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If you’re not currently using social media channels as a customer service tool, you’re missing out on a potentially huge opportunity to build customer loyalty and boost customer engagement with your brand. Here’s a brief look at four basic ways that brands are using social media as a customer service tool.
#1: Direct one-on-one engagement with customers
Using social media as a customer service tool requires a mindset change. In the old analog era, the VIP customer was the one who spent a lot of money on your brand. In the digital era, the VIP customer is the guy or girl on Twitter who’s telling thousands of people about your company and your overall brand experience.
With that in mind, companies like Nike and Target take their social media channels very seriously. Target responds to everyone – EVERYONE – on social media. Every comment, every post, every tweet gets a response. That’s how seriously they take their brand. Nike’s @NikeSupport Twitter account is just as serious – it’s staffed 24/7, and it can respond to customers in 7 different languages.
#2: Surprise and delight customers
Of course, there’s plenty of room to have fun with your customers. Social media is meant to be a fun place to interact. The classic example, of course, involves Morton’s Steakhouse. In 2011, a VIP social media user in Tampa, Florida sent out a playful tweet: “Hey @Mortons – can you meet me at Newark Airport with a Porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks.” Believe it or not, a Morton’s rep dressed in a tuxedo met him at the airport with a 24 oz. Porterhouse at the right place and the right time – and they kicked in some shrimp, potatoes and bread as well. Needless to say, that whole event went viral. That’s what surprise and delight means!
#3: Real-time damage control
Sooner or later, every brand will have a moment of truth – a time when something goes horribly, inexplicably wrong. And that’s when they need to have their crisis PR team ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice. Take, for example, the blowback that United Airlines got on social media for its refusal to let two teenage girls wear leggings aboard one of their flights. Or the earlier example of McDonald’s getting hacked and sending out a tweet that appeared to insult former President Trump. Those are both times when real-time damage control matter. Don’t think that people won’t notice – they most assuredly will.
#4: The 24/7 help desk
By monitoring social media on a regular basis, your customer service team can help out customers when they’re having problems with your product. This is a favorite tactic of hospitality brands – if a hotel guest is tweeting about the view from the room, it’s time to go into action. Or if a restaurant guest is sending out Instagram photos of a botched delivery order, it’s also time to spring into motion.
What’s exciting about all four of these examples is that customer service is steadily transforming from a “cost center” to a “profit center.” It used to be good customer service was so expensive to provide that you had to outsource it to some foreign country. Now, it’s so cheap and affordable to provide that you simply don’t have an excuse not to be doing it. And it can really be used to grow a business. Surprise and delight a customer just once and you have a customer for life.