Image: ShutterstockBrands have recognised the importance of social media as a communication tool, steering away from using it strictly as a promotional tool and more of a way of engaging with their consumers, in a less corporate and more approachable way. Old methods of customer service include filling in a contact form, making a phone call or dealing with someone in person but each of these methods has its disadvantages, for example the time it takes to complete customer contact forms. Firstly, filling out a lengthy form isn’t always easy and is particularly tedious on a smartphone; then you have to wait around for a response – if someone even gets back to you at all. Social media is more accessible to most people, offering quick, personal responses that require little effort and with more people turning to social media to voice complaints, or ask questions, it is vital that companies start using it as a customer service gateway. Ability to listen As social media moves away from being a promotional broadcasting tool, brands are realising that talking is no longer as important as listening when it comes to customer engagement. Unlike other means of customer service, such as emails and phone calls, brands are able to “listen in” to what consumers think of their brands in real-time. By listening to their customers on social media, a brand can establish a few things about their business that will go towards improving it – for example, sentiment. Sentiment is the tone of conversation about a brand, either negative or positive. This can be monitored by tracking brand mentions, including those without the @ symbol and those that are spelt incorrectly. Discover the logic behind the negative conversations and identify areas in the business which need to be developed and/or improved. This proactive approach will keep brands ahead of the curve and reduce any negative direct contact from consumer. Immediate response Customers don’t like to be kept waiting, particularly when they are angry or in need of answers urgently. Traditional methods of customer service often come with unavoidable waiting times, holding times on phone calls, or the period one has to wait for an email response. The longer it takes to respond to consumers, the more irate they will become. Social media provides the opportunity for brands to give an immediate response. It is unrealistic to expect smaller companies to monitor their social media accounts 24/7 but the response time of social accounts is generally faster than emails to generic customer service email addresses. Customers can post on the brand’s page wall, tag the account in, or even send direct messages – although the latter is private the other two methods are not. Thus it is also in the best interest of the brand to be responding speedily to this type of communication compared to traditional methods. The longer a negative comment is left unanswered, the more people it will reach and possibly influence, which risks tarnishing the brand’s reputation.
On the next page we reveal how to introduce transparency and attribution to your social media efforts.
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