ImageWhen used properly, social media can help companies acquire and retain customers.

According to Mashable, 80% of companies were expected to use social media more in dealing with their customers. At the same time, more than 50% of consumers have already gone social when they have issues with certain businesses.

What does this mean?

This only shows how huge social media is as an influence. It's no longer a means for marketing and building brands. Today, it has opened the doors for consumers to easily reach out to businesses. The only question is are we reaching out to big companies?

Unfortunately, even with the awareness on social media's impact on businesses, a lot of companies still don't interact with their consumers properly. 

An recent study showed that a number of companies considered as the Top 50 brands don't really pay attention to customer issues hurled at their social media accounts. 56% didn't respond to a single complaint posted on Facebook. Similarly, 71% of complaints on Twitter went by ignored.

Why should companies pay more attention to social media in customer service?

The answer is very simple: consumers are taking their opinions to the social media scene.

Anything they have to say about a brand--compliment, rant, rave, recommendation, displeasure--will eventually get posted on these sites. And because there are billions of people with social network accounts, imagine the effect unresolved issues can have on brands.

Just take a look at how quick things can go viral. People are more likely to spread bad word about a brand online. And most people would easily believe it. It can tarnish a brand's reputation and eventually lead to loss of customers.

Companies that are worried about this can seek help from experts. Third party consultants are awesome in ensuring companies retain customers' trust by excellent customer service.

It's also helpful to look at organic search results to see what is trending. That information could be relevant as hashtags in the social media world. With the Halloween season approaching, a costume retailer could do well tracking trending costumes. This infographic outlines the popular terms and trends for 2013 that a retailer would want to build their social media campaign around. 

Social media customer service as a form of advertising

Did you know that 78% of people trust peer recommendations when it comes to buying a product or acquiring a service? Only 14% base their purchases on ads. That goes to show how much importance people put on social media.

Companies have to realize that a good word of mouth on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites is always good for business. And for them to acquire new customers and retain old ones, they have to spend enough time dealing with complaints on their social sites.

59% of people are more likely to switch brands based on customer service. Similarly, 50% are going to drop a business after 1 week of inaction.

Without clearly defined strategies in utilizing social media for customer service, companies are going to lose customers. Because dissatisfied customers have a tendency to leave, companies have to implement the following tips:

  • Be more responsive to comments. People spend more time on social networks these days. You have to deal with any issue as quickly as possible to prevent them from escalating to a crisis. Always remember that consumers mostly react negatively to customer service-related tweets. If you don't spend as much time on Twitter and Facebook, you could miss out these windows of opportunities.
  • Be personal. The problem with some companies that do react to complaints on social media is they sound like robots. They use templates, which don't really communicate well with consumers. You have to engage with your customers by addressing them in a manner and language that they will actually relate to.
  • Train your employees. This is the simplest way to improve social media customer service. When your staff knows how to handle customers well and know enough about social media, you should be able to establish a good reputation among your consumers.

Some companies may find it challenging to provide excellent customer service but there's always a way to do that. 

image: social customer service/shutterstock