Don’t think customer service is an issue your social media team needs to worry about? Think again. Whether you’re prepared for it or not, social media affects more areas of your company than marketing alone.
Of course, marketing via social media is valuable for your company, but if that’s all your leadership team thinks your brand’s Facebook or Twitter pages are useful for, you could be leaving money on the table — and customers in the lurch. To keep up and stay competitive, it’s time for senior marketing leaders to rethink their perspectives on social media and what this powerful tool can accomplish for their companies.
Look no further than the most popular social media platforms themselves to see how they’re adapting to help companies leverage social across multiple departments. Facebook recently rolled out a job board feature that allows businesses to post job openings directly to their pages. And in 2016, Twitter introduced a variety of updates that have made it easier than ever for companies to manage customer relations online, from direct messaging and feedback features to improved support and customer care features.
And if those updates aren’t enough, consider the fact that twice as many consumers have used a company’s social media profiles for servicing than marketing. Clearly, customers are online, and they’re looking to interact with brands right where they are. Your customer service, for better or worse, will have an impact on your bottom line. Online customer service legends such as Zappos and Southwest have capitalized on this, reaping the benefits of smart social service strategies. A strong, proactive social customer service policy can increase revenue, while a weak or, worse, unresponsive approach to social service can have damaging consequences.
“Consumers now know that when it comes to customer service, social media gives them much more power,” says Erik Huberman, CEO of Hawke Media, a top outsourced CMO partner. “With social media, these consumers are acutely aware that if they have a problem with your company and you don’t handle it well, they hold the power to expose the issue to their entire network, which can be devastating to a company.”
Brands have much to gain by creating and executing a solid social service strategy : happier, more satisfied customers, stronger brand advocates, increased revenue, and more. So what do you need to know as you begin evaluating your own strategy?
Jay Baer, president of Convince & Convert, has a direct approach to integrating customer service into your social strategy: Don’t. Start your social strategy with service. “Customer service should be the foundation of every social strategy. The goal should be to take care of your current customers first. Then, once you have that handled, start thinking about social for customer acquisition. The sad reality is that most companies do it backward.”
This makes sense, and he’s right — most companies start with social media as a tool for customer acquisition. If you want to stop leaving money on the table, change your tune and shift the basis of your social media strategy to your current customers, and engage in outstanding customer service.
It should probably go without saying, but today’s consumers expect timely responses. 32% of consumers who reach out to a brand on social for customer support expect a response in 30 minutes, and 42% expect a response within an hour.
For brands without robust social teams, that kind of response time might sound ambitious at best. But with all the tools and technology we have available today, there’s no real excuse for delayed responses anymore — at least in the consumer’s eyes. In fact, a slow response may be as damaging as no response at all. 51% of customers say they’d only reach out for support one time before giving up on a purchase. The window is small, and your response time is key. Plan accordingly.
Remember, social media has become such a huge customer support platform because customers have demanded it. As a leader, your job, then, is to keep a pulse on your customers’ support habits. Find out where they’re going on social, follow them to those platforms, and quickly adapt.
ONTRAPORT, for example, is a leader in customer experience, having grown its company by word-of-mouth marketing exclusively. When its clients flocked to Facebook to ask questions about the product and interact with the brand, they created a Facebook group to provide answers. Fast-forward a few years, and the company’s Facebook community is now a hotbed of engaged members asking questions, posting testimonials, and sharing advice.
“We go where the customers go, not the other way around,” the company’s president, Lena Requist, says. “If our clients want answers on Facebook, we’ll reply to each post. If they want to dial in, we’ll be there to pick up the call.”
If your customers are on social media (and we all know they are), you have to be there, too — for more than your own brand’s marketing. Your social media presence should be rooted in customer service, and that’s going to require a social service strategy. And be prepared for your social strategy to continue to evolve beyond service and marketing into areas like recruiting, training, and company culture. It's time for senior leaders to take note or risk falling behind.
Today’s consumers are more demanding than ever before. They want experiences that are personalized, relevant, and consistent—whether they’re interacting with your company online, in-store, or on the phone or via social media.
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This post originally appeared in Forbes.