It is clear that businesses ignoring customers on social media will continue to become increasingly rare. A customer service strategy on social media needs to be formed and implemented urgently if businesses do not want to be left in the wake of their competitors. It is simple: any business that ignores its customers can’t hold out much hope for a prosperous future.
If a customer called you on the phone, you would pick up the handset and speak with them. Businesses that leave the phone ringing (and loops of irritating hold music playing) will leave customers slamming down phones and cursing. So why do so many businesses switch off to communications from their customers via social media?
Tools such as Facebook and Twitter are a great empowerer, giving the man on the street more of a voice than ever before. Customer complaints are quickly flagged up and negative comments can spread infinitely more quickly than in the days of word-of-mouth moans. More than ever, complaints can quickly spread and reverberate through the web, causing real damage to brands.
Social media can appear daunting to many because of its inherently unruly nature, with all communications laid bare for the world to see. While respect can be earned through problem-solving responses, it is also important to understand that any kind of considered response can have a positive impact. O2 shot up in the estimations of many by using humour to field abusive Twitter messages sent its way following a recent system failure.
Social media is all about taking part in conversations with people and connecting. Leaving customer concerns unaddressed will prompt anger and risks severing ties with people who might have a long standing relationship with your brand.
It is simply not good enough to set up an online presence and think that it can be used as a one-way medium, sending out ‘special offer’ messages to legions of loyal customers. A digital silence will grate as much as, and probably even more than, the looped telephone hold music; as they say, silence speaks volumes.
At boardroom level, it is true that mystery surrounds social media correspondence. Many businesses struggle to understand how to effectively create a social media strategy that can prove return on investment (ROI). Equally, many overlook the importance of engaging properly and all too often you see interns managing social media accounts.
Unfortunately, customers could not care less about these headaches facing businesses. They will continue to adopt and use social media sites to contact businesses in ever-increasing numbers, and will be expecting a response.
Boardrooms need to lose their fear of social media and create policies, guidelines and strategies for using these channels to communicate with customers to engage with them rather than ignore them.
Not many CEOs would question the ROI of the telephone for customer service, and that is exactly how they now need to think about social media.