With brands and businesses taking to social media to add to their traditional marketing mix, there are a lot of elements to consider in building your social media strategy. Sure, you've got to consider your content, curated content, tone of voice, audience and online reputation, but there seems to be one hugely important element that many seem to be forgetting. So let me ask you this; what one thing makes a customer feel part of your brand, improves their online and offline experience of your business, almost guarantees repeat business and encourages word of mouth marketing? Well, in my opinion, it's customer service.
I recently reached out to an established UK brand on social media (as I often do) to ask them about their products, social media goals and hopefully begin a dialogue where we could discuss what I can bring to their efforts. Using the usual three-pronged approach of tweet, email website and then telephone call, I usually manage to spark up a conversation and establish a rapport. Not so in this particular case. To date, the tweet has received no answer, the email received no reply and the telephone call got through to an automated service which suggested I email. I attempted the same approach a second and third time, with exactly the same results. It's a familiar story, but it's incredibly frustrating when you think how many messages must go unanswered as a result of these brands not being set up to deliver good customer service online and how many opportunities they miss to delight their customers.
These days many brands field hundreds to thousands of customer service enquiries through their social media channels so I wouldn't expect a reply straightaway. But how long do you think is acceptable to make your customers or potential customers wait to hear from you? As a general rule, we act on behalf of all our clients to respond as soon as they possibly can, in real-time, because it shows they're listening and that they care about their customers. If you can't do it immediately, make sure you at least reply within the same day or set the expectation of when your customers can expect a reply.
As we all know, there's also a lot of spam out there on the internet, clogging up business inboxes, Twitter feeds and Facebook messages. So it's important for brands to be able to quickly differentiate between what is a genuine customer service enquiry and what is not. From the point of view of smaller businesses (like mine) approaching larger businesses through social media, it's therefore incredibly important that your message is honest, authentic and carries a genuine interest in the company you're trying to talk to and their products or services. It also helps considerably if your message doesn't look like a generic email which could have been fired out at a thousand companies in one hit by a robot mass-mailer.
So when you've crafted a potential masterpiece of an introductory message, clearly interested in the business in question, asking questions about their products, why do so many brands fail to reply at all? In my experience, it's simply because they use the channel to broadcast their marketing material and they don't expect to receive speculative replies or enquiries. Some simply don't have the resources to employ someone to watch their newsfeeds all day and reply, in fact I've even been told by the CEO of a digital technology company "I'm not going to employ you to sit on social media all day!" during an interview for the advertised post of Social Media Manager. Perhaps not all day, but how else are you going to know what your customers are saying about you?
And therein lies the problem, many simply do not understand that their online presence should be founded on the same values as their real-world business. In any business, excellent customer service is the foundation for everything else. If your business is retail, then I'd imagine all the staff in your stores are trained specifically to be attentive to customers, answer their enquiries and provide an excellent service in-store. That same level of commitment also has to translate to your online and social media efforts. Your website is just another store, as is your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Tumblr account or whatever other platform you've decided to give your business a presence on. They all need to be staffed the same way and with the same customer service you should be able to pride yourself on.
At Socially-M, we help brands and businesses manage their online presence and ensure that it mirrors their brand values, matches their tone of voice, tells their story and above all else, that it consistently delivers excellent customer service. If you'd like to know more about what we do, or how we could help you, then feel free to get in touch and start that conversation with us.