Customer Service - Better With Social Media!

Being a 50-something year old businessman, I have been around the block a few times and had become a little complacent. It took me a while, and some painful realizations, but I finally caught the internet inbound marketing and social media bug. Now my business life has become stimulated by learning everyday about the new world of internet marketing and utilizing inbound marketing tools. I am thankful for a fresh business outlook, but is that really it, or is there something more to it?

One of my big eye-opening moments came last spring when I read Gary Vaynerchuk's book, The Thank You Economy (see video below). In it, he described how powerful customer service can be when you are authentic. It struck me that the real beauty of social media is the ability to engage with people on a personal level, like our grandparents did, only using new technology. We can listen to what our customers and prospects are saying and respond with "Thank You" or "I'm Sorry" directly to them. The ability to personally engage is what makes me so thankful.

One example mentioned in the book was of a customer's experience with a Burrito restaurant in Boston. The customer had reacted negatively on social media to an item being removed from the menu. The restaurant owner personally responded to the customer with a detailed response explaining the business reasons for removing the item and apologizing for any inconvenience. The restaurant owner did not talk down or around the issue that the client was upset about. The owner was honest and forthcoming about the reasons that went into his business decision. He was authentic and he made it personal!

We as a society, especially in the business world, had lost the personal touch. Customers were sent to voice mail hell, with slow or non-existent responses and a total lack of common courtesy ("sorry this mailbox is full"). Customer service got lost because it became impersonal.

In contrast, before voice mail, when the phone rang, you actually answered it and had a conversation with the caller. It was a personal communication. When it was personal, you cared about the caller.

So how do we make it personal again:

  1. Be Authentic - First and foremost, be yourself and let your personality shine through. Speak as if they were sitting in your office or showroom. Be genuine. Forget the lawyers, compliance officers and marketing whitewash and have a conversation.
  2. Listen - Find out where your customers are on social networks. Don't make assumptions about where they spend time on social networks. Follow them on Twitter to hear what they have to say. Use applications such as Hootesuite to manage your social media engagements.
  3. Engage - Once you have determined where your customers are. Get in the game. Initiate conversations and respond to questions and ideas. One of the most promising tools we've seen recently is Google+, which we will write about in the coming weeks. But Twitter and Facebook are also capable tools to respond to your customers. Just remember, you may want to "transfer" the conversation from social media to email or a phone call to keep it personal and private.

Social media provides businesses with the opportunity to scale personality selling on the web. Social networks allow us to be personal again. This blog is authentic because I'm blogging what I really feel and trust that interested individuals may want to personally connect with me.

Oh, and by the way..."Thank you" Nick Louise for posting about the book and "Thank you" Gary Vaynerchuk for writing a great book.

Leave a comment about the conversations you are having with your customers - are they increasingly online or are you solely using phone communication? Do you think there is a place in your business for enhancing customer relationships using social media tools?