Customer Service with Social Media

JOIN THE CONVERSATION TO ANSWER QUESTIONS AND STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR LOYAL FOLLOWING

The rise of social media has given consumers a powerful new way to talk about or to interact with your brand. In fact, 70% of social media users say they go online to look for opinions about products and services, and 50% use social media to complain about bad customer experiences, according to 2012research by Nielsen. To better serve your clients or customers, and to protect your company's reputation, it's essential to join these conversations.

The rise of social media has given consumers a powerful new way to talk about or to interact with your brand. In fact, 70% of social media users say they go online to look for opinions about products and services, and 50% use social media to complain about bad customer experiences, according to 2012research by Nielsen. To better serve your clients or customers, and to protect your company's reputation, it's essential to join these conversations.

With the right approach, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media sites can play a central role in your customer service strategy, whether you own a retail shop or a law firm. Here are five ways to use social media to answer questions, be proactive when things go wrong and turn one-time customers into loyal advocates:

1. Listen to your customers
Not every satisfied (or unsatisfied) customer will contact you directly. They'll often simply share their opinions with their friends and followers through social media channels. Tune into these conversations by using social monitoring tools such as Google AlertsTwitter searches and Social Mention.

Set up automated searches for your company's name and monitor them regularly for individual conversations that may require customer service attention, such as a customer complaining about a late order or a bad experience. Look for larger trends in customer opinions that might require more specific attention, such as complaints about your service, product quality or the work you deliver.

2. Respond quickly 
Making customers wait more than 24 hours for a response on social media these days constitutes poor customer service: 67% of social media users expect a response within a day, and 42% expect a response in an hour or less, according to 2012 research by Edison Research.

Ensure prompt follow-up by empowering more than one person at your company to monitor social media channels and respond to issues. Or, clearly state on your social media profiles when you respond to customer issues, such as 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. This way, your customers can adjust their expectations.

3. Be personal 
Be transparent and avoid canned responses that sound impersonal. Engagement needs to come from a real person and address the customer's specific needs or question. It's important to show that you are listening and will attempt to solve the problem.

Consider sharing the name and work telephone number or email address of a customer service representative who can be contacted directly to have an issue resolved. Don't be afraid to admit if you make a mistake. Online shoe retailer Zappos often responds to social media complaints about late deliveries or other mishaps by offering coupons or discounts on future purchases.

4. Be proactive 
Head off potential complaints and questions by using social media to announce known service issues, shipment delays, office closures and other situations that may affect the customer experience. New York utility company Con Edison used its Twitter feed to address customer concerns proactively in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy by providing updates on continuing outages, plans for repairs and service restoration and safety tips.

5. Say 'thank you' 
Social media is not just a tool for handling complaints. When a customer praises your business on Twitter, Facebook or other social media channels, respond with a simple note saying, "Thank you," or "We love hearing from happy customers." This gesture can show that you're listening and that you care about your customers' opinions. And those small interactions can help strengthen your relationship with your customers, making them more likely to recommend your business to their friends and followers online — and off.

Make City National Bank part of your social networks. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook or join us on Google+ and LinkedIn.