Customer service has never been easy… but at least in the old days, when a customer called to complain, the phone didn’t ring on the CMO’s desk.

So what do you do when your #1 job is to protect your brand in a world where every customer interaction has the potential to go viral – whether it starts on social media or not?

You make social customer service a priority… not a nice to have!

Social Care Stats and Figures

Check out these eye-opening stats we’ve collected about customer behaviors and expectations when it comes to customer service on social media:

  • 1/3 consumers say they prefer to use social care over contacting a company by phone. (source)
  • 47% of all social media users have engaged a brand via social media with a question or complaint. (source)
  • Younger customers are more likely to turn to social; 59% of 18-24 year olds report using social care to handle a service issue. (source)
  • 42% of consumers complaining on social media expect a response from the brand within 60 minutes. (source)
  • 24% of consumers expect a response within 60 minutes regardless of the day or time of the complaint. (source)

What does it all mean? Customers are looking for a meaningful response from your brand on social media days, nights, weekends, and holidays. 24/7/365!

Customers Reward Brands that Provide Great Social Care

Before you start thinking that social care is just something you “have” to do, consider the benefits, too. Brands that commit to serving their customers on social media are not only held up as examples by their marketing and service peers (think: Virgin America and BestBuy), but are consistently rewarded with greater brand loyalty, better customer retention, more repeat purchases, and ultimately higher revenues. (Who doesn’t want that?!?)

And the positive impact on brand reputation extends beyond today’s customers. In fact, a recent study by BazaarVoice found that over 90% of respondents were more likely to purchase from a brand after seeing the brand respond well to customer feedback… and that’s those who observed the interaction, not just the customer herself.

So how do you get ready to provide this kind of winning social customer service experience?

3 Ways to Prepare for Social Care

1. Listen Up!

Set up and tune your social listening dashboard to capture the conversations your team needs to know about. Review recent brand mentions by sentiment to see if you can identify “hotspots” that drive particularly positive or negative comments about your brand. Drill into your historical data to get specific about the feelings, actions, and topics that drive the conversation and whether there are any seasonal trends you’ll need to take into account. You may even find some amazing customer testimonials you can leverage for your social advertising programs!

2. Get (Category) Smart

Don’t stop there! If you’re only listening for mentions of your brand, you could be missing out on up to 90% of relevant conversations!

Take stock of the kinds of questions, complaints, and issues that are popping up for products and services like yours by analyzing your category or industry. What do customers seem to love? What do they hate? Do customers have complaints about a competitor that creates opportunities to differentiate your brand? Which kinds of interactions turn haters into advocates? And which leave customers dissatisfied (or worse)?

This real-time social intelligence gives your team a heads-up on what they need to know to anticipate issues, answer common questions quickly, resolve customer issues, and make smart decisions about which related conversations to join.

3. Watch Your Speed

Without a doubt, customers want a quick response … but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice quality for speed.

In fact, responding too quickly or impersonally may do more harm than good. A quick answer that is incorrect, or sending customers to an FAQ before you understand their issues can be huge turn-offs.

Define your team workflows to ensure that questions that can be answered with a standard response are dispatched quickly, and those that require more engagement are assigned to the right person and followed up on to conclusion.

Social Care Isn’t the Future… It’s the Now

If you haven’t had to figure out a social care strategy for your brand yet, you soon will.

Customers won’t wait for you to hang out your shingle to let them know you’re ready to deal with their issues via social media… they’ll just start showing up. Will your team be ready?

This post originally appeared on the NetBase blog.

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