What Your Customer Service Should Look Like in 2014

I recently had a friend ask me why a company should provide customer service through social media channels. Face-to face and call center interaction seems to be working fine now, as it has for years, right? Well, yes, and don’t abandon those existing avenues of communication.  customer-serviceYou need to meet customers where they chose to engage you and that is more frequently on Facebook, Twitter and/or directly on your website.  According to “Mashable”, by the end of 2013, 80% of companies planned to integrate social media into their customer service efforts while 62% of customers already have used those social channels for customer service issues – you go where your valued customers…and competitors are.

Many business leaders and marketing departments feel unprepared or ill-equipped to use social media to enhance their customer service experience.  Large and medium-sized companies already have personnel and/or productivity software tools from the likes of SAP, Salesforce.com, Spredfast, Sprinklr and others to assist their efforts.  Small businesses, on the other hand, can’t afford new employee(s) for social media initiatives or complex software that does more than what they need.  It is very important for small business to “keep it local”, engage with customers on a more personal level and that is where a marketing consultant can provide guidance and advice on what tools to use, how to integrate them and what new directions to take to grow the business.

I have identified some very simple steps, many of them already an integral part of your existing customer service practices:

  • Continue to use existing customer service avenues (client-facing, telephone/call center) but integrate appropriate social platforms.
  • Assign employees with good understanding of your business, customers and market, with acceptable writing skills…usually employees who already are your brand advocates.
  • As you presently do with your current customer service: address issues quickly – 67% of customers expect a response within a day and 42% expect attention within an hour…but is that any different than the customer looking you in the eye or on the other end of the phone?
  • Start with superior customer service and integrate social media channels – it is still about listening, being personal, empathetic and authentic, regardless of communication mode.
  • Keep focused on your business and customer service goals and implement metrics for measurement (speed of response/first call resolution).  Put in place communication channels or logging so management or the owner views the activity and feedback so there are no surprises and valuable information can improve the business.

An enormous payoff of social media engagement, either in marketing efforts or through customer service contact is that feedback and information, both positive and negative, makes your business better.  Just the fact that you open up new avenues of communication through social media will benefit your business.  I have heard many small business owners say they don’t have the resources for marketing studies or research – what better way than to engage your customers and the public on what new ideas, products, changes or trends you could look towards to improve your business while getting ahead of the competition or identifying new niches to grow your business.

Remember, your customers are out there talking about you, will you be out there talking with them?  By gathering information and marketing advice about integrating social media tools into your existing business and customer service processes will return huge benefits for many years to come, so what are you waiting for?  When it comes to customer service, even an upset customer, when treated with empathy and understanding, on whatever communication channel they chose, can become your brand advocate and supporter.  How about setting a priority to have customer service and social media work for you in 2014?

Please contact me if you would like to discuss how to make your customer service become the cornerstone of your business.  We can also discuss your challenges or opportunities, how to focus on strategic business goals and integrating those with a comprehensive marketing plan.

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