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Social media allows customers to voice their opinions, both positive and negative regarding their experience with your business, and they expect engagement.

By 2014, organizations that refuse to communicate with customers by social media will face the same level of wrath from customers as those that ignore today’s basic expectation that they will respond to emails and phone calls.” – Gartner Inc.

Here’s why your business needs to be using social media as a customer service outlet:

1) Communication on social media is immediate: The reality of why social media is so successful is because when people are upset, or need help, they want a response right away. They don’t want to wait 24 hours for their email to be answered and they don’t want to wait on hold for 30 minutes. One of the most incredible and dangerous sides of social media is its immediacy.  Once a post is made publicly about your business, that customer expects a fairly immediate response and your team better be ready. Prepare your business to check your social media outlets frequently, it’s also best to set up notifications when posts and mentions are made so you are aware of issues in real time.

2) It will humanize your business: Social media has allowed customers and fans to speak directly with brands and businesses. In essence, it removed the gatekeepers. Managing your customer service through social media allows customers to interact with your business by communicating with an actual employee. They don’t have to deal with automatically generated responses or tone-based phone menus. Social media also allows your business to respond in a more casual, conversational way. This humanizes your business and you become more relatable and approachable to your customers.

3) It allows transparency: The transparency of social media benefits your business and the customer. By allowing your customers to use your social media pages to make public posts, you’re giving them an immediate outlet. This empowers your customers and it allows your business to respond publicly; this is a win-win situation. It shows that your business is up to par with customer service and that you care about your customers’ concerns. Remember that if your business can answer your customers quickly, politely and effectively, you’ll leave your customers (and everyone else who is reading) happy and confident that their issues are being resolved.

4) Social users are more likely to share: The people most likely to use social media are the people who are most likely to socialize their experiences. You need to respond, interact, help and engage with all of your fans who reach out to you, however the users with tons of friends and followers and are active on social media are the ones that your business needs to be cautious about. These users are the ones who are more likely to share experiences that they have had with your business, so how you respond to them is significant. Treat all of your customers with ultimate care and urgency, but be sure to harness the popularity of those active social media users. If they have an unforgettable experience with your business, they’ll spread the word; positive or negative.

5) Follow-up is easy: Following up with your customers using social media is fast and easy. If your business can resolve your customers’ concerns quickly, you can get immediate feedback about their experience and if their concerns were resolved fully in the original post. The goal here is that your business has a public forum to show that you not only answered your customers concerns but quickly resolved them. Anybody looking in will see that your business is on top of it! Now if your customer’s issue is a little more serious and may take longer to fix, be sure to follow up on the original post once the customer is satisfied.

Using social media as a customer service outlet can expose your business but it will also allow your business to take control of public complaints and put the customer’s needs first. Share your business’s customer service stories in the comments, we’d love to hear about your successes and challenges.