Opinion

Is social media the best or worst thing to happen to brands?

5 min read

27 July 2016

It’s a nightmare scenario for any company, there’s been a mistake with a customer order and instead of making an enquiry with your customer service team, the customer has taken to their social media accounts in a rage. Within minutes, it’s no longer an isolated incident but a customer frenzy.

With more and more people adding to the post to voice their bad experiences, it’s attracting further attention and damaging the brand reputation. Sometimes this can also lead to unwanted media attention.

Social media has completely reinvented the way that consumers can interact with brands, and social channels now play a fundamental role in helping businesses to communicate with their customers as well as respond to their queries.

Brands across various sectors such as Tesco, McDonalds, Netflix and River Island now have dedicated social channels to address customer service problems. However, the nature of social media, means customers’ complaints are publically visible – providing a much louder voice for customers than they’ve had before.

When a customer takes to social media to vent, the comments expressed can often leave other customers with a whole new perception of a brand. Escalated situations like these can cause damage to a brand’s reputation, popularity and overall consumer trust.

However, when used correctly, social media is one of the most effective and beneficial customer service tools available. For customers, it is a quick and convenient means of expressing a concern or requesting information. For many, it’s a place where most feel comfortable communicating already.

And for businesses, it provides a much more transparent approach to customer service and also enables them to deal with simple enquiries quickly.

With this in mind, it’s concerning when you consider Twitter data demonstrating that nearly 40 per cent of customer tweets never get a response from the company. The use of social media should be a customer service priority. Brands must better prepare their frontline staff to deal with a disgruntled customer on social media and, most importantly, do so before it escalates into a larger issue.

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Planning for, and setting a procedure in place will ensure companies have as much control as possible in handling the situation. So, how can this be achieved?

Getting to know your customers is a great start. Tools can give companies the ability to build individual profiles of each customer. Having a bank of knowledge for each customer’s previous experiences and how they were solved not only means customer service teams are able to respond more efficiently, but will also help a valuable conclusion is reached quicker.

Once you know your customers, it is imperative they are satisfied with the customer service they receive. Some products focus on customer satisfaction so that it becomes measureable, which is ideal for identifying areas that may need improvement on social channels.

With the right tools and procedures in place, a brand can use social media to their advantage and interact in an engaging way. Take ASOS for example, whose social media stream is filled with informal language that seems friendly and approachable.

ASOS demonstrates a clear tone of voice when responding to customer queries in the public domain. Using this as an opportunity, the best brands will then use an unhappy customer’s complaint to both cross-sell and upsell.

They can turn customers into brand evangelists through positive social media interactions. This creates a supportive independent voice in support of the brand that can ultimately lead to customer acquisition.

Ultimately, social media now plays a major role when communicating with consumers and that’s something that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

For this reason, customer service teams should embrace using social media as a means of both active and reactive communication. Teams must generate a procedure that not only works to address disgruntled customers but that proactively positions them as leaders in their field.

Those that are able to maximise the impact social channels have on their business, meanwhile still maintaining a positive level of service on their other customer service platforms, will not only find their customers are happier, but that the business itself runs more effectively.

Henry Thompson is director of customer success at Zendesk

When it comes to management of angry customers, Missguided’s method was like waving a red rag to a bull.