If you're a business in 2016, chances are that you've invested time and resources into maintaining a social media presence, to promote your brand and engage with consumers.
But have you made the same level of investment into providing a dedicated customer service on social media?
Many brands, despite having a social presence, aren't investing the time and resources into providing a good customer service on those channels.
A report by NM Incite into the 'State of Social Customer Service' found that although nearly 1 in 3 social media users prefer to reach out to a brand via social channels instead of over the phone, only 36% of users with a customer service inquiry reported having it solved quickly and effectively.
14% of users reported the company engaging quickly but failing to solve their issue, and 10% never received a response at all.
The fact is that when brands are present on social media, users increasingly expect to be able to reach out to them there and receive an effective response.
Providing a timely and helpful response to customers is of huge benefit to a business, but failing to provide a good response or even engage with a consumer can be even more costly.
Many businesses are understandably wary of engaging with consumers on such a public forum, but social media customer service and care can be incredibly effective when handled properly, and it's well worth your time to make sure your business does it right.
To explain why, here are five big reasons why you should be investing in social customer service.
1) It's convenient
The idea that social media provides a faster response to customer service enquiries is not necessarily true, as this can depend on the complexity of the requests, the volume, and how well-equipped a company is to deal with them. But what it does provide is convenience.
As Guy Stephens wrote in the ClickZ Intelligence Social Media Customer Service: Best Practice Guide:
“People like to say that social is all about speed. I don't subscribe to that view. Telephone or email are in many respects probably faster, so there has to be something more about social. I think it may well be convenience and the fact that it the channel is not owned by the company.”
Chances are high your customers already spend a lot of time on social media. Last year, GlobalWebIndex found that the average person spends a total of 1.72 hours on social networks, accounting for nearly 30% of their daily internet activities. So it makes sense to engage your customers where they already are – especially given that…
2) People expect a response – and they like to be heard
Dale Roberts reported for ClickZ back in April that response rates for brand surveys have dropped from 20% to just 2% over the past 20 years. But while customers have a limited amount of patience nowadays for being surveyed, they absolutely still want to be heard; they're just using different channels to communicate with brands.
Research commissioned by Lithium Technologies in 2013 found that 53% of people who tweet at a brand expect a response within the hour. This figure shoots up to 72% when people have a complaint to make.
Research by Lithium Technologies indicates that 53% of people expect a brand response on Twitter within the hour. | Image by ClkerFreeVectorImages, public domain image
When companies don't respond to customer messages within the expected time frame, 38% of customers were found to feel more negative towards the brand, while 60% were prepared to take action to express their dissatisfaction, from denying the brand their business to publicly shaming them on social media.
It's not all doom and gloom, however; the same study also found that when brands provide a timely response to customer concerns, 34% are likely to buy more from that company, 43% are likely to encourage friends and family to buy their products, and 42% are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media.
3) A good impression counts for a lot
So as we've established, your customers are already present on social media and will most likely be communicating with your brand there as well. The way you respond in that situation can make all the difference to your brand's reputation and profile.
Social media has been a game-changer for customer service in that it makes brand-customer interactions much more public, making companies accountable for the way that they deal with customers.
This might seem daunting, but it also provides companies with a major opportunity to create a positive impression for their brand, and showcase their commitment to good customer experience.
Take British Airways, which managed to find an opportunity for humour in a customer's complaint on Twitter, while still taking the time to address their concerns:
@mrdavidwhitley Hey David, off the top of my head it was about, 3rd June 1997. Seriously though, is there something we can help with? ^Jamie
- British Airways (@British_Airways) October 26, 2015
Customers don't always take to social media to complain – many want to express their appreciation. It's always nice to get the good feedback as well as the bad, and the way that you respond to it can invite more of the same.
@cruiseeditor Hi. we're grateful for your kind comments that motivate us to perform even better. Thanks for flying Turkish.
- TK HelpDesk (@TK_HelpDesk) April 3, 2016
4) Customer service makes a huge difference to customer retention
We've already seen that the kind of response customers receive on social media can make a big difference to how they feel and act towards a brand. But it isn't just about fending off a bit of negative feedback: the data shows that customer service as a whole can massively influence a customer's choice of brand.
According to data gathered by Zendesk, 40% of customers began purchasing from a competitor brand based on its reputation for great customer service, while 85% were willing to pay up to 25% more to ensure a superior customer service experience.
On the flip side, 82% of customers were found to have stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service, while 95% of customers have taken action as a result of a bad experience. Of these, 66% wanted to discourage others from buying from the company.
There's an oft-repeated saying that retaining a customer is five times cheaper than acquiring a new one. While this has been disputed – and the exact figure is probably a lot more difficult to quantify – it's clear that investing in a good customer experience across all channels is an extremely worthwhile business decision.
And not making efforts to provide good customer service can be genuinely costly.
A customer in the hand is five times cheaper than a customer in the bush. Or something like that, anyway. | Photo by geralt, public domain image
5) It can be beneficial for product research and marketing
As Matt Owen wrote in our 'Social Customer Service: Best Practice Guide',
“In addition to providing information, social media channels should provide an open space for customers to discuss issues they have with a product or service, and the more constructive businesses will see this as a valuable source of product feedback, which can guide their own internal focus and reduce wastage.”
Savvy brands have also found ways to turn customer feedback on social media into an opportunity to upsell products.
Take Marks and Spencer, whose social customer service representatives respond to customer questions and criticism by recommending them products that they might like, or making sure that the feedback they have is passed on to the relevant internal teams.
This makes customers feel like they are heard and that the brand values their feedback, while also making it more likely they will come back to buy a similar product, or an item which was previously out of stock, if the brand keeps the lines of communication open.
With all that in mind, there's never been a better time to start making a dedicated investment into good social customer service, and set yourself apart from competitors who aren't yet in the game.
And if you need any more guidance on how to give your customers the best possible experience on social, check out ClickZ Intelligence's report 'Social Media Customer Service: Best Practice Guide'.
Five reasons why you should invest in social customer service
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