Integrating Social Media with Customer Service

For as long as customer service has been in existence, this service has been delivered through calling and email messages. It is only recently, that more effective and cost friendly methods of say, online chatting directly with a representative, began to be used. Although, social media is now a force to reckon with when it comes to customer service and engagement, companies have still not begun to use to it for empowering their customer service. Managing company image and brand on social media sites, is still the playground for marketing and or Public Relations departments. The companies that have embraced this new tool have been able to formulate better processes leading to enhanced levels of customer service leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is time for all companies that are endeavoring to be leaders in their field, to leverage this force and benefit from ‘Integrating Social Media with Customer Service’.

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The new and improved opportunities that now exist through social media, for the realm of customer service, need to be utilized better to gain competitive advantage. Marketing and PR professionals have been successfully using social media but a two pronged approach is required. Assimilating social media with customer service, apart from these two departments, is this approach. Customers want to be connected at all times, want to provide feedback and expect a resolution or at least for companies to revert in shorter time frames. They want to remain constantly updated on what is happening with the brand they have invested in and expect to be supported in the same way. For companies to effectively integrate their customer service to social media sites, pertinent training for the representatives will be necessary. They would need to be multi-skilled and have superior communication skills to be able to use all the channels to interact effectively with customers. More often than not, customers use all channels at their disposal, to complain and expect a reply and or resolution in at least an hour of their complaint. The younger users or customers are more inclined to making their displeasure known through social media sites. True people still use telephone and emails but with the wait time and lack of satisfaction from both these channels, the figure, for feedback on social media, is steadily rising.

It makes a lot of business sense to be an active part of any discussions related to your company, which now mostly happen through social media networking. Product or service related queries, promotions, billing status and dissatisfaction with customer service – all form part of these frenzied discussions. If your customer service team is not skilled and adept in managing communication via these sites, it could prove costly for your company. We already agree that efficient customer service is the backbone for any company and leads to customer loyalty. Harnessing the power of customer service through integration with social media is the need of the hour. As a new concept for a company it would serve well to have brainstorming sessions to understand some pertinent and key questions. Companies should realistically look at the opportunities and value they can create by integrating the social network with their customer service department. Internally too, it must focus on which teams must act together to manage this integration and decide what would be the measure of success for their customer service activities.

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Managing customer interactions and behavior through social media networks will give your customer service representatives, instant feedback on every aspect of your brand. As a company this can prove invaluable in making the necessary changes, responding to queries and providing support immediately to the customer. A well-equipped customer service team will be able to handle any kind of queries and or put the customer at ease even if there is no ready solution. When customers perceive that they are being heard, it builds trust and loyalty for your brand and company. When you decide as a company to integrate social media with customer service, you should be prepared to receive any kind of posts and comments. Even a bad comment is feedback and an opportunity to immediately isolate the problem and root it out. Continuous upgrade in the technology you use internally and ongoing effective training to your customer service staff will make this integration smooth flowing. As your customer service teams master the management of social media networking, you will notice a dramatic change in customer behavior and loyalty – moving towards being pro-you! Strengthening your customer service hold over social media will prove beneficial both from a financial and customer loyalty standpoint.

Your customer service representatives being the first contact points also serve as your company’s spokespersons. It is important that they are well-versed in all the aspects of the company and the brand being promoted. It is back to the ‘good old days’ where people wanted to speak with people rather than automated voices and run of the mill emails and messages. Customers want and expect that their queries, perceived problems and needs will be attended to in a manner that spells efficiency and effectiveness. They want to do this on platform that has high visibility as they are certain that the company in question will sit up, take notice and do everything possible to resolve the issue. Who has the time anymore to spend on repeated calls or follow ups on emails? Social media helps customers to not only speed up things for themselves, but also share their experiences with their business associates. Great customer service will get you rave reviews and possibly more business and badly managed social customer service will have disastrous consequences. Effective handling and constant monitoring will help your company save itself from a crisis and also put you in the limelight on a wide platform – instantly!

It can never be overstressed that pertinent training programs for your customer service team is paramount and is never enough. It is a constant and ongoing process. Knowing how to listen to your customers, how to respond to what you heard and what to do with it – is not everyone’s cup of tea. It takes a highly skilled and trained person to get it right every time. One slip or faux pas can be the end of your company’s reputation that you have built over a long time. Integrating social media with customer service is a tricky proposition and as a company it would be in your best interest to have it managed by professionals. Choosing the right team is also imperative – choose people who have the characteristics that spell empathy, enthusiasm and personal touch. Scripted responses that are repeated mechanically will fetch the same unwanted results. Representatives who can influence, display unfeigned interest and have a positive impact on your customers is the secret to gainful and effective social customer service. Handpick people from the customer service industry with relevant social media exposure. It must be understood that queries and responses on social media sites will not follow a set pattern and so having representatives who can customize their responses instantly, will be better positioned to serve. As a high visibility platform, social customer service requires a team that can communicate well – written and oral and be pro-active. Train, equip and monitor constantly this portion of your customer service to achieve the reputation, business growth and powerful brand image you have always wanted.

Your customer service team will be the first points of interaction with your company but the possibility of giving them complete control is slim. While formulating your social media procedures, it would help to create a synergy between various departments. Build an escalation matrix that allows each team responsible to understand where their area of expertise is being used and when it needs to be passed on to the next level. Share this matrix with your customers too, on the social media sites to enhance their level of confidence in your service and brand. Your social media strategy must encompass all the different types of customers. Review how customers respond and which social media channel they use – this will give you an insight in to your customers and help to engage more closely with them. Each different channel has its own use and wisely leveraging each of their strengths would help your customer service manage these platforms better. Only when you know what your customer wants, you will be able to provide the service or response he or she expects. However you approach this integration, there is no doubt that customers now want a more realistic, personal and immediate response to whatever they say or demand. Empowered development and training will, let the integration of social media with customer service, work wonders for your company and its brand.

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