Research from the analysts at Gartner shows that companies are finally beginning to tap into the power of social media as a customer service tool. While 62% of customers have already used social media for customer service issues, 80% of companies plan to begin using social media for the same purpose. “Social media customer service isn’t a cute tool to be used by opportunistic marketing departments to big up the brand,” Harry Rollason said on Mashable. “It is an essential method of communication that needs to become part of a clearly defined organizational model.” Here are some ways that social media and customer service work hand in hand.
First, it gives potential customers a place to learn how a company treats its customers. Any social media site on which customers post comments to the brands they support is a platform for broadcasting a message about how well that company does business. Next, it serves as a platform to keep customers satisfied. A customer with a voice is a happy customer, and social media gives the customer that voice.
So now, well-known brands and their consumers are finally seeing eye-to-eye when it comes to the potential of social media as a customer service tool – right? Maybe not. An astonishing 56% of the 50 top brands polled by Gartner admit to not responding to a single customer comment on Facebook in 2011. And among those same brands, 71% of customer complaints were ignored on Twitter in the same year. Businesses claim to understand the power of social media as a marketing tool; they hire digital media executives and staff entire departments with social media managers. So why are they hesitant to utilize the power of social media when it comes to customer service?
Perhaps it’s the age-old fear of dealing with criticism. “Social customer service delivery involves dealing with criticism and complaints in public, often in front of an audience of millions,” Rollason writes. “If you’re going to prevent a small problem (from) growing into something worse, you need to have a detailed understanding of what you need to respond to, a path to response, and escalation policies for resolution.” Maybe that sounds like too much work, or maybe companies are just hesitant to embrace humility. Either way, continuing to ignore the customer service channels provided by social media is a big mistake in your internet marketing efforts.