Social Media and Customer Service
SOCIAL media, the interaction between people through the Internet, through web 2.0 configurations and programmes is in full swing. At least, as far as many of the social media websites and many of the newer versions of software – browsers, smart phones and the like – are concerned. It has been hyped, pushed, used, improved and tweaked no end. And yet, for some major companies, it doesn’t seem to have come through yet. There are still many customer service related firms who either do not know the benefits of social media or have not implemented them yet. Their loss, you may well say, but it goes a little bit deeper than that. It is the customers’ loss more than anything else. It is the customer who is losing out on benefits gained through web 2.0 simply because they still have to rely on the old contact processes, on contact forms and telephone lines. Let’s just take the two most popular social media platforms as examples: Facebook and Twitter. Both are ideally suited for quick and efficient interaction with the customer base of almost any company, whether it be an international one or just a local firm.
Most already have a Facebook page and use this to promote their products and services through the Like button. You appreciate a certain service or product; you click on like to tell all your friends that you’ve found something and that it has worked well. Facebook users can also add comments, critical or otherwise, to the pages of their favorite or less favorite companies with the knowledge that someone is going to see the comment, even if they don’t react to it. And anyone else hitting the page will also get to see the comment, unless the company concerned decides to delete it; a bad company practice admittedly, but one used to prevent creating a bad impression when a service or product has failed for potential future customers. With one billion (Facebook figures) potential viewers it is one of the best contact possibilities available on the web today and has largely replaced the old web site contact.
The second popular social media platform is Twitter which, surprisingly, is underestimated by many companies. It has a potential for growth and contact with a real customer base in much the same manner as Facebook does, but allows for even more possibilities. With Twitter companies have not only the chance to quickly highlight what is on offer and link to their products, but also address concerns quickly and efficiently in a short and clear manner. Using the hashtags (key words prefaced with the # symbol) all manner of potential customers can be reached in a matter of seconds. With Twitter it is also not necessary to continually change from one screen to another, merely updating the Timeline brings new messages on the screen. There is also no need to build a second or third platform for information, a simple link to a web page or a photograph achieves this in seconds. And Tweets, the one hundred and forty character messages, appear on other people’s Timeline as soon as they are sent. Replies are also easier, since using the original writer’s @ tag – their contact name and address on Twitter – automatically sends the message to them as well as to anyone else visiting the company Timeline. Twitter is, in effect, a far more personal means of contact between firm and customer.
How many companies appreciate the power of immediate reply?
Sadly, again, very few. We live in a society where almost everyone believes that they have very little time. We rush from one appointment to another, have our work times and our play times and always something to do. With the immediacy of the Internet, many expect – if not demand – that all the information they need is immediately available, which it could be. Patience, as far as the Internet is concerned, is a thing of the past. If my cell doesn’t do what I wish it to do right now, it is useless. If I cannot get an answer on how to change this, the company is useless too, in the eyes of the customer. Every company of any size which relies on customer contact today has an Internet page, has a Facebook page, has a customer service department, a help desk and someone designated to handle Internet matters. Most customer service departments are linked directly to the Internet so that they can find solutions on their own web site or answer mails when they arrive. Would the addition of an interactive Twitter account be too much of a burden on their working day? I don’t believe so. I believe that the addition would be a massive enhancement of their efficiency and, above all, of their customer satisfaction ratings.