The rise of the internet has led to great changes in how people learn, shop, and interact with one another. It also changed the way successful companies conduct business and interact with their customers. One of the greatest contributing factors to a business’s success is how well the organization handles customer service. Author Kevin Stirtz once said, “Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” Recent research into using social media to foster better customer service shows that using such tactics is a smart move for most businesses.
Some of the biggest brands in the United States and globally have begun to take customer service questions from social media far more seriously. According to research from Social Bakers, the response rate on social media channels rose from just 5 percent in 2011 to 62 percent in the second quarter of this year; growing 12 times larger in just two short years. This fact is supported by a recent study from eDigitalResearch, which showed that 80 percent of consumers heard back from brands they contacted through social media within 12 hours. This is more than twice the percentage of consumers who received their responses in a similar time frame through email, which suggests that businesses are putting more resources into replying to social media than in replying to emails from consumers.
As more and more people become accustomed to communicating with friends and family through social media, people are beginning to prefer social media to telephones for contacting businesses. According to a recent study from Nielson, nearly 1 in 3 users prefer to contact brands through social media than through telephone. So businesses can increase customer satisfaction for a third of their clients just by offering to handle customer service issues through the social media channels that people use. This preference is more pronounced among Millennials, according to a report from NM Incite, 59 percent of 18-24 year olds use social media for customer service. So depending on the industry and target demographic, a strong social media presence is more of a necessity than an option.
While it may not be obvious, social media is a good way to communicate with customers because it incorporates many of the things that people say matter the most in a great online experience. In the NICE Global Consumer Survey, people said that getting an issue resolved quickly; being able to record or print a copy of the interaction; being able to do other things while the issue is being resolved; and not having to speak to someone were among the top 10 elements of a great online experience. These are all things that social media can be very good at providing.
Using social media to handle customer service issues also helpful as companies when it comes to their bottom line. While companies would still need to devote some resources to monitor and replying to social media channels, it’s far cheaper than the traditional model. Call centers have increased overhead costs from leasing call center space, buying telecommunications equipment, and training an army of customer service reps, while the related cost for handling customer service issues through social media would be dramatically cheaper.
Using social media for customer service is not without its challenges. Regardless of the communication channel, one of the biggest issues for providing good customer service is ensuring that the message is consistent no matter what channel a customer uses. Which means that employees who handle social media channels should be as knowledgeable as customer service representatives when it comes to consumer issues and frequently asked questions. This means business owners must take the time to properly train their social media employees. Also, though social media is already faster than the average email communication to a business, it’s still slower than telephone communications. Working towards reducing the time delay that customers experience when using social media is essential to a positive customer experience.
Customer service is one of the few areas that companies can use to truly set themselves apart from their competition. Using social media to provide a great customer service experience is an efficient and cost effective way to provide customers with the the service they want and deserve. As Sam Walton, founder of WalMart, once said, “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.”