Improve customer service with social listening

Lend me your ear

Time is a commodity. That’s why droves of customers are turning to social media to effectively get their problems resolved. It’s quick, public, and a heck of a lot less painful than waiting on hold. According to a report published by Conversocial, as many as 50 percent of customers are now actively using social for customer service. What’s more, a majority of these folks will be less likely to buy from companies ignoring social complaints. So what’s a small business like yours to do? Listen up.

The changing landscape of social media

As social media evolves, so must your customer service strategy. These days, not only must you engage customers on social; you have to also quickly respond to their complaints and resolve their issues. Otherwise, you will pay the price in lost business.

By understanding the challenges of customer service via social listening and developing a proactive plan — rather than being caught off-guard by a complaint — you will be able to turn potentially negative situations into a positive customer experience. Your work is to:

  • Consider a plan that increases focus on social listening.
  • Evaluate the proper social monitoring tools.
  • Tailor your customer service processes to best fit your business.

Not sure whether it’s worth the effort? Just consider that 90 percent of upset customers can be retained with great customer service.

The challenge of social listening for customer service

Your marketing or communications departments should certainly understand the impact of social media on your organization. Typically, the budget for listening via social channels is within their control. The snag is, often times, they don’t regularly access a customer database. This delays response times to customers via social media, and that’s bad.

Even when an organization opens up social media monitoring to a customer service department, other challenges arise. Historically, customer service representatives coordinate conversations in a one-to-one or private manner such as phone or email. But nowadays, these conversations are happening in public for the entire world to witness. Having ownership of social media listening and response in multiple departments will generate additional issues to resolve such as:

  • How data is stored.
  • Who manages the identification.
  • Communication and closure of inquires.
  • Workflow and how customer queries are prioritized.

Most likely, your organization has a very clear set of processes for managing traditional customer service. Now it’s just a matter of integrating social media into the fold. At first, this might open up a number of new problems — particularly because social media is accessible in so many different ways — but you’ve got to start somewhere. I suggest getting your feet wet by understanding the basics of social monitoring and social listening.

Differences between social monitoring and social listening

The key difference between social monitoring and social listening comes down to whether the participant absorbs the information and conversations taking place while also being able to provide additional insight into the conversation. Every conversation in your social listening feed offers something of value. You just have to pay attention to the takeaways.

For sake of example, let’s turn the tables. Consider your last customer service experience that took place over the phone. Did the customer service representative you engaged with take down your request and provide one of the top three solutions to any problem or did the rep actually answer your questions in a quick yet personal and satisfactory way? As a customer in that situation, you were seeking satisfaction to your issue, not just simply that someone was available to service your complaint.

The primary lesson: You cannot simply implement social monitoring; you must engage in social listening to truly provide a better customer experience.

Meeting customer expectations

A survey from Edison Research found that two out of every three people who engage with a company on social media expect a response the same day. These same customers desire this timely response to be personalized to their specific problem.

Expectations run high, and your customers will want an almost immediate response. If your organization does not have an effective social media listening process in place, it will be very difficult to live up to these expectations of nearly real-time communication. Even if you are a small business without dedicated customer support, and if you don’t have an answer at your fingertips, you can let customers know you’re there and that you’re working on their inquiry.

There are some positive takeaways from understanding customer expectations.

In fact, according to an infographic on the MarketingTechBlog, 82 percent of customers will try to resolve an issue they are having with a organization. This means most of your customers will give you the opportunity to put your best foot forward. But be warned, only one in five of those customers will consider coming back to you for a follow-up purchase if you don’t resolve their issue.

The final point to make on social listening for better customer service is that your customer requests and expectations will continue to evolve over time. A solid social listening strategy will require iterative assessments, audits and updates. Your customers will move to new social networks, and find new ways to communicate with you. Your business will need to track the conversations wherever they might be taking place, and adapt with ever-increasing speed.

Those on the cutting-edge are starting to look beyond reactive social media monitoring towards developing proactive outreach activities that go beyond traditional customer support to marketing tactics based upon real-time social trends. These activities will create the need for even closer alignment between marketing and customer service with the end result of providing a more engaging customer experience.

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Bryant Tutterow
Bryant brings over 18 years of business acumen to DK New Media focused on strategic marketing and e-commerce. He has more than a decade of P&L responsibility, leading in-house marketing organizations at Fortune 500 companies and building three separate marketing departments from the ground up into world-class teams of as many as 14 people. As the Chief Marketing Officer for DK New Media, he provides overall strategic direction for marketing and e-commerce while leading business development of all strategic advisory and measured marketing services.