You may have recently heard about the grand slam homerun scored by the social media and customer service teams at Morton’s Steakhouse.  You can read about “the greatest customer service story ever told” in two short tweets from Peter Shankman, or you can read the fuller coverage his tale has received by mainstream news sites from Forbes to Time to Britain’s Daily Mail.

Here’s the short version.

Shankman, a social media guru and consultant, is a big meat eater and fan of Morton’s Steakhouses.  He was boarding a plane last week at the end of a long day when he shot off a quick tweet about his desire to find a Porterhouse steak waiting for him when he landed in Newark.

You can guess where this is going.

Upon landing at EWR, Shankman was greeted by a tuxedo-clad Morton’s representative bearing gifts: a 24-ounce steak, shrimp appetizer and side of potatoes.  As you might predict, out went another tweet –  to Shankman’s 100,000+ Twitter followers – and the media stories followed.

Shankman swears on his professional career that the event was not staged, but that has not stopped the almost endless speculation, criticism, praise and overall dialogue among both traditional and social media flacks.

Let’s leave that discussion for another day, and instead think about how other companies – including small businesses with Twitter fans and Facebook friends in numbers with fewer zeros – can take a page out of the Morton’s play book.  Even without a famous clientele or a million dollar tweet, using social media smartly can be a part of any company’s customer service program.  Here are just a few quick and easy efforts to consider:

  • Send Facebook fans a birthday greeting from your company.  Facebook will notify you each week about upcoming birthdays among your friends (if those individuals list their birthday in their profiles). It takes only a moment to send a birthday greeting, and shows that you’re interested in your customer as person – not just a business prospect.
  • Recommend a preferred vendor or trusted partner on LinkedIn, or orchestrate a LinkedIn introduction.  Referrals are often mutually beneficial – and they almost always help build stronger relationships.
  • Read your customers’ blogs and, when appropriate, make a positive comment.
  • Follow your customers on Twitter and retweet their good news or positive news coverage.  Send them a direct tweet of congratulations when you read or hear about a company success or notable event.

We all know it takes more effort to land a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Customer service efforts through social media do not require significant time or resources, and can really help differentiate your company from the competition and strengthen relationships.

So how does social media factor into your customer service program?