social media listening for customer serviceSocial media offers an interesting opportunity for brands to improve customer service and create deeper relationships with customers. Many or most brands don’t take advantage of that opportunity.

Social media is often better than telephone calls for handling customer complaints and questions. Unlike a phone call, a social media exchange can be viewed by other customers who have the same question.

Organizations fear they’ll hemorrhage money if they respond to customers’ complaints on social media and provide them large numbers of refunds. Some customers complain just to get financial compensation. However, the vast majority of customers with complaints simply want to know if brands and listening and willing to respond, says Firas Kittaneh, CEO and co-founder of One Mall Group, in Entrepreneur.

Listening Breeds Empathy

“Listening breeds empathy; and consistently showing empathy for your customers’ distress is one of the most important factors in delivering an exceptional customer experience,” Kittaneh writes in Entrepreneur.

Kittaneh and other experts offer these steps for delivering that exceptional experience through social media listening.

Use a media monitor tool to listen to social media sites continuously for your company and products on other social media sites.  You can also monitor industry terms and other keywords.

Watch competitors. Monitor your competitors to learn about their mistakes and successes and to learn what they do that you can mimic and what you should avoid. Monitoring their customer service streams can inform you about issues you haven’t encountered yet but might in the future, giving you time to take proactive actions. It also may reveal weaknesses in the competitor’s products or services.

Respond quickly. People expect swift responses, even if it’s only to apologize and say time is needed to investigate the issue. Most research indicates that the majority of people who reach out to a brand on Twitter expect an answer within the hour.

Deliver personalized responses. Some brands mistakenly believe they can set up automated replies to placate customers and save time and money. Customers today can spot automated replies, Kittaneh says. Automated messages send the message that the company doesn’t really care about them or their issue.

Transfer social media conversations into your CRM solution for future reference. Information can include the complaint, summary of actions taken, the amount of time it took to complete. Customer service, marketing and sales reps can draw on that information to create personalized responses in the future.

Deliver what you promise. If you don’t follow through, the interaction is worse than none at all.

Separate customer support. Create a separate channel for your company’s customer support, including a separate Tweeter handle, such as @AcmeSupport. Your primary feed will be free to focus on promoting your business, while customers will know where to go to have their questions answered and problems resolved, recommends Sendible Insights.

Post blog articles on how you resolved customer issues. Use a customer service tag to create a library of issues and resolutions. Customers will be able to read the blog, much like an FAQ.

Share the data. Many departments, including marketing, PR and product development can also benefit from the wealth of data social media listening provides. The key to obtaining the full benefits of social media monitoring is to feed the monitoring results across department silos.

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.”

Bottom Line: Social media listening enables companies to provide an outstanding customer experience. The key is to deliver timely and personalized responses. As more people spend more time on social media, networks like Facebook and Twitter are replacing telephones as customers’ preferred method of contacting brands. That means it’s essential for organizations to listen.