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An Introduction to Social Customer Service

It’s a constant question I’m asked by clients and potential clients – what kind of conversion rate do you see from social media? Typically, this question is asked in reference to Facebook advertising or as a comparison to Google Ads.  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question.  Variables that come into play when talking about marketing success are as diverse and numerous as personality traits among your customers.  Personally, I like social media as a branding, identity, and customer service tool, rather than pure lead generation or sales, though there are certainly industries where that can be successful. So for those goals, the conversion rate is almost moot.  I’ve talked a bit in the past about social media return on investment or a return on marketing objectives, but today I really want to look at social customer service and the impact that it can have on your brand.

Social media is both social and media.  It’s easy to forget that it is, by and large, a media device because it’s shrouded in the guise of social networking, connections between friends and those intangible friends of ours – brands.  But brands and small businesses are able to use it as a tool to inform, serve and connect with their customers on a daily basis as a media device in a less expensive, simpler fashion than any other form of advertising.  The beauty of social media for the customer is that it is a totally transparent form of communication – there are no barriers to entry, no mechanisms for hiding angry or dissatisfied customers.  Companies can and should use their social media platforms as a way to demonstrate their devotion to their customers, their drive to help, to serve, and to be a part of their users’ lives.  This creates a tactile form of brand loyalty and brings it to a wider audience than has been available ever before.

How does social customer service work?

  • Sharing content with users – both the positive and negative – fosters authenticity and genuineness.
  • Solving customer problems creates loyalty and authority.
  • Sharing behind-the-scenes, industry-related, or unique experiences make customers feel like they’re part of the creation process – like an insider with special access to you.
  • Social customer service allows you to create a tribe of your customers who are quick to defend you against negativity.  You enable and empower your customers to solve other customers’ problems.

Imagine the scenario of a restaurant.  One server is having a bad night, an isolated experience that just seems to snowball, and they end up messing up an order to quite a disastrous effect.  A disillusioned patron posts on the restaurant’s Facebook page about the awful experience, the bad service, improperly prepared food, and how they never want to return – and encourage others to avoid it as well.  Social customer service can come to the rescue.  Other patrons of the restaurant, devoted Facebook fans, will see this post and defend the restaurant.  They assure the cranky patron that this had to be isolated, that they’ve never experienced anything but the best.  The restaurant then responds with dignity and grace, apologizing for the patron’s unfortunate experience, offering to comp them two entrees to give them another try.  The loyal tribe members are more impressed by the restaurant’s attempt to make sure everyone has a great experience and the grumpy patrons are convinced that they want to try this restaurant again.  Everybody wins. The grumpy patrons get some free food and redemption to their date gone awry. The tribe members are affirmed that the restaurant they love is a worthwhile place to eat that cares about its customers.  The restaurant has turned a negative review into a positive experience, turning bad publicity into a high quality user experience for all.

Sure, this is a best case scenario, but it’s one I’ve seen countless times over on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, repeated in numerous iterations.  Everyone complained about Comcast’s customer service for YEARS, but as soon as they created a customer support handle on Twitter, they became a paragon of customer service (for about ten whole minutes).  There are numerous other case studies on the topic.  If you haven’t taken your social media into social customer service, you might want to give it a try.