74% of Millennials (18-34) and 58% of GenX (35-54) have a better opinion of organizations that provide social media customer care – Microsoft
Social customer care (using social media platforms as customer service experience tools) can be amazingly effective way to build relationships with the your customers and bring significant benefits to your organization. Building and nurturing these connections can lead to improved internal and external engagement, deeper trust and boosted social capital.
While some organizations only use social media as a platform to get their message out or blast people with creative “aren’t we really awesome and amazing” branding… which feels pretty narcissistic, it’s those that embrace the tool as a customer service channel and build a history of helpfulness that will better serve you.
The secret weapon in social customer care isn’t that much of a secret, it’s all in the name.
- “social” – the intent to connect and engage with others on a personal, informal, accessible and human level.
- “customer” – the focus on the needs of your audience and fixing their problems.
- “care” – the empathy and compassion to actively listen to their concerns and treat your customers (past, present and future) how they want to be treated.
But don’t ignore the “media” component of social media, because the digital medium is where your customers are spending their time.
The average Canadian spends 24.5 hours online per week. The average person spends two hours on social media every day. – CTV news (2017)
The average American spends 23.6 hours online per week. – MIT Technology Review (2017)
Globally, people spend approximately 2.26 hours a day on social media. – Statistica (2018)
When it comes to relationships, you have to look at using these social platforms as a long-term strategy. The best relationships are built over a long period of time, by establishing, demonstrating and proving with both words and actions you can be trusted through accessibility, transparency, helpfulness, and empathy. Think of the best relationships in your life, personal or professional, and the strongest connections you have with organizations. I’m guessing none were just assumed to be deep and trusting right off the bat, but rather they were nurtured and built over time.
Great social customer care can do the same. It’s not only about how you engage directly with the public, but also in how you are perceived by those watching you as a spectator. Everyone sees how you engage, or not engage, with others and make personal impressions.
So, for argument’s sake, you’re doing it right. You’ve invested the time and resources into the strategy and tactics that make you a strong social customer care presence everyday. Here are the some of the benefits of that effort:
Social capital/Public trust – Being consistently available to your customers, answering their questions and listening to their concerns will build trust over time. Your audience will more likely provide positive feedback and defend you (your organization) as a trusted advisor, against misinformation or general vitriol. They become your “friends” and extensions of your brand, and act as friends would: far more open to listening to you and giving you the benefit of the doubt when things go bad.
Increased engagement and reach for announcements and campaigns – As you build a reputation for being helpful and social, announcements and timely information will see an increase in the amount of engagement, interest and shares. It’s like if a friend tells you something they think you should know after a history of helping, listening and sharing with you. In that environment, customers are more apt to engage and further promote announcements due to the established back-and-forth relationship. Your not the narcissist that just keeps talking about yourself, your the trusted friend that just helped move your couch and now has something they think you’ll find interesting.
Improved and humanized brand reputation – People build connections with people – not logos, not websites – but other human beings. Social provides an opportunity to speak plainly and approach-ably, so the public feels they are being heard and engaging with another person, rather than simply receiving “corporate-speak” style messaging. Language like that only puts up a barrier between the organization and its audience, making it harder to be relatable and accessible.
Source of truth – Traditionally, organizations use media channels (earned media) and marketing/advertising (paid media) to share its information, or treats social media as if it were like these channels. With a long-term strategy, social media customer care (owned media) can establish itself as a direct source of information for the public, without involving a 3rd party. Through consistent social interaction, answering questions and being helpful, the organization can set itself as the place to go to rather than from a competitor. This is especially helpful during emergency communications or if there’s misinformation being circulated.
Learn or correct issues that need to be addressed – Bad news: putting yourself out into the social space does invite customer feedback that can be critical of your work. The good news: this is unbelievably valuable information and should be embraced. People only provide feedback because they care, so you have an opportunity to either learn about an issue you may not have been aware of or correct misinformation that is being shared by your audience. If you notice a continual trend around a specific topic, update your website or create content that addresses the concern.
Knowledge transfer – one of the surprising benefits of customer-centric content and social media is the education it can provide to new employees. Sure, a great onboarding program can get them up to speed in many ways, but see how the organization runs operationally, answering questions and explaining its work in conversational language can really help internal and cultural understanding.
What has been a positive benefit in your experience with a long-term social customer care strategy? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.