Companies have looked to have a presence in social media sites such as facebook from the early days of their appearance on the digital landscape. The number of companies using social media for public relations and marketing has been growing steadily from those early beginnings and has been quickly accelerating in the last twelve months. Marketing and communications has now been joined by those using social media sites to sell their products and changes to facebook early in 2011 again helped to accelerate this trend. But how many actually also use social media to provide customer service, answer queries and resolve issues raised?
There are examples out there of companies who are embracing social media to not just promote themselves or their products but to actually connect and engage with their customers.
Companies such as ASOS, BT and T-Mobile are using social media channels as a method of providing customer service, although there are improvements that could be made to their offerings. The public transport and public service organisations have also begun to make an effort to use social media, especially Twitter, as a channel for customer communication.
Social media platforms such as Twitter and facebook were not designed with customer service in mind, so it’s not always ideal to communicate through these mediums. Issues such as character limits to posts and privacy are concerns as tweets or posts are usually public, and personnel identity information such as customer addresses or account numbers really shouldn’t be disclosed in the open. Where this may occur, direct messages and other private channels should be used to obtain further information.
Virtual Zone has been developing social media tools for social media platforms to make a more rounded and fulfilling experience from the customer’s perspective.
One example is a virtual agent within facebook, which Virtual Zone has put into place. Paige can carry on a conversation within Facebook where the user can talk to her about the Virtual Zone, their products and even make small talk if they want to. The conversation moves up as each question is asked, but users can scroll up and down similar to Facebook chat, MSN messenger or iPhone texting to review what has been said. A future release of Paige will incorporate translation from various different languages where Paige will identify what language is being used before providing an answer in the relevant language.
Use of a virtual agent has been proven to increase customers’ satisfaction, reduce calls to call centres and dropped sales leads.
Social media listening is also a useful practice to conduct as a company. Even if you do not want to address issues directly in social media, it is extremely beneficial to know what your customers or the general public are saying about your company. This can help with identifying your strengths and weaknesses at the very least.
We are developing a tool that can be used to listen to what is being said about your company in Twitter, with tweets being sorted into different categories depending on the content of the tweet. Options can then be added to either respond using the social listening tool, or have response tweets passed to an agent for review before sending to see if they’re appropriate.
Whether you like it or not, your customers are talking about you on social media platforms. These conversations are taking place anyway and those companies not engaging with their customers will soon find others will do it on their behalf and not always in a positive way. And where brands use Twitter and Facebook to market themselves and sell their products and services their customers will demand pre and post-sales support to be delivered through the same channel or they will click away to a brand that does. As always it is those brands that identify the opportunity and join the early adopters who have the most to gain.
Talk to our virtual agent, click on the tab ‘ask us a question’ http://www.facebook.com/VirtualZoneLtd