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customer support on social media

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Buffer’s recent survey of marketers exposes a surprising finding that organizations can use to their advantage.

Only 21 percent of businesses cite customer support as a reason they use social media, according to Buffer’s State of Social Media 2016 report. Buffer content crafter Ash Read calls that figure one of the most surprising statistics in the survey.

“Delight your customers by using social for support. You’ll be ahead of the game!” Read urges. “With more and more customers turning to social media channels for support issues, it feels like there’s still great opportunity for businesses, individuals and solopreneurs to stand out and build advocacy by providing outstanding support on social.”

Read points out that some social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, offer customer support tools. Buffer has recently launched a tool. However, a social media monitoring service can monitor a range of networks, integrate data from different sources, and customize reports to different departments and personnel. Those capabilities improve efficiency and save staff time.

Public relations (which is often the keeper of social media monitoring results) should share customer complaints with the customer service department at least daily – and preferably more frequently. Consumers expect prompt answers and resolutions to their problems on social media. Ideally, the customer service department will have a separate social media monitoring service, with query terms that focus on customer complaints and questions. Social media mentions that impact other departments such as human relations and product management should be shared with those functions.

Many Brands Fall Short of Customer Expectations

A previous survey by Sprout Social found that most companies fall short of customer expectations on social media. If companies ignore them, most consumers will head to competitors and may complain about the company’s lack of response. However, brands generally treat social media as a broadcast channel for touting their promotions rather than a two-way communication channel with customers.

“People aren’t asking for the world. They would simply like to hear back when they reach out to your brand,” states the Sprout Social report. “Social is a shared effort that should be tackled by all the parts of your organization that have some skin in the game—from sales to HR.”

Sprout Social and other marketing experts urge organizations to monitor their own social media sites continuously and respond immediately. They recommend employing a social media listening service to alert them when customers mention their company or products on other social media.

Top Social Media Goals and Challenges

The Buffer survey reveals that marketers name brand awareness as their main reason for being social media. Other top reasons are community engagement (71%), content distribution (61%), and sales/lead generation (54%).

More than half of marketers (58%) said driving traffic to their websites is one of their main social media challenges. Other challenges include generating leads (49%), and measurement and determining ROI (42%).

Providing customer support – answering customer queries – should be among the high priority applications of social media for most all businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

Bottom Line: Relatively few companies place a priority on using social media for customer support. That opens a significant competitive advantage for organizations willing to monitor social media channels and quickly address customers’ comments and solve their problems.