In today’s referral dominated consumerist world, it is an established fact that customer service is at the heart of business growth. Social media is now a part of life and is central to brand value creation
On a recent trip to Rome I experienced rather poor service at a restaurant near a well-known tourist destination. I could not help thinking why the owners of this establishment would allow poor customer service to go unchecked. Was it the fact that they were hoping their location would ensure a continuous supply of future customers? Or did the restaurant owners simply not care about customer service assuming that as tourists there would be little likelihood of repeat business. What was more surprising is that the restaurant owners were totally oblivious to the fact that with instant internet connectivity, customers could share their experiences on the various social media platforms with future customers. Various surveys and academic studies have consistently shown that there has been a rapid increase in the number of complaints posted on social media websites. Interestingly, one UK survey showed that a quarter of all users of social media had posted negative comments regarding their experiences. At the same time these surveys show that the bulk of new customers are influenced to carry out a purchase based on reviews on social media platforms.
In today’s referral dominated consumption world, the established fact is that customer service is extremely important for all businesses and it either makes or breaks a business. Therefore, it’s important that excellent customer service is at the heart of every business, large or small. Customer service starts with knowing what customers need and want and extends to delivering a complete positive experience for potential and existing customers which includes treating them with respect and care regardless of the amount or frequency of their spend. Companies need to follow up on a purchase and obtain feedback so that they can understand the customer and continuously exceed the expectations. Companies need to ensure that they are going the full mile to help their customers. If and when things go wrong, which happens from time to time, it’s important for a company to handle the situation efficiently and gracefully.
Of course, customer service is not free and incurs costs and resources. But the returns are high and include the ability to increase customer loyalty. This in turn leads to greater spending and research shows that customer’s purchases increase after a good experience. At the same time customers stop buying after a bad customer service interaction. Excellent customer service also increases the frequency of customer spending as well as generating further business through traditional word of mouth as well as positive reviews on social media. Also, excellent customer service removes the barriers to buying because the customer can exchange the product or obtain a refund.
Social media is now part of life and companies should not view it negatively but instead harness its power to improve customer loyalty and sales. First, companies need to constantly monitor social media platforms to understand what their customers are saying about their experiences both positive as well as negative. In case of the latter, companies need to make sure that they effectively deal with negative complaints and respond in a polite manner while resolving issues. Far too often, companies respond to negative reviews defensively rather than in a spirit of resolving the complaint. Also, a response to a complaint on a social media platform is there for all to see. This implies that any response has to be well thought out while remembering that a social media response needs to be faster than a traditional response. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that staff responding to social media postings are trained and very customer centric. Remember, every negative situation well-handled can actually have a positive impact to the company. Perhaps a more successful strategy is to provide customers who have received poor service an alternate channel to complain privately and away from mainstream social media platforms, such as through online complaints systems and emails. If customers know that a company responds quickly and effectively via traditional channels such as emails, phone calls etc. then they are more likely to use them.
The starting point for any company has to be to deliver excellent customer service which will ensure that it has a positive impact on the brand and of course on the business. However, when thing do go wrong, the company needs to ensure that customers are assured that they will receive a fast and effective response via traditional channels. In the event that a company has negative postings on social media platforms, it needs to have a social media strategy that goes beyond simply responding with a defence.