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Social media dilemmaSocial media: a platform that allows consumers to say anything they like about a brand – and broadcast that message to the world. When you think about it, it’s not surprising that many businesses consider social media to be one of the dangerous communication channels. If you get it wrong, the negative PR will spread like wildfire.

However, it’s not all bad. Anything that has the ability to do this much damage for a brand’s image, also has the power to do the reverse. If you can get social media right, you can reach a huge audience and really impress shoppers.

Here, we examine what leads customers to complain on social media, and how businesses can avoid many of these problems with an omnichannel customer experience.

Why are customers complaining in the first place?

At NewVoiceMedia, we’ve recently updated our Serial Switchers report and found that UK businesses are collectively losing £11 billion per year through poor customer service. While the cost of bad service might seem huge, it’s actually 1.2 billion less than in 2013.

But, what makes customers switch to a competitor? When we asked consumers in 2015, they cited the same reasons as in 2013: not feeling appreciated, unhelpful/rude staff, being passed around to multiple people, not being able to get answers, and becoming fed up of queuing and not being able to speak to a person. This shows that while the overall cost of poor service has gone down, many consumers are still finding the same problems – but perhaps more infrequently.

While some of these problems are training issues, most are caused by the growing ‘digital divide’ between consumers and businesses. As customers flit between communication channels, businesses can’t keep up, which leads to confusion, errors and many customers having to explain their issue over and over again.

Social media’s growing role in customer service

Even though social media is far from the most popular channel of communication, it does make up a significant chunk of communications and according to our research, 18% of shoppers believe it to be the most effective way to resolve a problem. This figure has actually increased since our original study in 2013 by 2%, showing that more and more consumers are seeing the benefits of turning to social media.

And when it comes to how customers deal with bad service, 16% of consumers would complain publically on social media. Other studies have shown similar results – for instance, a survey by the Institute of Customer Service showed that from January 2014 to May 2015, there was an eight-fold increase in customer complaints made on social media.

While this may seem like a worrying prospect – perhaps more troubling is the fact that, according to our research, 47% of consumers would never use that company again, 40% would change suppliers and 20% would post an online review.

In many ways, social media is a great opportunity for clever marketers, as it’s an amazing research tool to find out why shoppers are unhappy – and it gives you a way to respond publicly and demonstrate your great customer service.

How to get it right

Aside from the obvious benefits of providing a better, more joined-up customer service, there are many paybacks from making a success of your social media that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. For instance, a study by Bain & Company suggests that when companies respond to customer service requests over social media in an engaging way, those customers, on average, end up spending 20% to 40% more with the business.

With that in mind, here are three steps to getting social media customer service right:

  1. Listen to feedback. Don’t put your head in the sand – use social media as an opportunity to find out what people really think about your business.
  2. Respond quickly. In a world of real-time updates on social media, customers do not want to be kept waiting. In fact, 53% of people who contact a brand on Twitter expect a response within one hour.
  3. Create a 360 degree view of a customer. In order to deliver an excellent service, it’s essential that businesses have the ability to link up social channels with other channels of communication. NewVoiceMedia’s ContactWorld for Service solution is designed to do just that.
Find out more about how to deliver the service that customers want – and the cost of getting it wrong – with our whitepaper

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About Nicola Brookes

Nicola is RVP Corporate Communications at NewVoiceMedia. She will mostly blog about customer service, industry news, events and company updates. Follow Nicola on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbrookespr

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