How to Provide Customer Service in Social Media Channels

(Updated 2/18/13) Social media impacts companies every day, yet most still don’t have a strategy to integrate it into their core business. Shockingly, many companies still ignore social media service opportunities – and at their own peril.

recent article in Business Insider noted that over 97% of tweets go unnoticed, unread and are not acted upon.

This trend is changing, however, as more and more companies are recognizing the need to provide customer service within social media channels. Time Warner Cable seems to be doing a great job of it, and even has a neat infographic that depicts their process and the results. (Thanks to Heba Hosny for her post at Garious.com “Attention Social Media Marketers: Learn How To Use Social Media For Customer Service

Christianna Giordano at socialmediatoday says in her article “Answer My Tweet!: Customer Service and Social Media“, the first step is to actually do something!

“The number one rule for successful social media customer service is action. Answer those tweets, comment on the Facebook posts, because in the end, customers just want acknowledgement and social media can provide an outlet to do just that.”

What Christianna and pretty much everyone else out there is saying about social media engagement is obvious: do it, and do it now! Convinced social media servicing is an important initiative, customer experience management professionals are now looking for an answer to the question “How do I provide customer service in social media channels?”

Here are four basic steps to take to provide customer service in social media.

1. Integrate social with all other channels

Social channels are now comparable to traditional touchpoints in terms of importance and deserve integration in the overall communications mix. Anything less than full integration creates data and communications silos that can create a fragmented customer experience. Whatever tools you chose to interact with social customers, make sure they can be integrated into your overall communications platform.

2. Monitor social activity

Monitor social media activity to know what customers are saying about a brand and its competitors. Many companies track instances of their name (i.e. @USAN_Solutions), but there are plenty of occasions when commenters don’t use the @ symbol to identify their targets. In this Business Insider article Jim Edwards says “only 3 percent of tweets carried the “@” symbol that allows Twitter users to know that someone has mentioned them. About 97 percent of tweeters simply wrote the store name using regular text — which ordinary users can only find if they constantly search Twitter for that name.”

3. Respond to social media dialogues

Monitoring is only half the equation. Responding is the natural, and most critical next step. Some social media products listen for comments and track conversations (Radian6, a salesforce.com acquisition, is best known for this capability), but most lack the ability to take immediate action or drive existing business processes. While knowing what is being said in social channels is valuable, responding to social dialogues in real-time across channels can be a game changer for consumers and service providers.

4. Present relevant offers

In the process of interacting with a social customer, inevitably there will be opportunities to offer personalized and relevant offers. With a responsive strategy in place to drive sales and counter competitive offers in social media channels, companies can achieve an undeniable competitive advantage that few companies can counter.

5. Manage customer interactions in real-time

When a company can provide real-time service to customer inquiries and requests through Facebook or Twitter, customers are impressed. While this may become a ho-hum, minimum expectation in the future, customer service responsiveness in a social setting can have a significantly positive impact on a consumer’s perception of a brand. Of course, with a good rapport and sense of satisfaction from social media servicing, it will be easier for a company to build and nurture relationships for long-term growth and profitability.

USAN provides a multi-channel customer engagement platform that can help companies accomplish these social media servicing activities, and virtually any customer communication initiative. Learn more about our engagement solutions and contact us if you have questions. In the meantime, please continue to visit our blog and check out other great sites like Business Insider and socialmediatoday.