Actually, I don’t think it’s so much an issue of marketing VERSUS customer service as it is an issue of using customer service to SUPPORT your marketing efforts, especially in social media. In fact, Richard Branson, of Virgin Group, puts together teams containing both marketing and customer service in his social media teams. That’s because social media is a convenient place for customers to COMPLAIN about your product or service.

Facts about customer service

Here are some facts to consider when planning for customer service:

1. ROI (Return on Investment) – it costs 5 times as much to REPLACE a dissatisfied customer as to retain a customer.

2. Negative word of mouth travels much faster (and farther) than positive word of mouth — especially in social media where it might go viral.

3. More customers complain in social media than traditional outlets.

4. Customers are more likely to ask for help in social networks than to call your help desk.

Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about how customers use social media as a means to customer service and the impact of this on your business. Infographic courtesy of: The Social Help Desk Revolution — Brought To You By

It really doesn’t matter how great a job you do attracting customers, if you can’t keep them you’ll likely FAIL. Yet, many businesses act like they don’t appreciate their customers and don’t respond to questions or complaints posted on Twitter or Facebook. Not only does this customer failure cost them existing customers, it influences likely new customers to look elsewhere for their needs.

There are just SO MANY options out there, why would a consumer take a chance on a product or service panned by a friend.

Adequate customer service can turn such negative comments into positives.

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Using social customer service to build (or destroy) your brand

  1. Assign specific employees to monitor social media channels looking for complaints, questions, or even compliments. And have a back-up in case that person is out or quits. Remember, the internet is 24/7, so don’t just staff during business hours.
  2. Listen carefully for comments both on owned social media and other social media.
  3. Triage comments quickly to determine priorities and who is in the best position to address the comment. For instance, questions might go to technical support staff, complaints to customer service, and compliments to marketing staff.
  4. Establish standards to assess the effectiveness of your social customer service. For instance, you might set a standard response for a complaint at 4 hours.
  5. Handling social customer service is a PROCESS that should involve follow-up to ensure customers are satisfied at the end of the process.

Reducing customer complaints/ questions

Of course, handling customer service failures is NOT the way to run a successful business. Rather, organizations should be on a mission to constantly IMPROVE customer service that stops complaints BEFORE they happen and builds positive word of mouth.

  1. Train employees to provide superior customer service — especially forward-facing employees (those who directly interact with customers).
  2. Monitor that employees perform their roles in a manner ensuring superior customer service. Just yesterday a Facebook friend complained about an employee spending time on her smartphone rather than greeting customers. Create standards to assess individual employees and tie rewards to this assessment.
  3. Communicate with customers to ensure satisfaction and identify areas for improvement. Your listening post is a great place for this.
  4. Superior customer service is an evolving process. Constantly improve training and update standard to ensure continued superior customer service.

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