It would be pretty redundant to say that the internet has changed the business market in recent years – social media has undeniably changed the game for retailers in today’s market both for online retailers and older brands. There is now a lot of discussion about how businesses can properly utilise social media in order to make a connection with their client base. According to internet based research group Gartner, ignoring contact through social media will eventually become as harmful for businesses as it is to ignore emails and phone calls today.
Gartner then goes on to say that it is important for businesses to develop a set of rules and guidelines for responses to contact through social media but this is where I believe their pre-planned strategy gets a little out of hand:
“The designated social media leader or team must decide how to categorize comments. For example, some comments about a general issue may simply require monitoring and assessment before a general response is issued, whereas others may require an immediate and personal response and further monitoring.”
Whilst it is certainly important to listen to the voice of your customer base and to take them very seriously, social media is an entirely different way of communicating than businesses have had before and it needs to be treated appropriately. Social media is more often than not, simply a platform for content that is based on the interest of users.
If a customer connects to a business through social media it is far less likely to be about a serious issue or problem than it would be if they had made a phone-call or an email. Often, what customers are looking for from a business online is a small human connection that you can’t get from phoning customer service. Social media give you the opportunity to be much more warm and welcoming as well as informal than it is possible to be in any other form of communication.
Rather than developing strategies, guidelines and rules for how to respond, think about the human approach, as well as the personal. Customers will enjoy feeling like they are connecting with a real person as well as seeing that the business itself has a personality. Pick a small team of employees that you trust, to manage social media as part of their usual responsibilities, they will know the most about the company itself and as long as they are a trusted employee with appropriate communication skills and customer management, you can be confident that they aren’t going to make any kind of terrible faux-pas.
It can be a nice touch to give these employees their own accounts rather than a faceless company account. Responses seem so much more personal coming from @SamCocaCola for example rather than just the business name itself.
If there is a complaint being made, it’s important to remember that social media is unique because it is both a platform and a communication tool. Complaints or issues are a great opportunity for your team to display exceptional customer service by dealing with the problem quickly, personally and reasonably.
Social media gives customers the opportunity not just to interact with a business, but with the people behind the business. If businesses enable and encourage this connection, the dialogue that you could set up can be very satisfying for their customer base and very rewarding for the business itself.