ImageProviding excellent customer service is a basic part of managing your business. However, you can't limit yourself to providing on-site service. In today's age of constant connectivity and instant solutions, customers demand to be assisted immediately at any hour. Call centers and live-chat applications can be beneficial for ensuring that your clients can always contact someone about an issue with your business, but social media may be the best asset for bolstering customer service.

A common misconception is that Facebook, Twitter and their networking brethren are only beneficial for marketing purposes. Indeed, social networks can bolster a brand and help a business reach out to new customers, but that's not the only benefit. Tom Eggemeier, head of sales at Genesys, believes that companies aren't adapting to consumer demand.

"This is a classic example of where consumer behavior is changing much faster than companies are adapting. Companies are still seeing social media through the lens of marketing, not as part of an overall brand execution strategy," Eggemeier told Forbes.

From a corporate prospective, one of the primary functions of social media is communicating directly with followers. Employees can send messages and reply to fans, which of course is an essential part of providing excellent customer service.

The social complaint
Social networks are where consumers go when they want to connect with brands online. Following a company on Twitter or liking its Facebook page allows followers to receive instant updates and find new content. Additionally, many users post comments on business profiles, usually with feedback. However, not all of these updates are positive. YSF Magazine points out that consumers will likely write about their negative experiences on an enterprise's social media pages.

Negative comments can damage your reputation. Obviously, if you allow customers to constantly complain and write about your company's failings, other users will notice and begin to think less of your business. That said, bad posts don't have to be damaging - they can actually be the beginnings of your customer service program on social media.

Respond to complaints as soon as possible. Assign an employee to monitor your profiles so you'll know when customers are posting negative messages to your pages. Next, instruct a staff member to ask the writer what his or her most prevalent concern is so you can get to the heart of the matter. Once you understand the main problem, offer a solution and apologize for the inconvenience. Additionally, you should respond to complaints in your main profile so other followers can see how you react. If you send private messages, customers may think you're ignoring problems and not offering any assistance.

A second account
Some customers might hesitate to post their complaints on your profile. For one, if you're not highly responsive, followers may think you'll ignore their comments and find alternative means of communication. Alternatively, some people might just stop doing business with you altogether because they think they can receive better customer service elsewhere. Neither of these situations is ideal, so you must ensure that fans know they can reach out to you on social media.

To that end, Entrepreneur Magazine recommends creating a second account exclusively for customer service. If you have another page dedicated to resolving problems and assisting clients, you can streamline support.

"This can make it easier to separate marketing from customer support," Erin Robinson, social media manager at AOL, told the news source.

Link to your second page so customers know that it's controlled by your company. Include branded content and check it frequently so followers know they can always access that profile for assistance.

Is customer service marketing?
Some businesses don't want to use social media for anything beyond marketing. The channel is so valuable to advertising efforts that diluting it with customer service seems counter-intuitive  However, helping customers online can actually improve a company's image and further its reputation.

Consumers want company's to be reliable and helpful. By providing customer service, you can show that you're committed to ensuring the satisfaction of your patrons. Ultimately, this will lead to positive buzz and help your company flourish.

image: customer service/shutterstock