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Customer service in the times of social media

With the advent of social media when just about any piece of information can go viral on the Internet, businesses try to curate positive news in the public space about them, especially from customers.

To understand the premium place the customer occupies in every business, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, said, “The goal as a business is not to just have customer service that is the best but legendary.”

With the advent of social media when just about any piece of information can go viral on the Internet, businesses try to curate positive news in the public space about them, especially from customers. But whether news about your business swings in your favour or not, it’s all about the customer experience, and the average customer will share his/her experiences with at least four others, who will share with others. Hence, customer Word-of-mouth remains a veritable marketing tool that can mar or make you, and social media plays an influential role in accelerating the impact.
Customer service entails putting your best foot forward to make the best impressions that influence how customers think about your business. Here are ways that social media can help business owners offer quality customer service.

Do not exaggerate
In the desire to create a good impression with customers, businesses may project to offer more than they do. For instance, imagine a restaurant fills its menu with interesting dishes and desserts to attract customers, advertises it on social media, but either can’t deliver or it turns out less the quality than the customers expected. It is important to be honest and upfront with customers, which is why offering customer service on social media offers a chance to present a business as it is. This manages customers’ expectations about the nature of your business. If you do not offer 24/7 customer service, then it is wise not to offer it. Customers do not want to call or place an order on your social media pages to find that lines are switched off or they get a response to their order in the morning, rather than at the point when they needed it. This could hurt businesses in real time, all customers have to do is give a scathing review on your page.

Use them as a measuring tool
It is important to hear from customers from time to time. This is a major way to ascertain how to improve your services. With the advancement in technology, there are a number of ways businesses can easily get feedback from customers. Some of them include surveys, which can now be carried out using online tools such as survey monkey; analytics tools, to get accurate information about your customers’ demographics and reception to offerings to improve marketing and sales; social media polls; feedback given through physical customer service desks; among many others.

Ramp up the customer experience
Though businesses should not exaggerate their offerings, they can however heighten the experiences of their customers by saying less, and doing more – in another parlance, under promising, but over delivering.

Without big advertising TV and radio budgets, social media offers the chance to connect with customers in more intimate ways – through extensive channels mobile and the web. Businesses can offer instant rewards, anticipate customers’ needs and go the extra mile in service delivery. Customers stay loyal to purchasing from certain businesses, not necessarily because they have the best discount prices, or are exclusive, but because they enjoy the experience. It is not uncommon to hear customers complain about the poor service they received from a particular service. But no business wants to be associated with a campaign with a hashtag trending on the Internet touting their faults. Studies have shown that, for each negative experience a customer goes through, it would require up to twelve positive experiences to attain their trust and respect again. Social networks have become the virtual Customer Feedback Box, and when they drop a compliant, recommendation or praise, businesses must remember that many others will see it – unlike the physical Customer Feedback Box, it’s not private anymore.

Speak to, rather than talk at them
Communication on social media for many businesses encompasses only showcasing new products/services on their social networks. Studies show that many customers are turned off by the salesy tone of content that businesses post. However, today’s customer does not want to be talked at; they want to be spoken to. They desire a dialogue, not a monologue.

With so much information shared by tons of businesses, customers suffer from information overload, and only take interest in businesses that rise above the din, and connect with them on an emotional level. Though social media is a good advertising channel, to communicate means more than making daily sales pitches showcasing your service or products. Customers want to feel like they are being heard. When they get answers that satisfy them, that is when they feel heard. A good place to start could is sharing your business values, valuable resources and information, and your activities, while getting customers involved in clever ways.

Respond in Real Time
At least, almost real time. Because social media is an open and interactive space, feedback is quick and instant. Some social networks even measure how quick your response time is to questions and queries from people. Business can handle matters quickly by attending to customer’s problems on time. As far as dealing with customers is concerned, no response is too little to be communicated.

The social media space is a very competitive space for businesses vying for the attention of potential customers, and regardless of how great their products or services may be, quality customer service can give them an edge. A quote by Jerry Fritz hits the nail on the head when he said: “You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.”

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