6 Reasons Social Media Is Your Secret Weapon in Customer Service

As more and more consumers expect immediate results, businesses need to be able to react quickly to customers' needs. The best way is to have a customer-service strategy on social media.

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By Daniel Newman • May 5, 2014 Originally published May 5, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We all know the statistic in one way, shape or form: It costs five, six or even seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain one.

While the actual cost difference between acquisition and retention may alter slightly depending on which study you read, there is no mistaking that the cost is exponentially higher to acquire a new customer vs. retaining an existing one. So it is important you are accommodating (considerate) to your current customer base. Indeed, 82 percent of consumers in the U.S. said they stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer experience, according to Customers That Stick, a company focused on the customer-service arena.

To avoid this outcome (one that can have damaging and prolonged effects on a given company) businesses need to ramp up their customer-service game -- and not just by providing mediocre service. Companies should provide the ability to interact, engage and provide superb customer service in real time on social media.

In a survey conducted by research group Loyalty 360, more than 25 percent of businesses indicated they ranked social media as the most effective channel for customer retention. The main reasons being is social-media marketing allows for brands to speak directly to customers (and attract new ones), along with easy access to companies. Unfortunately, not every company has caught the social-media bug. Approximately 70 percent of customer-service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered, according to a study conducted by Maritz and evolve24.

While some people may just think this whole social-media craze is just a fad (and not worth the time or effort), many feel it is here to stay.

Related: Customer Support Is as Easy as 1, 2, 3

So for those 75 percent that of businesses that did NOT rank social media as the most effective channel for customer retention, here are six reasons to get on board.

1. Real time feedback and engagement. Face it, other than a phone call, what other medium allows your company to engage in real time with its customers? And since no one uses their phones -- at least not their mobile phones -- to make actual phone calls, more and more consumers are going to social media for customer-service related issues. (This may also have to do with our short-attention span and need for immediate results.)

"A year ago, when [consumers] got a social media response from a brand on a customer care issue, they were pleasantly surprised. We're getting to the point now that if companies don't respond, they will have a black mark against them," said Dennis Stoutenburgh, the co-founder of Stratus Contact Solutions, a customer-care company, at a panel last year.

2. Keep your customers up to date. Yes, you can send out promotional emails, run display ads and nab television and radio spots to let customers know about timely announcement. But what do you do when you want to remind your customers of these promotions and sales? What do you do if you have a special sale or event that you want to promote very quickly? You turn to social media, the platform that was born for last-minute marketing. A company's followers on social media are the same people who have raised their proverbial hand to indicate a willingness to be kept informed of all goings on within your company.

Related: 4 Common Customer-Service Obstacles (And How to Fix Them)

3. Build trust. Social media allows you the opportunity to build trust with your existing customers, which often results in a stronger relationship between the two parties. When this occurs, there is a greater likelihood of turning a customer into a brand ambassador. When you have these "power customers," they can be used as a great marketing tool to promote your brand through positive reviews and word-of-mouth tactics.

Related: The 7 Musts of Customer Service on Social Media

4. Be there. There was an old infomercial for the Showtime Rotisserie Grill and the company used the tagline "set it and forget it." While that may have worked then,it doesn't work now -- especially when it comes to social media. Remember the operative words here are "real time," as in you need to engage, respond and interact with your customers who reach out to you via social media.

5. Stay relevant. Marketers need to remember to engage with customers about the things that are relevant to them, especially in the context of customer service. If someone has an issue and expresses it through social media, don't use that as a chance to try and sell them something. Instead address his or her concerns.

6. Be mindful of your tone. Andrew McCauley (also known as the social-media bloke) is the co-founder of the digital-media agency AutoPilot Your Business. In a recent blog post he wrote "automatic, scripted or canned responses are unacceptable in terms of customer care. Today's socially savvy customer wants -- and expects -- a personal response. Just like any form of customer-service training, any of your team members who respond to social media inquiries or complaints should be trained to use a tone that is appropriate for not only the type of message they receive, but for the type of customer they receive it from."

And he couldn't be more right. Customers are very sensitive to tone, so it is always best to error on the side of caution.

Related: Build Great Customer Service Into Your Business With These 5 Tips

Daniel Newman

President of Broadsuite

Dan Newman is the president of Broadsuite where he works side by side with brands big and small to help them be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. He is also the author of two books, is a business professor and a huge fan of watching his daughters play soccer. 

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