Customer service is the lifeblood of any business. A good customer service is not only about sustaining existing customers but also to attract new base. This has actually heralded a new era of proactive customer service through research, innovation and analysing trend that is quickly becoming the differentiator of brand image. This phenomenon influences smaller firms much more than the traditional big players.

A SDL case study on the Belgian telecom company Belgamcom proves how effectively businesses are using radical measures to create unique brand image.

The emergence of Social media as a communications channel

The 2012 Life on Demand Study by Performics reveals that more and more consumers- more aptly called participants- are constantly connecting through social media.

“These new Participants are comfortable increasingly replacing real-time communications with social media interactions,” said Daina Middleton, Global CEO of Performics. “In this new social normal – one where people prefer online communication and maintain high expectations about two-way relationships – brands must utilize social channels to build exceptional, interactive digital experiences.”

Organisations are realising that they no longer can ignore social media as a channel that can revolutionise consumer and client relationship. However, there are few companies that have grasped just how fundamentally social media will transform business over the next few years.

The impact is across sector. Take the tourism industry – information on social media sites plays an important role as a study (Olery Infographics about The Naked Truth about Hotel Reviews) has found that 81% of travellers find user reviews important, while 49% of travellers won’t book a property without reviews.

Step out Reactive Service, Step in Proactive Service

It is not uncommon to find companies using social media platforms to try to communicate more effectively with their customers, answer queries, provide advice, and deal with customer complaints in real time. This is the direct communication aspect of using social media. There are other companies who are using the same social media platforms to gather and analyse information related to customer’s likes, dislikes and perceptions about the product or brand. They are also analysing how their competition is performing on social media websites. It is likely that usage for these purposes may turn out to work more effectively than trying to simply offer customer service through social media channels.

Engineering the right customer service through social media engagement

It is easy to understand the benefits of harnessing the social media engagement to build a brand image. However, it could backfire instantly. A Conversocial report has revealed that 55 per cent were disappointed by big brands’ communication on social media.

So, it also important for brands, more so for smaller brands to use these platforms in such a way that it wins them customers’ confidence as well as maintain a level of transparency.

Brands such as Subway have managed to take social customer service to the next level through their tweets. According to a survey, Subway sandwich franchise outperformed its dining industry peers in communicating with customers over social media platforms.

Head of Subway’s social media team Paul Bamundo, commented. “With nearly 15 million friends on our Facebook page and over 555,555 followers on Twitter, we spend a tremendous amount of time not only sharing news about special promotions at Subway, but also listening, responding and amplifying customers’ stories or their concerns to make sure they know they are being heard.”

Small businesses are faced with the challenge of prioritizing available resources towards activities that are guaranteed to deliver the most impact. The need to provide outstanding customer service with the help of social media is felt by an increasing number of small businesses.

Take for instance, the Hamburger chain Smashburger, which grew from three Denver locations in 2007 to 150 outposts nationwide. Apart from the Angus-beef burgers and unique toppings, its secret sauce is believed to be social-media outreach. Here’s how. Smashburger offers coupons and trivia contests for its Facebook followers (who are now over 67,000). The chain also replies to questions and complaints on its social networking platforms including Twitter and Facebook and reaches out to bloggers who are likely to write about Smashburger restaurants. Businesses can use this example and use social media to monitor a brand and protect its reputation online.

All of these points to the simple fact that brands who are not actively engaging with their customers through social media do so at their peril. Today’s net savvy  consumers have their own expectations and will spend more when they get good service but the moment it drops they change preference at the drop of a button.

The crux of the social media engagement for small businesses is to create a niche within peers while staying afloat on the same playing field.

Having a “presence” in social media is worthless unless you “use” social media activities in an aligned manner with clear goals.

Customer relationship management is now the mainstay in small businesses too. They are recognizing the fact that monitoring customer feedback, responding to complaints and providing customer support using social media is incredibly valuable. Take for instance the fashion retailer ‘ASOS Here to Help,’ Twitter account, which was set up as an entirely separate entity from the ASOS’ “marketing” Twitter account.

Organizations across the world are either interested in or already using social media channels for large-scale customer service issues such as explaining outages, highlighting policy changes or even apologizing for hiccups in sales and service support. This is a great start and companies should take the initiative to use this medium on a proactive basis. It has been proven that well-informed, researched responses in a timely and personal tone address the customers like they would want to be addresses, like a real person not another number in the service queue.

Proactive Customer Service – Differentiated Customer Experience

The science of customer relationships is pretty simple – the value you get (in terms of customer loyalty and brand recognition) is directly proportionate to the value you give. To achieve and maintain this harmony, today’s companies must seek to use social media channels to help establish a dialogue with customers that lets them know that the company is aware of their information needs also respects the mode of communication. It is important to develop and implement a listening strategy across all social media channels to identify and resolve issues before they spin out of control. The goal of proactive customer service is to serve customers with useful information when they need it the most and social media usage addresses that effectively. At blueocean, the social intelligence part of our proactive customer service solution will gradually transition users to a self-service model & build newer channels of brand access.

Also see the following reports

SDL case study

TRAVELTHINK e-News No. 8, July 2012

Conversocial report

Subway’s Tweets Top List

Social Media Raises the Stakes for Customer Service

Social media activities in an aligned manner with clear goals

Image Courtesy : fourfiveone.com

 

 

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