Delivering quality service is the cornerstone of every successful business. Start-ups can’t grow into sustainable enterprises without it. Established companies lose market share when service levels drop. The need for a good customer experience is well known and easy to declare. Identifying the specific characteristics required to meet people’s expectations is much harder and changes over time.

Customer service demands are very different today. Making everything as easy as possible is replacing the over-the-top exceptional experience that drove sales and loyalty a few years ago. Our digital world robs people of time, making a quick and easy shopping experience a luxury. It also makes delivering quality service more efficient and effective.

When you add the ability to provide on-demand information via social media to the self-service shopping preferences of today’s consumers, you get an economical way to provide exceptional service. A study by the Corporate Executive Board of more than 75,000 people who had contacted B2C and B2B call centers found that 57% looked for answers on the website before calling the company. Imagine how having the right answers easily accessible for self-service individuals would affect your bottom line. Even if it only reduced calls by 20%, wouldn’t it be a significant impact?

What if providing answers online also increased sales and customer acquisition?

The lines between customer care and marketing are blurring. Answers that solve problems and link to products and/or services drive sales. Companies that recognize this and use all available tools and channels to provide readily accessible information have a competitive advantage.

The best customer service begins with managing expectations. Providing policy information in an easy to read and understand format establishes boundaries. Always give your business a little wiggle room because things happen. For example, if orders generally arrive at the customer’s address in 3-5 business days, state that orders arrive in 4-7 business days. People are pleasantly surprised when they arrive early and you have some extra time if there is a problem.

Transactional emails reaffirm the expectations established during the shopping stage. Customers should never have to wonder if orders or messages have been received and when items or responses will be received. Providing confirmation and setting expectations in advance significantly reduces questions and queries. Send updates as soon as possible if challenges arise that change the information provided.

Most people (as in 99.99999999999%) don’t want to discuss their private business on a public forum. If customer expectations are clearly defined and follow up communication is good, your social pages won’t receive posts concerning specific order information or complaints. There may be the occasional private message, but baring catastrophic operational failure your customers won’t use social sites to resolve in-house service issues.

How is customer service a pillar of social media?

Quality service solves problems. When people think of corporate customer service, transactional issues usually pop in their mind. They forget that the products and services offered by companies solve problems. The types of problems vary, but the reality remains that demand is driven by the need to solve problems. This is where social media is a valuable service and marketing channel. It allows you to show customers and prospects how your company can solve their problems.

For example, if your business sells parts, providing how to troubleshoot videos with links to the appropriate items is a service. Even better, create how to install the parts videos and include link information in every outgoing order for those items. Use good keywords to attract natural search and links to additional information for buying. It serves prospects trying to resolve issues and helps customers insure they are doing it right. The results are more sales and fewer calls.

Naturally it takes time and effort to reformat and upload all of the information you have available. The reward makes it worth your while because social sites become members of your sales and service teams. If it is done right the first time, there is minimal maintenance and long term benefits from providing digital customer service.