“The dark side of social media is that, within seconds, anything can be blown out of proportion and taken out of context. And it’s very difficult not to get swept up in it all.” – Nicola Formichetti
There is no doubt that social media is a powerful channel of communication and can sway the opinions of others in either direction. When managed properly social media can produce ample interest and positive feedback for a company is guaranteed and the converse is true if social media communication goes unmanaged. So before venturing out to this broad and visible platform ask yourself – is your company Social Media ready? Praise and positive comments are akin to receiving fresh water and oxygen whereas criticism can cut off this supply leaving you gasping for breath.
To know if your company is social media ready, ask whether your company understands what social media is all about. It is not just a direct communication with a very large audience it is also a medium to show off your company’s capabilities and its uniqueness. Social media is your company’s big chance to remain in the news and be current and a place to allow customers to associate with your company’s brand in a more personalized manner. Whatever a company decides to use this medium for, being social media ready entails having a robust approach and a disciplined plan if its advantages are to be fully reaped. Customers, we know, are constantly on the move and are using social media to connect even on their mobile and smart devices. Companies, if they are social media ready, must provide customer service on social media as well. However, this must be a very well-thought out and seamless process if your company is to appear social media ready. A half-baked and bad implemented process of customer service on social media will only lead to flared tempers and nasty viral comments that could completely tarnish your company’s reputation.
So what must companies consider before taking the big leap towards providing customer service on social media?
– As discussed, customer service is provided through customer service teams. Companies must therefore analyze whether their current customer service teams are strong, adept, and knowledgeable and will be able to manage being in the ‘eye of the storm’ all the time. Everything that your company and its representatives do will be in the spotlight. Will the company and the teams be able to respond swiftly and efficiently and is your company willing to empower the front-ending staff to take spot decisions and do what is best for the company? Is the staff responsible and smart enough to make the right decisions? These decisions will be seen by all and hence almost impossible to revoke. Being social media ready means being able to put yourself and your brand in full public view and take on both praise and harsh criticism and dealing with it effectively.
– Another aspect of being social media ready is to know whether social customer service will be beneficial both long term and short term for the company and the brand. Social media never sleeps – it’s always on, always out there and always has people logging on to see what’s new. Especially if your company is dealing with customers from varying countries, your social media customer service would always need to be on. Customers will seek help and post comments at any time – do you have a 24×7 system with teams that are proficient at handling sensitive social media communication? Do the teams have what it takes to be in the spotlight and make tough decisions? Are they social media ready? The customer service teams handling social media must be completely aligned with the culture and brand of the company to be able to portray this greatness of the brand on to the customers. If the brand is new, there could be a surge in the number of queries and requests from customers and missing out even one, could prove detrimental.
– As a company, before expecting employees to work on different projects and function in different environments, it is imperative that the employees are given the necessary tools, training and empowerment to handle the new set up. Customers will use the customer service portion on social media sites and will most certainly toss a ‘bouncer’ in the direction of the customer service staff that would need them to not only think on their feet for a solution but also have the necessary leeway to put the solution in to effect. They should be able to handle emergency situations for customers at that moment rather than saying that they would need to get a “senior person to handle this.” What good is it to have social customer service if the customer still needs to wait – this kind of customer service is worse than not having any at all! Being social media ready means that the service you provide via this channel must be beneficial and relevant almost immediately to the customer else you can be sure to receive comments and feedback that would bring your company to its knees.
– Your brand must speak to customers all the time. Through it your company must be able to convey value and a personal touch. If your brand is unable to ‘speak’ to customers and keep them engaged via this medium, then you should know that your company is not social media ready. Take some more time, refine your strategy and then launch your social media service and branding.
– Think from your customer’s perspective before launching social media service. Understand what you would expect from your service or product provider if you were a customer. What kind of customer service would you deem as appropriate? Ask the customer service teams to define what excellent customer service would be to them – then use these suggestions and build a robust customer service strategy that would defy all the challenges via social media and otherwise.
Social media is a very enticing and attractive proposition and it is easy to be drawn in to all the hype surrounding it. However, to have a robust strategy and to know that you are social media ready requires focused thought, analysis and a determination to provide the best service possible once you have jumped on to the bandwagon. Your social media ready checklist must be in order:
– What are the reasons your brand and company wants to accomplish via social customer service? Is it forging stronger bonds with the customers or building brand awareness or an attempt to gain more customers faster with less effort? Pick a reason or two and then focus your social customer service strategy in that direction.
– Remember to first check where the majority of your customers and prospective customers ‘exist’ on social media. Customers must be connected with via the channel they use most and find most convenient. It would be a sordid waste if you get stuck on the incorrect network while your competition is making hay by contacting your customers via their preferred channel.
– Does your company have the bandwidth and time to manage the interactions on social media? Are you willing to commit time and resources to ensure that your social media strategy hits the right chord and brings you the success you hoped for? Some of your best resources would need to be pressed in to action if this strategy is to succeed and for your company to be truly social media ready.
– Ask yourself the question about what and how much you would like to share about your company and the brand. How often and at what intervals would you post blogs and comments that would not only keep the focus on your company but also engage the readers and benefit them.
The beauty and excitement of social media is that it is vibrant and agile. Getting the decision maker of the company to communicate often with customers sets the tone of a personalized brand and draws customers in. Leverage on this by coupling it with stellar social customer service and your company will be as social media ready as any other established ‘social player’.