When brands first began to use social media and made it their goal to collect thousands of fans and followers to which they could eagerly promote their marketing messages, they weren’t really thinking about those fans and followers posting and tweeting back with suggestions, complaints, questions, support requests and their own opinions of the brand. But there was something about social media that quickly empowered consumers to say, “Okay, you’re always asking for my attention; now I want yours.”
Though a recent IBM study predicts that social media will become the number two customer interaction method within the next three to five years, most consumers don’t currently utilize a Facebook-first service strategy. But here are four reasons why customers will turn to social media over a more traditional channel for service and support.
1. They’ve had trouble contacting you on other channels. Have you ever sent an email or filled out a form on a company’s website and never received a reply? Been entirely unable to find a phone number for customer service? It’s like the brand is giving you no choice but to give them a public shout-out on Facebook.
2. Social media is extremely convenient. For customers who don’t want to search for their account number, can’t recall their login information, or just can’t stand another minute on hold listening to the instrumental version of “Hey Macarena,” social media provides a no wait, straight shot to the front of the line.
Customers can ping a brand about any real-time experience, and if they don’t answer, someone else will surely chime in. “Is your website down?” “Anyone else without power?” “The service is sooo slow here. Been waiting for almost an hour. Isn’t there anyone here who can help?”
While these real-time customer interactions may seem problematic for some brands, with the proper monitoring tools in place, social customers can serve as the incredibly beneficial canary in the coal mine, alerting businesses or organizations of a problem early on so it can be resolved before it becomes a larger issue.
3. Customers believe they will get a faster and more positive reply on social media. Because of its very public nature, there is a growing expectation that brands should respond like Pavlov’s dog to the ring of the social customer service bell. And with customer service performance on Facebook and Twitter often being secretly measured, rated and reported on by the likes of Nielsen and STELLAService, maybe more brands should be standing at the ready.
4. They want their voices to be heard loud and clear. Whether it’s to publicly praise a product or to bash a brand for a PR or service gaffe, there’s no other channel where a customer’s raves or rants reverberate as though shouted through a megaphone. And as many companies and organizations have discovered, one person’s voice can quickly draw a crowd.
For empathy, crowdsourcing a solution or starting a customer revolution, there’s no channel that will get a determined consumer farther faster than social media. And consumers can say exactly what they want, and are becoming more and more creative with their customer service questions and complaints on social media. Take for instance, the viral service complaint, “United Breaks Guitars,” seen on YouTube by more than 12 million people now.
Two tips for brands as social media emerges to join the ranks of phone and email as a dominant customer service channel: (1) make it easy for customers to contact you on other channels so they don’t have to turn to social media in frustration (2) put in place social customer service processes now that will help your brand monitor, respond to and deflect customer communications as they continue to grow.