Social media has always been about two way conversations. For too long, companies have been treating their social media channels like how they treat mass communciations channels – shouting advertising messages at the customer: Buy this! Like us! Follow us! Tell your friends!
Brands have jumped onto social and grabbed at whatever popular tools they can – setting up a Facebook page, Twitter account and so on and believing that social is a cheap and easy way to win customers’ attention and wallets. But getting a return on investment is just that – it needs investment. Without the right resources in place to cope with the demands of being on social platforms, brands risk putting off a huge portion of customers, both existing and potential ones.
Social media expected to lead customer service in the future
A study by Conversocial of 513 respondents put a harsh spotlight on the lack of customer service on social media sites… and the painful consequences.
78% believe that social media platforms will soon entirely replace other means of customer service altogether.
Note that within the study, a slight majority (50.7%) of respondents currently use social media to communicate with brands. So although not all consumers are using social media to communicate with brands, a large majority of them still believe that social media customer service is the way to go. And it’s no surprise, really, because by 2017 the Millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 2000) will have more buying power than any other generation. As early social media adopters, they often understand social better than the brands trying to reach them. They are making their own rules of commerce and it is time for brands to catch up with their expectations, or suffer.
The price of ignoring your customers
If personally ignored by companies on social media sites, 45% of respondents said they’d feel anger, and 27.1% said they would stop doing business with the company altogether. Ouch.
If you thought that was painful – the next statistic is even scarier.
If they went onto a company’s social media site and saw that other people’s complaints were left unanswered, 88.3% said they’d be less likely to do business with that company in the future.
Keeping in mind that the respondents were split about half-half with regard to having communicated with brands on social media sites, it shows that even people who don’t communicate with brands are still silently watching and judging when brands fail to respond to other customers. Ultimately, the conversations that a brand has with its customers is a public social space represent the brand – and if these conversations fail to impress, it’s a big hit to purchase intent.
Social customer service needs investment
Social customer service is impossible to ignore and will only become more important in the future as Millennials and digital natives become the main spenders. Today’s consumers’ opinions are no longer within their own bubble of experience with the company, but are influenced by the experiences of others.
Companies, especially bigger ones, may say that it is too hard to keep up with the stream of questions and complaints on their social channels.
The first step is to have a community manager who listens and responds to customers quickly and appropriately on social channels. However, this also has its limitations – a community manager may not know all the ins and outs of a company’s processes. For example, if a customer asks a very specific question on Facebook, only certain employees may have the right answers.
Hence, it’s best when social isn’t the responsibility of a single department or person – it should touch every aspect of the company and all employees should be involved in providing the help and answers that customers are demanding on social channels (being a social business).
Customers will expect attention and service from a company, regardless of whether they’ve phoned the customer service centre, tweeted them, or asked a question on Facebook. Only 4% of CMOs are currently leveraging social media to provide faster handling and customer care. It’s time for companies to recognise the influence that social media has over the new breed of consumer, and invest the appropriate resources into maintaining these channels for customer service, and solidify their reputation online for the long term.