Social media is the new form of customer service

“Let’s be careful on social media. We don’t want our customers getting in the habit of expecting a response.”

Read that last sentence again.

“We don’t want our customers getting in the habit of expecting a response.”

We get it. Responding to customers on social media is hard work. You have to regularly monitor your accounts and hashtags and constantly search to find out who is talking about you. If you aren’t using a social media monitoring tool, this effort can be cumbersome.

But you absolutely must engage with your fans/customers/advocates online.

According to the 2019 Sprout Social Index, consumers reach out to a brand on social media for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to talk about a great experience. But much of the time, it’s because they need help—finding an item, understanding a product, paying a bill or even resolving an issue. Simply put, consumers reach out to a brand on social media because they’ve either already spent money or want to spend money on that brand.

In fact, half of consumers follow a brand on social media to learn about new products or services; 56% of them unfollow a brand due to poor customer service.

At ECPR, we encourage our clients to build time into their social media infrastructure to respond to customers online. Think about it this way—if a customer walks into your store and asks you a question, do you just walk away and ignore them? Absolutely not. So why would it be OK for you to do this online?

As an example, ECPR recently worked with Austin FC, Austin’s first major league sports team, on its digital campaign to promote membership deposits for their inaugural season. As part of this effort, Austin FC encouraged fans to submit their questions about deposits via an Instagram Story. And, at the end of the day, no matter how many times the same question was asked, every question was answered.

We took this approach for several reasons:

First, people weren’t cycling through the submitted questions to see if their question had already been answered. They cared about their question, not if someone else had already asked the same thing. Second, people only receive an Instagram notification if you answer their question, not if a similar question receives a response. And, most importantly, every person matters. Every person that submitted a question was a fan and potential deposit for the team. Answering their question was key to establishing the trust needed to secure their deposit.

Yes, it was time-consuming. But it was necessary to ensure that people had the information they needed to place their deposits and knew the team was grateful for their support.

This approach doesn’t mean that every comment on social media deserves a response. Brands need to differentiate a customer or potential customer from an online troll or agitator. It’s vital to respond to customers and let them know that you appreciate their support and take their concerns seriously. But your brand’s social media accounts should also be moderated for abusive or inappropriate content and individuals that are harassing your brand or your fans should be ignored, reported or blocked.

At ECPR, we help our clients determine the most common customer inquiries and complaints they receive online and how to respond. We create innovative and creative ways to pre-empt questions and determine responses to criticism, abusive content or trolls. Most importantly, we help build valuable relationships between brands and their fans to build businesses and turn likes/follows into customers.

Cynthia Martinez is a digital strategist with Elizabeth Christian Public Relations.

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