How to Provide Exceptional Customer Service Via Social Media
In the retail space, social media has brought on a new progression of relating to customers and driving experience and sales out of those relationships. This social media landscape has produced new and highly targeted and personal ways of communicating. It's introduced new rules for competing with other brands. With all of the socially unforeseen twists in the competitive environment, one thing is certain: this is a socially networked world and it calls for devoted and calculated participation for all brands across sectors. For retailers, this always-present method of communicating with their customers has propelled a new foundation in customer service.
How Social Media Can Support Friends and Influence Sales
Providing great personal and social experiences has always been the foundation of great retail. It's not a coincidence that the key word in social media is "friends." Retailers who accrue friends on social networks by providing exceptional service garner customer loyalty and more sales. The 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer Study showed two-thirds of customers are willing to spend more with a company that provides excellent service on social media. Consumers who have used social media for service wield the greatest amount of influence, and spend an average 21 percent more with companies that deliver great service compared to 13 percent on average.
Social Service and Support
Today the leading social media channels for service are Twitter and Facebook by virtue of their scale. Also important are branded community websites with dedicated ask-and-answer applications, discussion forums and even just blogs. The benefits of social service include the following:
- Higher quality: Social service delivers high quality for both customers and retailers. It has vast reach and exists in an organized structure (e.g., content streams, databases, search, IDs, etc.). It brings in more information from customers, with more detail, enabling retailers to better understand and organize issues, develop resolutions, deploy faster, and adjust. A key principle of social media is nobody is as clever as everybody. Social media affords retailers the opportunity to leverage the knowledge of customers. When our team deployed online customer service for Apple in the 1990s, we found that because Apple's millions of customers use the products a great deal more than Apple could, they helped the company build up an incredible knowledge base of what worked, what didn't and what to do about it.
- Less waiting in line: Social media is always accessible to customers to ask a question and get an answer. In retail terms, this means customers don't have to wait in a line to get help, whether in-store or on a phone queue.
- Let's get personal: The ultimate in retail is personal service. Social empowers a retailer to provide it at scale, having one-to-one conversations via the internet's global reach.
- Cost savings: Social media provides retailers with the opportunity to increase customer service quality while simultaneously reducing costs. Fully allocated phone support costs range from $10 per inquiry (offshore true cost) to $23, $50 or even over $100 per inquiry, depending on the industry. Email and live chat support tend to range from $5 to $10 per inquiry. Social can be considerably less, in part because the service rep can work faster and handle multiple inquiries at once. Another factor is that customers will often support each other through a social venue. When a rep is involved, the social range is usually $2 to $5 per inquiry. When customers support each other, the cost is zero. When we first deployed an ask-and-answer program for eBay, it immediately saved millions per year compared to email support, thus paying for the entire social media program in a matter of months.
The Human Element
Customers like and respond to social service due to the fundamentals of human nature. People care about being listened to. Often such acknowledgement is more important to a customer than actual resolution of the problem. Customers also like to hear from other customers. Ironically, knowing other people are having the same issue often makes a customer feel better.
To get your company's social service program started, first develop goals, strategies and a plan. Foster a social cultural model consistent with your brand's values. Commit to and focus on social service from top to bottom in your company. Seek out customer feedback, issues and questions. Engage personally and socially. Be transparent and authentic. That is, acknowledge issues, what you can and can't do about them. People understand that nothing is perfect. They don't understand and don't take well to being misled or left in limbo.
Listen to their needs and wants, really talk with them, and create highly personalized experiences. Social service is simply taking these age-old retail principles to new heights in our socially networked world.
One of the greatest outcomes of social media for retailers is the commonality. It's no longer about the size of a company; whether big or small, the playing field has been leveled. With social media, small retailers can reach beyond themselves and their region to connect with customers that would have otherwise been far beyond their locality. Now they can create an online presence that knows no bounds. Today's social media landscape is driven by dedication, time and focus — size is no longer grounds for being dismissed or unheard. Creating noteworthy, relevant customer service experiences has been amplified by our socially networked world, opening up new realms of possibility and opportunity for recognition.