June 28, 2016

The New Rules of Social Customer Service

It was impossible to predict the evolution of social media over time. Possibly the biggest change was the shift from connecting with friends to a new extension of businesses for workplace productivity and added customer service value.

The importance of social media for business is increasingly immense in the age of overlapping social communities, and stepping up monitoring can help cultivate more satisfied customers. Why? Because the nature of customer communication has evolved.

customer service woman

While social media is relatively new, it’s just human nature to find comfort and solace in an environment of like-minded peers. If you can’t stop listening to the new Drake album, for example, you may glance over the reviews he has on iTunes or other blogging sites to connect to your equally enthusiastic peers.

Customer service is also shifting in its way of handling issues and inquiries. Most people would agree that when dealing with a problem, they’d rather tweet than wait on the phone for hours.

Let’s say you wanted to contact a company’s customer service to complain about their newest app update. In this scenario, moderate users wouldn’t fret for too long and would just accept the update over time. However, to make a larger impact and let your fellow customers know you are under distress over the change, you would probably take another, much easier, course of action today: contact the company on one of its social media pages.

Social media thrives on real-time interactions, and the expected timeframe for communicating has become increasingly short. One main strategy that marketers should implement is a faster response time—or the competition could capitalize on your silence.

Regardless of the challenges involved in responding in real-time to customer service issues via social media, it has become an expectation for companies with a digital presence. However, most retailers fail at responding effectively to their customers online. This could take the form of delayed or non-existent interaction, or the decision not to enable the direct messaging functionality on Facebook and Twitter, therefore alienating customers.

According to a recent study conducted by Forbes, “Retailers…responded over three times faster to email queries on average than social media. The average response time to email was seven hours and 51 minutes versus 27 hours on average for Facebook and 31 hours for Twitter.” Just because their inquiry is sent later in the day or on the weekend, customers’ expectations for a company’s social media response time remain the same.

One reason for this variance in response time could be the very public nature of social media customer service. Companies have increasingly less reason to be worried about public disputes, however, as Twitter and Facebook have changed their features to bring these interactions back behind closed doors. Users can now opt-in to receive direct messages from anyone, even brands. For a business, this means that customers can contact them and have their issues handled privately rather than in front of both parties’ followers.

Nevertheless, companies need to see the value in meeting the needs of their customers over social media and allocate the necessary resources to properly monitor and respond to their activity. Not playing by the new rules of customer service could prove detrimental to any brand, giving customers even more reason to create unwanted noise on their pages.

This post was written by Jarrett Chouinard. Connect with Jarrett on LinkedIn.