According to a recent survey by YouGov 83% of customers are expecting businesses to work harder to keep them during the recession. However, results from the survey suggest that just 5% of respondents felt they had received better customer service in the last three years. As a result of these results more people are complaining about service. However, the channels people are choosing to complain through are changing rapidly. Whilst 63% use email and 41% still use telephone, an impressive 20% of people are now using social media as a channel to complain about customer service. This figure rises significantly to 36% for 18-24 year olds.
These statistics suggest that brands can be using social media as a great way of improving customer satisfaction. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook allow users and brands to engage in real-time with no locational needs. This means that whilst customers can go straight to the brand, brands can also come to their customers to deal with any complaints or queries they have. Using various monitoring tools, a brand can monitor users mentioning the companies name and gage whether or not the sentiments are positive or negative. This means that if any particular user is making negative comments about a brand, the company can interact with that particular customer and attempt to deal with their problems.
The issue however is that many brands are slow to react to these changes and as such are failing to take advantage of this great opportunity. Despite this, there are a number of brands using social media platforms effectively in order to improve customer service. Three of the top brands are as follows;
Zappos.com focuses on using social media platforms to create genuine connections with their customers. Instead of attempting to simply pushing products through sales and promotions, Zappos staff will happily spend time looking for products they don’t stock, despite making no money from the sale. This stellar approach to customer service is helping Zappos build customer appreciation and trust in the brand. What the brand recognise is that social media gives its customer a voice, this combined with blogs means that disgruntled customers have the potential to reach millions globally and therefore affect their buying patterns. Therefore Zappos take a long-term strategy believing it is better to shed positive light on the company in the hope of making a future sale, rather than making instant profit. All interactions between staff and customers are completely transparent in order to make customers feel more comfortable in reaching out to the brand.
Pottery Barn is a strange example as it shows exceptional customer service online doesn’t always translate to offline. One customer, Jennifer Hellum, sought help from customer services after the glass top on her Pottery Barn table shattered in the Arizona heat last summer. After calling the customer service line, as well as the store where she purchased the table, she was left unsatisfied as they had been unable to resolve her query. Jennifer didn’t give up there however, instead she posted photos of the broken item on Pottery Barn’s Facebook fan page, and was miraculously contacted within 30 minutes from a customer relations representative who found her a new tabletop and reimbursed her for it.
The company uses its Facebook profile to engage with customers, however, also uses the Pottery Barn YouTube channel to build the community online. They have videos including how-to’s for party planners, designer profiles and featured products. By giving advice to consumers and giving them a story beyond the products Pottery Barn gives consumers much more than just a product and as such builds up a great relationship with them – a proactive form of customer service.
Boingo’s social media presence encompasses technical support, customer engagement and community building making it a great example of exemplary customer service via social media. Boingo uses Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and LinkedIn to engage with its customers. On Twitter the brands representatives scan for customers with both positive and negative sentiments towards the brand and seek to engage with them. Any customers listing technical issues are immediately engaged with as representatives seek to address any issues they have, whilst any positive sentiment is re-tweeted with sincere, non-corporate messages of thanks. Each of the companies three customer service representatives have their names and headshots on the profile page in order to add to the transparency of their tweets. Boingo also uses its Facebook page to engage with customers and troubleshoot, whilst also building communities. Despite a few company or product posts, the majority of Boingo’s posts are relevant links, videos and discussion questions. A whole variety of topics are displayed across their Facebook page showing that Boingo understands the interests of its community members and is using the space to do more than just draw attention to its own brand.
With the number of social networking sites constantly growing it can become very hard to know where to begin with using online social media to engage with consumers. There is currently a growing London social media scene with a number of really good agencies that can help guide you through the minefield of social media customer engagement.
There is plenty more information out there if this is a topic that interests you, so get looking and good luck.