to it as their number one channl for expressing their opinions. However social media outlets have become real time outlets for them to share their thoughts with their personal networks and that has a huge effect on both the perception of others and their purchasing decisions.
As social media continues to power the change in media consumption and communication habits of people and organisations, several organisations created their business profiles to tap into the social communities by marketing their products and services to them. However, the social customers have continued to see these social connections of businesses as an opportunity to engage the business on product and services related issues, hence the birth of Social Media Customer Service. Elevating customer service as a strategic business channel is beyond using it as a common place slogan. It is being responsive, listening and providing your customers and potential customers with all the support and information they need, where they need it and on any device. Facebook and definately Twitter have become impotant platforms where people and brands connect and it is not just about marketing and advertising your product or business, customer service takes place too. For those afraid of getting involved, closing the options to social media customer service will also close us out potential opportunities to turn enquiries and dissatisfied customers into raving fans.
How is social media influencing customer service?
Consumers’ perception is becoming the new reality. In a researh carried out with the Advertising practitioners council of Nigeria (APCON) in 2012, a huge perentage of consumers say they trust other people’s opinion, tweets, status updates, complaints, reviews above company adverts and websites. Information people can gather about your business outside your control is gradually becming your customer’s reality. Whether you believe it or not people are talking about you or and your business online and those who read are taking it as fact. If you have always approached online and social media marketing like the traditional advertising channel where communication is one-way, you are missing a huge opportunity. Every complaint, rumour, enquiry by a customer is an opportunity to deepen relationship with the business.
The balance of power has shifted. Traditional customer support channels tilted the balance of power to the company not the customer. Customers can call, chat, email, send text messages; if the company wants to avoid you, it was simple made quietly so. In fact, the contents of the conversation, the concerns of the buyer and the implications of the poor product or service quality is quietly hidden from public glare.
Social media is changing that by creating a public platform of engagement. It has become a dream come true for consumers. Once they see those traditional channels are not working, they turn to social media. Expressing their opinons about your business on social media is now commom place. This touch point is different. It was owned by consumers; They can tell the whole world about their frustrations especially when emails, 0700-CUSTOMERCARE and other existing channels are not delivering on brand promise.
The connected customer. Today’s consumers have become more complex; difficult to reach and a lot more informed and sophisticated. The internet has given them the tools and resources to research about your product, look for people who have used the products, seek reviews e.t.c. Social media has allowed people to build communities and can rally round each other to organize attacks against brands they don’t like. On the other hand, they are also opportunities to garner recommendations, likes and followers for your business. It is then easier to garner positive reviews and favourable perception about the product. Brands on social media are also able to stay connected with their customers, update them about new products and services e.t.c.
The preferred channel. Businesses spend a lot of money in developing communication channels to make it easy for customers to reach them but social media is becoming mainstream. Customers naturally turn to social media to express their opinion about so many things so it seems natural to include social media in the discussion threads. Social media is convenient, mobile and can always be reached on the go. In so many ways, social media has democratized customer service by collapsing all barriers between a brand and its customers and has thrown up tremendous opportunities for deepening the brand experience.
To the paranoid, it is scary and easier to avoid exposing the brand to social media. However, playing ignorance and avoiding consumers’ perception. Entrepreneurs and business professionals can no longer assume customer service is about paying some young people to sit behind phone calls all day long. It has become more important. It is about building lasting relationship with your customers, it is about managing your brands reputation and preventing real damage to your brand. It is not about customer complaints, customer service has become an integral part of brand building.