Given the fact a majority of companies engage in social media, we have to rethink our perception of customer service. Customer service used to take place at a desk in a store, or by phone, or with regular mail and email. Today, you can add social media to one of the key contact points of a company. In-store customer service desks are managing quite well, because companies have many years of experience in this field. Reaching companies by phone can be a bit trickier, but not impossible. I think that even customer service via email has reached an acceptable level of quality. However, there are still some companies that don’t have a clue about the impact of customer service via social media, because it’s still relatively new. And because they don’t realize the impact, they’re not using it to their advantage.

Customer service via social media is important; people are spending a lot of time on social networks on a daily basis. Moreover, I mentioned before that social media has become one of the first types of contact a customer has with a brand. The goal of providing quality customer service online remains the same: increase sales by building customer relationships. Satisfied customers will share their positive experience with the people around them, which leads to brand visibility and the potential for new customers. Moreover, satisfied people may become loyal, returning customers.

Another benefit gained as a company is getting new ideas about a product; for example, a consumer might point out an issue concerning user-friendliness of a product that you have never even considered. Use these customer interactions to get inspired.

A study conducted by MaritzResearch.com stated that 71% of companies choose to disregard online complaints. I wouldn’t recommend doing this because you’re basically showing customers you don’t care about their inconveniences. One of the main reasons these companies choose to disregard these complaints is due to lack of experience and knowledge and in turn, results in fear. They don’t want to communicate publicly and would rather ignore the issues. The consequences of this approach aren’t very promising for future business. Consumers may turn to your competitors and this means a decrease in sales. Social media can be quite a challenge for businesses in terms of direction and control, but there are ways to deal with public comments correctly. Here are some tips:

Tip #1: Always respond. If people have questions, comments, or complaints you should always respond. Consumers appreciate acknowledgements. You can also use this opportunity to find brand ambassadors. They may require some extra attention, but you’ll get free publicity in return.

Tip #2: Stay professional and polite. Use a polite tone at any time, even when a complaint is not. You run the risk of losing other consumers if you don’t remain professional.

Tip #3: Refer to other contact methods. In case things tend to get out of control, suggest continuing the conversation offline. Doing so can prevent public escalation and negative exposure.

Tip #4: Don’t auto-comment. It would definitely be easier and save time, but customized messages will allow consumers to feel that they mean more to you than ‘just a sales lead.’ Try to do this as often as possible.

Tip #5: Train your staff. Proper training can make a huge difference as your staff will know how to deal with different situations.

Keep in mind there are also people who just want to get free items or coupons, but if you do your research well, you’ll recognize them before proceeding. Hopefully these tips will be useful to you and get you started. If you have any questions or remarks, please feel free to leave a comment!