I have been running a business for quite a few years and it’s fairly obvious to know how to keep customers happy. Some polite words here, a discount or two there. But, business has been a bit quiet recently and people have told me to get with the times and use social media. Of course, I’ve heard of social media, but I don’t understand how it can help me with my customers and, in any event I don’t know where to start.
Social media has become a key customer engagement tool between businesses and their clients in the digital media age, so It is important to understand how it can affect – both positively and negatively - your business.We are all aware that the internet has transformed the way businesses operate.Certainly, COVID and multiple lockdowns, have emphasised the necessity for virtual trading and an online presence: even if it is simply ‘click and collect’.It is immaterial whether you feel that you are servicing a particular segment of the community who don’t access the internet, many of your current and new potential customers are certainly engaging online in some form.
Social media is effectively a huge, public community and a conversation people have with anyone, at anytime and anywhere; the key is, that they are all talking about, or have an interest in, the topic under discussion.Their method of communication? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Signal – even plan old texting.
From a business perspective, they may be letting each other know about your product, and hopefully how good it is and recommending you to their friends and family. On the other hand, they could be dissatisfied with goods ordered or your services and instead of – or as well as – contacting the company, they will post online how bad your company is and alert others not to use you. In this way, social media has blurred the lines between marketing and customer services. The same communication channels to engage customers and send out the messages you want to broadcast, can be used to respond promptly to resolve any damaging comments.
The change this sort of ‘chat’ has brought about is that through engaging on these platforms you can grow your customer base yourself by influencing the narrative in a positive way – posting pictures of products, new ideas, positive comments from customer. Whereas customer service was generally a passive but responsive field, only when a client approached you, now customer communication has to be pro-active and instantaneous. In their “State of Service report 2017”, Salesforce – a leading sales software provider – found that 64% of consumers expect businesses to respond to their queries instantly. This has driven businesses to find new and faster methods of interaction and customer communication.
In answer to your question, It makes sense to be an active participant in these conversations, so that you can address any negative comments to repair any damage or, better still, promote the good news about what you do well, or just to share customer satisfaction stories. By doing this, you will also gain a better understanding of who your customers are and what they expect.
So Where to start?
The most straightforward way is to have your own social media presence on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. You, or a colleague would monitor these for any activity and use it to put out any promotional materials or offers you would like to advertise.
If you aren’t at that stage – or simply don’t want a social media presence – just make it as easy as possible for customers to contact and message you. Have transparent contact options on your website and even regular communication though old-fashioned texts will do.
Tips for effective social media engagement:
Respond Quickly – Probably the golden rule of any good customer service. Admit when you are wrong and resolve issues as soon as possible. When using social media, do this publicly at first and then take the conversation to the private arena by emailing the customer directly.
Manage customer expectations – You can still run business as usual, but don’t miss opportunities to hear what your customers are really saying about and to you, through their social networks. This shows that you value your customers opinion and use these to build customer relationships.
Deliver value - Your customers also expect you to produce quality content. They are interested in looking at news and information related to your product and market, as well as promotions (see below).
Delight with the unexpected – Use the conversations to promote bonuses, rewards, contests competitions and any other promotion.
Personalise conversations – The tone of conversation with social media is friendly, as people are used to chatting on these platforms informally. Use first names where possible and sign off from an individual member of your team. Let the customer know you are there for them.
As with everything, balance is important. Remember that social media is just ONE new channel for engaging with your clients and has not replaced all others. Don’t ignore traditional channels of communication and become too fixated with social media, but at the same time it is important to be in the same zone as your customers if they are already online. And if you get it right, you can actually boost your brand image at the same time. A clear win-win situation.
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