Today, consumers are spoiled by the number of online channels through which they can browse and shop.
The transition to the online world brought to life the likes of eCommerce and online retail, which in part has now made social media a staple to any business or company hoping to reach customers in an ever-competitive marketplace.
The brick-and-mortar shopping experience, which is still pretty much alive and well, has become overshadowed by the behemoth of eCommerce retail.
In a matter of years, mostly experienced throughout the pandemic, customers have adopted searching, browsing, and purchasing their favorite products online whether it be a website or directly through social media content.
Figures suggest a rather stark image of how consumer habits have changed during the pandemic. Currently, roughly 39% of all adult U.S. consumers say they have purchased via social media and would do so again in the near future.
The online retail experience has become enhanced through the likes of visual social media content such as photos, videos, and other forms of digital media.
A consumer survey conducted by Curelate found that a total of 76% of consumers bought a product they interacted with through a brand’s social media post. When we dive deeper, we see that 11% bought immediately, while 44% purchased it later online, either through the company website or an affiliate site.
The overarching argument here presents a growing opportunity for businesses and companies, both big and small.
Social media’s inroad to the retail space has allowed B2B and B2C businesses to become more connected with their clientele. This in return has created a new opportunity through which these companies can now resolve and improve not only the customer experience but overall customer care and customer service.
With the introduction of social customer service, companies are able to directly address queries and related issues through the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, among others.
Social media presents businesses with a dual purpose, yet a staggering amount of these companies have still not realized the underlying possibilities.
Although we can say that social media has become an interactive digital marketing tool, which directly links products and services with a selected consumer market, the underlying possibilities are what make it a foolproof channel for customer care and customer service.
While the two concepts are used interchangeably, they are still considered to be two very different ideas of how businesses can deal with and resolve consumer-related queries or problems.
For starters, social customer service can be seen as the direct line of communication where a customer contacts the business with a question, the business responds, and the query is resolved.
On the other hand, social customer care branches into several different aspects such as; providing clients with a self-service help center, educational materials, and resources, consistently resolving a customer query, automatically providing customers with correct information, and creating a personalized experience.
What we can take from this is that social customer care is not solely based on deep machine learning abilities, or automated responses, but rather a tailor-made experience throughout the entire customer journey.
In the real world, social customer service, and its twin brother, social customer care work as a direct link between the client and the business.
There are countless meaningful ways through which a business can build relationships with their customers, and increase their retention rate. It might seem more challenging online, but social media and the enclaves of social customer service forums that exist within them can act as a method to boost advocacy and drive brand loyalty.
Creates positive public interactions
Businesses are constantly exposed to consumer scrutiny, not only through traditional means, but with the onset of social media, consumers can now directly contact or target any business they feel has not lived up to their standards.
Statistics show that around 47% of American consumers tend to have a more favorable opinion of a business when they respond to a customer question or complaint via social media.
On top of this, consumers are also more prone to directly search for a business or brand on social media before making a purchase or visiting the establishment. Research reveals that customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, with 93% of consumers saying an online review influenced their purchase decision.
This comes to show that businesses that can respond to comments, reviews and queries directly via social media will build a positive public persona that can be viewed by countless members of social media. It not only drives conversation but boosts conversation rates as well.
Establishes Brand Loyalty
Building customer loyalty isn’t easy, especially for brands that are new to their industry or local marketplace. It’s common for new businesses to take some time before they can claim the retaining clients that continuously support them.
In this case, when we consider social customer service and how it contributes to building a strong brand following, it would require businesses and startups to focus on delivering a personalized experience for new clientele.
This does however mean that in the beginning, businesses will be required to individually respond to questions or issues raised through social media platforms. Responding to every single comment seems tedious, but during the early business stages, it allows the business to directly see where they can improve and what strategy can be used to resolve issues that may hurt future performance.
This isn’t to say that once a business has established itself within the marketplace that it should ignore these messages or comments. The continuous effort helps to drive new customers but also establishes an image of dedication to consumer interest.
Throughout much of this process, it’s important to remember that business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketers will need to establish a digital or social media strategy that can help them achieve realistic goals in terms of their customer relationships.
The technical side of this is known as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which is used to create and monitor consumer behavior that helps to establish a pattern through which businesses can then decide how they will be interacting with their customers.
Social customer services in this case play a vital role in building a CRM strategy to help businesses connect one-to-one with clients, instead of having to push digital marketing content and online media.
The social customer service ecosystem creates a representation of who and what the business stands for, and the value they assign to its client's needs and complaints. Ultimately this can foster new relationships, and instill a personalized experience for the consumer.
Shows A More Human Side Of The Business
With the majority, if not all, of the communication being done through social media, or messaging, customers are prone to feel disconnected from brands if responses are too artificial and automated.
Statistics have revealed that before the pandemic, roughly 86% of consumers preferred humans over chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) when resolving a problem or requiring information related to their query.
Although this might have changed since the onset of the global health crisis, when businesses were overwhelmed by increasing online demand, chatbots and AI can leave brands becoming disconnected from the customers, both new and loyal.
Although chatbots and automated responses have been seen to benefit the business, minimizing mundane tasks, increasing customer satisfaction rates, and responding to queries faster in real-time, it’s still important that within the social media customer service ecosystem, brands are able to create a more human persona of the business.
On top of social customer service showing consumers the human side of their operations, the same can be said about the level of transparency some businesses currently operate with.
Customers want to know and feel that a business is being honest with them or at least telling them what they want to hear, whether it’s good or bad. How businesses deal with this is left to their own demise, but for social customer service, where millions of consumers have access to these reviews and responses, transparency can help to establish authority within the digital ecosystem.
Combining both brand authority and brand transparency shows consumers that as a business you know what you are doing and that you can be trusted. On the back of this, trust is also considered a big influence on loyalty, which is possible through transparent business practices and direct communication.
Brands will need to decide how transparent they are willing to be to their customers, yet at the same time, social customer service can help create an authoritative level of transparency that can help consumers relate easier with the brands they know and support.
Looking At It From Perspective
The digital retail ecosystem has made it increasingly competitive for businesses, seeing that it’s now easier and more convenient for consumers in any part of the world to search and find the products or services they are looking for.
This is where social media marketers and digital marketing experts are continuously working to build growth marketing strategies that can help attract and retain customers, while at the same time cultivating loyal customers.
Good customer service, whether it’s face-to-face or online is a no-brainer, and the pandemic has only highlighted the importance thereof in the digital space even more.
Today, consumers are more focused on the standard of social customer service than ever before. Consider this:
- 40% of consumers who complain on social media expect a response within one hour.
- Customer advocacy decreases by 50% if a business ignores a customer complaint.
- 60% of consumers claim the pandemic raised the standard of customer service.
- Roughly 54% of customers feel businesses treat complaints as an afterthought.
It all boils down to the same thing when a business offers proper and personalized social customer service, consumer satisfaction levels and retention increase.
It’s no surprise that in the modern day of digital business and online commerce, customer relationships have become increasingly challenging to foster and maintain.
While it can be difficult for businesses to establish themselves within their marketplace, social customer service continues to play a crucial role in how consumers perceive brands, and how these brands establish customer loyalty.
There is a lot we can take from this, but to summarize, perhaps the most important part from this is that businesses need social customer service to attract, retain and boost consumer advocacy, both for the near and long term.
Social media is a powerful tool, and when used in favor of the consumer, brands are able to foster a lasting impression with the ability to drive meaningful relationships and marketing goals. Businesses should think opportunistically of social customer service, and view it as a stepping stone towards establishing authority, while providing a tailor-made customer experience.