Social media created a revolution. People from all over the world could easily connect with each other and share opinions, reviews and ideas in real-time. Websites like Facebook and Twitter allow readers to discuss their likes and dislikes in a very public and very well attended venue.

Social Media Websites
Photo credit: newsusacontent

Corporations quickly realized that social media websites were the coffee houses of the future. But unlike coffeehouses, the internet allowed everyone to speak. It was possible for large companies to set up their own webpage, website or even group on social media websites where they could promote or defend their policies and products. The next step was inevitable and obvious.  Companies reached out to customers directly through social media and social media customer service was born. More and more companies started using social technologies to satisfy customers and it worked. Now, every company has an internet footprint on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or THE BIG THREE social media websites.

No matter what network you choose, it has to fulfill a few basic objectives for you and your company. Here are the 7 Tips to Improve Customer Service Using Social Media Sites:

1.     Target customers that are specific to your geographical area and product.

Targeting customers using Social Media
Photo credit: esalesdata

Almost all Social Media websites now have this search option and several more tools that are used to find a specific consumer base. Facebook and Twitter have targeted search engines that can filter users according to age, geographical locations and interests.2.     Service recovery:  Customers feel special when companies respond to them directly addressing their complaints. However, small businesses can easily use social media forums to reply to negative or positive comments and then set a positive example. For example, the internet has been filled with reports of chefs responding angrily to negative Yelp comments written by customers. However, Chef John Howie of John Howie Steak responding positively to every comment published on Yelp. He used the website as an independent review board and responded to every comment through YouTube. As a result, customers were empathized with and they even returned to the restaurant even after they had posted negative reviews. Compare this with famous food truck-chef-turned-restaurateur, Jason Quinn, who wrote five paragraphs of rebuttal for a Yelp customer comment and ended it with the whopper, “Burn in Hell.”

3.     Establish professional credibility: A good social media site should establish the reputation of the company online. The forum can be used to address negative complaints, industry rumors or even employee problems.  Linkedin is particularly recommended for this reason. The website instantly creates professional footprint on the internet and it is an excellent site for customers or business contacts quickly checking company history. For personal contacts, Facebook and Twitter are better as they are informal and they allow a personal communication style. Customers can read company posts, comment on them and generally feel that they are a part of the company.

4.     Evaluate perception: Social media allows customers to be frank and open. That means they can tag you company, pan it or even boycott it publicly in front of the entire internet world. This may seem silly but consider the fact that Facebook reported as many 100 billion hits per day; that means more than 100 billion people reading negative comments or positive reviews about your company. Having a strong online presence could help you face and control your online perception quickly and effectively.

5.     Special social networking divisions: Companies like Southwest and Comcast now have employees called Social Network Liaisons whose only job is to check social media for their company name. These employees aggressively note down and take active action to promote positive posts and to control chaos in the case of negative posts.  In a recent survey, 29% customers reported that positive reviews or posts on social media websites were the primary factor influencing their product purchases.  Customers were also net-savvy in the fact they realized that negative reviews or comments about a company were inevitable. However, companies that actively replied to negative comments and proactively sought to help the aggrieved customer were more likely to be trusted for their customer service efficiency.

6.     Determine what competitors are doing:

Competitors are inevitable in every field but social media is used very constructively to counter competition and to increase customer awareness of company products. For example, Waitrose, the luxury UK grocery store set up a campaign where it encouraged Twitter readers to complete the sentence “I shop at Waitrose because….” Unfortunately, the campaign backfired with customers deriding the company cynically and even viciously.  For the company, it was a wake-up call to what customers thought about the company and it also provided competitor companies with an easy way to pull Waitrose customers in to their own stores.

7.     Customer training:

Training on how to use Social Media for Customer Service
Photo Credit: Incion Design Team

For most companies, getting customers to follow basic maintenance and servicing procedures can be really tough. Social media can really help in training customers and ensuring that they work with the company to care for their products. For example, in Australia, it is common for restaurants to post the names of no-show customers on Twitter. Other restaurants note down the names and usually refuse restaurant bookings to these customers.  This encourages customers to verify their bookings or cancel well in advance. The same policy was adapted by the Bugs Burger Bug Killer Company to promote their services. The company guaranteed complete bug-free environments provided the customer followed their maintenance and cleanliness standards. It set up a Twitter account which encouraged customers to follow its maintenance principles by sending regular updates.As a company, you should realize that social media provides unlimited opportunities to make customers happy. Negative comments are inevitable but dealing with them the right way can actually make the company come out looking much better than before.