Small businesses are using social platforms to do things like build brand recognition and promote products, but all too often they overlook the advantages of social media for customer service. Consumers who receive prompt social care are not only nearly twice as likely to recommend the brand, they also tend to spend up to 40% more than other buyers.
Fortunately, enhancing customer service through social channels doesn’t require a savvy marketing team or a big budget. Read on to learn more about why and how your small business should integrate customer service into your social media marketing mix.
Making the Case for Social Media Customer Service
A wealth of research shows that the role social media plays in customer satisfaction is growing, yet many small businesses aren’t responding to the trend. As a result, they’re not only losing customers and potential sales, but they’re also missing out on opportunities for growth. Here’s just a sampling of why social media is a great tool to enhance customer service.
- Social media is cheaper than other communication methods.
Handling customer inquiries through social media is considerably less expensive than doing so through a phone call or email. What’s more, nearly one-third of social media users prefer receiving customer service via a social platform.
- More and more, customers are using social media to contact companies.
In 2015, more than 40% of the messages sent to companies via social media required a response — that’s up from 15 percent in 2013.
- Customers often cut-ties with companies that don’t respond to social messages.
On average, only 11% of messages that require a response actually get a reply. Failing to respond to problems or complaints posted on social media can result in a 15% increase in the churn rate of your customers — and it can lead to a flurry of harmful posts.
- Negative posts can do significant damage to your brand.
On average, one negative social media post impacts consumer decisions as much as five positive posts.
How to Set Up a Customer Service Plan for Social Media
Some experts predict that by 2020, customer experience will be more important to consumers than any other factor — including price. Getting on board with social care now can reward your business for years to come. To get started, follow these five basic steps.
- Identify your social customer service ambassador.
Not everyone in your organization has the right mix of skills and experience to successfully represent your brand on social media. Your social media ambassador must have excellent writing skills, above-average judgment, and empathy for your customer. It’s also vital that they’re professional yet personable and can adopt the appropriate tone of voice for a variety of customers and situations.
Keep in mind that filtering through and responding to social messages can be a time-consuming and tedious task — even with a low-to-moderate volume of customer interactions. Evaluate your potential social customer service agent’s current responsibilities carefully before adding to their workload.
- Develop your customer service processes and set goals.
Once you’ve chosen your ambassador, develop a written plan for managing customer service on social media. At a minimum, establish what type of messages should always receive a response, and define criteria by which all interactions are prioritized. For example, you might stipulate that customers’ direct questions must always get a response and that messages expressing dissatisfaction with a product or service should take top priority.
Make sure you’re setting realistic, measureable goals for your social customer service plan, and look for ways to blend it with your traditional customer service methods. Having an agenda that plays to your strengths will help you maximize returns on your efforts.
- Carefully choose which social media platforms you’ll emphasize.
Roll out your social media program slowly, starting with just one or two carefully selected platforms. Once you’re managing a couple of sites well, expand to other social channels.
Don’t forget to research which social outlets are most popular with your demographic, as this will help keep your brand from wasting time on irrelevant sites. For example, Instagram boasts over 400 million monthly active users — roughly 80 million more than Twitter — and in 2015 the number of messages businesses received via Instagram more than doubled. However, only 28% of Internet users aged 30–49 have an account with the site, so if your target market skews toward the 30+ demographic, Instagram may not be the most important platform to work with.
- Send more replies than promotions.
On average, companies send out more than three promotional messages for every one customer reply. This means they’re using social media primarily as a promotional platform rather than as a consumer engagement channel — which implies that selling is more important than customer satisfaction.
Don’t bombard your online community with promotions, and be sure your social media customer service agent has the time and resources to respond to customer messages. After all, happy customers often share their satisfaction, and word-of-mouth is the primary way 85% of small businesses attract new customers.
- Respond in a timely fashion and measure key performance indicators (KPIs).
Response time is a key influencer of customer satisfaction, making it one of the most important KPIs you can measure. Even if the problem can’t be solved immediately, your customer service agent should quickly show customers — and the rest of your online community — that they’ve heard the issue and are working on a solution. Millennials in particular expect a speedy acknowledgement of, and resolution to, their issues. And considering that millennials tend to shape the expectations of other generations, pleasing them with fast social customer service is worth the effort.
In addition to response time, other KPIs worth measuring include inbound volume, handling time, and sentiment conversion — the change in customer sentiment as a result of their interaction with your brand. Platforms like Conversocial can help you track and measure a wealth of social customer care KPIs.
Almost every type of small business can use social platforms to improve customer experience, gain insights, and build relationships. To further streamline your social media account management, consider investing in a reliable business Wi-Fi solution. With a proper wireless connection, you can give your customers the online attention they deserve.