How are companies trying to use social media platforms to improve customer service?
You are probably aware that companies are using social media platforms to try to communicate more effectively with their customers, answer queries, provide advice, and deal with customer complaints. That’s the direct communication aspect.
Social media is also used in a number of other ways, that may turn out to be way more important than the direct customer service described above.
Business Intelligence and Social Media
Businesses are using social media platforms to gather information about their customers likes, dislikes and perceptions, while also looking at what the competition is doing. Because Twitter provides open access to its tweets, any company can collect thousands, or millions of tweets to analyze for business intelligence, trends and so forth.
Smaller companies, by participating on the large social media platforms, can get an informal, qualitiative feel for what’s going on in their industy, and test the “climate”.
Of course, there are potential drawbacks since expertise in interpreting the data is needed to prevent wrong conclusions happening as a result of biased or improper sampling, observer bias and other issues. The potential is there, but so is the possiblity of wrong conclusions, and bad business decisions. Essentially gathering business intelligence is research and research and statistical skills are good to have.
Marketing and Social Media
Marketing, public relations and customer service are tending to merge, as companies realize they are inter-linked, particularly online. Many companies believe that the volume of accounts on Facebook and Twitter warrant an active marketing and support presence on those platforms. Whether that belief is warranted is yet to be determined, but there they are, indeed. It makes sense to be there.
Again, companies of all sizes are at least attempting to market via Facebook and Twitter, but once again, we don’t know the success rates for “most” companies.
Public Relations and Reputation Management On Major Social Media Platforms
There’s a lot of buzz around how important it is for companies to protect their reputations online, because of the “public nature” of customer comments and complaints. Companies ARE monitoring and trying to manage problem situations resulting from “customer comments”, but there are a number of flaws in these strategies which may be based on faulty assumptions.
For example, one assumption is that tweeted complaints occur often. They don’t. In fact, the overwhelming majority of brand mentions are either neutral or positive. Negative comments are much rarer than most people believe because they stand out.
A second assumption is that tweeted complaints are actually read, given credibility, and acted upon by customers who will change their consumer behaviors in ways that will negatively affect the company.
Most tweets (somewhere between 80% – 92%) receive no response at all. Due to the streaming nature of tweets, most are not read or remembered. Of those that are remembered, responded to or retweeted, there is no good direct evidence to show impact on buying behavior. It’s also worth noting that while Twitter boasts 300 million accounts, figures suggest over half are abandoned. So, there’s not that many people there and using the platform.
A third mistaken assumption is that one can actually reach the people who might have read a customer complaint, after the fact, to mitigate any negative effects on their perceptions. On Twitter you can’t. You might be able to turn the complainant around, but you cannot make direct contact with those who read the complaint.
We tend to member the very few reputation management disasters that have occured on social media platforms — the airline smashing the guitar video on YouTube –but “going viral” is so rare these days that very few companies are likely to be damaged by that process.
In addition to using social media platforms for the direct provision of customer service to customers, companies are also using these platforms for other purposes — purposes that may turn out to work more effectively than trying to offer service via these new channels.