20 years ago, customer service consisted of a toll-free phone number and a call center. If customers had problems with or questions about your service, they could call and talk to a customer service representative (CSR).
While there are still a few companies who consider a toll-free phone number sufficient for customer service, many cutting-edge companies are not only using social media to listen and respond to customer questions and complaints, but they’re doing it well.
I recently had two separate customer service interactions with large national telecommunications companies entirely through Twitter.
Bright House Networks
My first experience was with Bright House Networks, my local cable provider. I tweeted out a question to my followers about which home internet provider I should go with.
Quick poll: Should I stick with AT&T or switch to BrightHouse for home internet?
— Jeremy A Williams (@jeremyawilliams) December 2, 2014
Notice that I didn’t mention Bright House’s or AT&T’s Twitter handles in my tweet? Less than 6 minutes after my tweet, @BrightHouseCare tweeted me back:
@jeremyawilliams Hi Jeremy! I going to vote go with Bright House Networks =0) I may be biased though! Here if you have questions. ~Deanna
— Bright House Care (@BrightHouseCare) December 2, 2014
Soon after, I started communicating through Direct Message (DM) with Deanna at Bright House and within the hour, she had answered all my questions and I had set up a time for installation – entirely through Twitter. I never had to pick up the phone. Another thing I appreciated about my experience with Bright House is that every time I’ve tweeted with a question I’ve dealt with the same CSR.
In case you wondered, AT&T never got in touch asking me to keep my current service with them.
My second experience was with Verizon Wireless. I’d been having some problems with my phone and I tweeted to ask for some help:
— Jeremy A Williams (@jeremyawilliams) December 9, 2014
Verizon did reply to my first tweet exactly an hour later, but throughout the day, it took slightly more than an hour to receive a responses after each tweet I sent them. On top of that, four separate CSRs were involved in a total of 5 tweets to me – there wasn’t any consistency with the person I was dealing with.
When we moved the conversation to direct messages, I was asked for my account number and password (very strange), and again chatted with 4 separate CSRs over the course of about 6 messages. On top of it all, they used some corporate jargon and the messages all seemed like canned responses instead of an actual conversation.
1. Listen First
People are talking about your brand, whether you know about it or not. Even if you decide not to use social media for customer service, you should begin active social listening to at least understand what your customers are saying about you.
In the example above, Bright House Networks likely set up a social listening campaign to catch mentions of their company name to immediately engage customers when they needed help. By listening to what consumers are saying about your brand, you can make an informed decision about what resources you need to devote to social customer service.
2. Consumers Expect a Response
According to Convince & Convert, 42% of consumers who complain to a brand on social media expect a response within the hour! Whether that’s realistic or not, it’s what consumers expect.
A study commissioned by Lithium shows that when brands provide timely social media response, 34% of consumers are more likely to buy from that company and 42% are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media. In other words, if you meet your consumers’ expectations on social media, they’ll become brand advocates for your company.
3. Offer Multi-Channel Support
Consumers won’t always take the time to search your website for your (sometimes quite difficult to find) customer service email address, phone number or a contact form. It’s much easier for them to post a message on Facebook or Google+ or send a tweet asking for customer service help. By offering customer service through multiple channels, you’re increasing number of customers you can respond to.
Perhaps even more important is responding to customers on the same channel where they contacted you. There’s not much more frustrating than tweeting to a company about a problem and having their response be: “Call our customer service line at…“. In the example below, a customer simply asks if he can bring a suit with him on his flight and he’s told to call a phone number to answer his question:
@ch1is Please call us at 18003576594 or +4781521815 for further details.
— Norwegian (@Fly_Norwegian) September 16, 2014
Does your company use social media to help customers where and when they need help?