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Social Media: The Future of Customer Support?

In a recent study put out by the global measurement monolith Nielsen Company, they decided to move away from their customary research of tracking television viewing behavior and instead turn their attention to the advent of social sharing platforms.  In their study, they sought to find the answers to what is continuing to drive the growth of social media, how are we using it and how is that use changing and most importantly, how is social media affecting marketing and customer support.  That’s right, customer support.

For the longest time, customer support has existed in the form of long wait times on telephones and emails greeted by generic follow-ups that tell us, “our questions are important and in an undisclosed amount of time, some representative may respond”.  But as social media continues to saturate more and more facets of our society, customer support has followed suite and is currently undergoing yet another facelift.  Keeping your business competitive and at the top of their game in the social sharing age means embracing everything social media has to offer.

According to the findings in the Nielsen survey approximately half of consumers reach out to companies through their social media pages in order to:

  • Offer feedback
  • Report satisfaction
  • Report dissatisfaction
  • Voice an inquiry
  • Alert a representative to a problem with the product or service

As you can see, the gamut of reasons is pretty diverse and all should be equally embraced.  In order to understand the psychology of why this is such an effective customer support tool, you need to take a step back and look at the psychology of social media and how we interact with it.

We live in a world of plus 1’s, likes, comments and followers.  Although we may not state it, many of us revel in the amount of feedback we got last time we uploaded a picture to Instagram, or feel just a little bit smug about that clever status update we posted on Facebook.  It’s a digital high five and there is no reason to treat it as anything different.

Now take that same theory and apply it to let’s say, a product you’ve just purchased.  Upon acquiring the service or item you take it home and head on to your Facebook account.  With a quick little inquiry into the search bar you’ve found the company’s Facebook page and perhaps even posted on their page how much you are enjoying X product.  A little bit later you are alerted that company has personally responded to your message, perhaps with a thanks, or a question asking you how you are enjoying the product.  Think about how much this does for your brand loyalty to them.  You have directly engaged them in a way that not a lot of other companies have.

With this notion in mind, the Nielsen group wanted to know just how many people actually prefer to interact with a company through social media versus the what is now becoming antiquated method of phone or email.  Their results were pretty interesting.

One in three individuals who use social media was found to prefer this type of interaction over any other form.  It is with data like this that is music to the ears of a small business or startup which doesn’t have a ton of money to fork over on sophisticated software or to outsource their customer support overseas.

Quick Turnaround Times

Due to how easy it is to respond to (many social sharing platforms have apps that allow users to access them from a variety of smartphones and tablets) directly interacting with a consumer is not only a bit easier, it’s also a whole heck of a lot quicker.  It is this speed that those who use social media will appreciate.  A similar study like the Nielsen report (this one by Oracle) showed that:

  • 50% of Twitter users expected a response in at least two hours
  • 51% of Facebook users expected a response in 24 hours

Reach Unprecedented Audiences

If you and your team are aware of an issue that could interrupt service or cause some problems be proactive about it!  Use your social media to alert your followers and customers.  Release a quick YouTube video (like JetBlue did when they were facing service interruptions) or release a picture tutorial on how to effectively deal with a specific problem.

But don’t just use it for the bad.  Let users know when you’ve made a new update to software, or any other news related to your product. Engage, engage, and engage.

Appoint an Employee

Rather than letting your company’s social media presence be taken care of by whoever wishes to log on and use it, specifically appoint one person to be in charge of this facet of your company.  This will really give you the chance to focus your efforts.  Rather than a group of people knowing a little about who is out there talking about your product, you can have one person who knows A LOT about what is going on and is capable of engaging users on a more intimate level.

Incorporate things like Google Alerts of Twitter alerts so that you are always on the constant know when someone mentions your company’s name in a news story, Tweet or update.

Social media is heavily populated, rather than letting this discourage you, rise to the occasion.  Be a standout.  Show your customers that you are capable of delivering the strongest and highest form of service for those in your industry.  Keep your eyes and ears open.  Instead of relying on social sharing platforms to see when a customer has a problem with your service instead treat social media as another facet of your company that deserves just as much attention as anything else.  Effectively engage your consumer base and they will engage you.

Author Bio:- Patrick Strahan is an IT professional and freelance blogger. He writes about such things as the latest help desk software on the market. When he’s not busy blogging or responding to dozens of work orders, Patrick finds time to ski and to write the next great graphic novel.

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