Before the Internet, customer service was typically handled via phone or in person, using the resolution guidelines afforded the customer by the respective company. Grievances and complaints were handled methodically and systematically, with as little negative exposure as possible if the customer’s concerns were not adequately resolved.
Social media has completely changed how companies conduct customer service, and for the better. Transparency in addressing customer concerns is imperative to a business’ success. Because of social media’s inherent nature (24-hour, universal free access), companies have to conduct themselves under the assumption that they are always being watched. And the reality is, they are!
Below are 4 ways social media is having a positive impact on the overall customer service experience.
1. Less Customer Frustration
“[Social media] keeps customers up to date and engaged and, especially from a customer service perspective, reassured that their issues are reported and being resolved” says Richard Stern, senior vice president of global marketing at Jacada. “The instant gratification that comes from having the ability to vent to a company via Twitter and get a tweet back with an updated response, is comforting and can reduce frustration and anxiety.” Customer complaints made on social media are public, but so too are the respective firm’s responses. Companies can view a disgruntled customer as an opportunity rather than a threat, and handling this customer with care will spread beyond the blast zone of the initial complaint, giving the firm credibility on a level not possible through traditional customer service channels.
2. A Level Playing Field Between Company and Customer
Stern continues, “the number of communication channels available to consumers has continued to grow throughout recent years; we can call, chat, email, use the website…but those channels still tipped the balance of power in the relationship to the company, not the consumer. Social media is changing that and as a result, consumers are more confident.” Because transparency is inherent to the social media experience, big companies are unable (or unwilling) to bully, intimidate, or ignore customers – doing so has dire ramifications that can affect not only a company’s online reputation, but its future revenue streams. More and more companies are realizing this is a risk not worth taking.
3. Authenticity in Customer Experience
If social media platforms were one giant blog, each individual stakeholder would be a content producer. The organic, rooted-in-reality nature of social media gives it a genuine authenticity that other platforms simply can’t match. This makes it perfect for interacting with consumers more honestly and openly – methods large corporations are not traditionally known for embracing. Stern points out, “Social media channels provide [companies] more opportunities to make customers feel good.”
4. Customer Service is a Now a High Priority
Prior to the advent of social media, the MO of many corporations was number 1 “profit first” and for everything else, see number 1. The rise in social consciousness, consumer power, and aggregate access to knowledge has empowered consumers and put corporate social responsibility front and center. Firms that blatantly harm the environment, endanger the lives of their workers, or systematically rip off customers are no longer able to hide behind red-tape ambiguity or wait until the problem disappears. Today, a company’s quarterly earnings are symbiotically linked to their brand, reputation, and identity. Social media empowers customers with a means to directly influence a brand’s reputation, and because of this companies are taking care to take care of their followers.
Social media has definitely benefited the consumer, but it’s also a great thing for companies. It provides a platform for honest interaction, public correction of errors, and the ability to build trust organically in their brand.
Yes, maintaining active accounts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter requires greater diligence and attention to detail. But it also means any potential customer service fires can be extinguished quicker – while the issue is still fresh and significant PR damage has not been incurred.
Lastly, social media enables companies to synthesize and foster customer loyalty through individual communication and honest feedback. And if there’s anything a company likes more than a new customer, it’s a loyal new customer.
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