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Friday Five: Brands Engage Through Social Customer Service

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Social media plays a crucial role in the relationships created between brand and customer. Like any relationship there are ups and downs. Unfortunately for brands when the “downs” happen, it is usually in the form of biting customer reviews or criticism. Social customer service was developed for brands and customers to connect on a number of issues related to products, inquiries, leading trends, or even just for customers to express gratitude over a satisfying experience. Brands are being recognized for successful engagements with customers and more so their ability to increase brand awareness through brand advocates. The overarching message to brands is that social customer service is here and it’s time to get on board and start listening to online conversations to get a better pulse on what your customers truly value in their brand experience.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary — we look at how brands are integrating social customer service in their everyday social business practices. We will also look at how some brands are inadequately prepared to take on the responsibility. In our discussion we will discover engagement factors that come from social customer service and offer helpful tips on how brands can better meet their customers’ needs online.

Brands on Social Media: The Customer Service Report 2012 (Brandwatch)

Brandwatch released the results of the 2012 Customer Service Index which details brand customer service performance on the social web. Brandwatch looked at 40 of the top brands and reviewed how successful their social presence has been in handling customer service issues. The results showed that there has been an increase in downbeat posts, an ongoing shift towards resolving complaints online, and (despite how many brands have embraced online customer service) a number of brands that are lacking in the social tools and skills needed to address the modern customer. The UK-based retail company, John Lewis, came in number one this year. John Lewis attracted more praise than other brands, responded quicker to complaints and tweeted more frequently. Groupon, the daily deals provider, also was featured in the index for the first time this year after showing major growth since debuting in 2008. Read the full report here and see if your favorite brand made the list.

Integrating Customer Service Into Your Social Media Marketing Strategy (Edelman Digital)

Edelman Digital’s Matthew Hayles talks about how social customer service is providing organizations with a unique opportunity to turn a customer with a bad experience into a social media advocate. We’ve seen based on Brandwatch’s 2012 Customer Service Index that a number of brands and organizations are not equipped to institute new social customer service practices within their company. Hayles discusses the benefits to integrating social customer service into social marketing strategy and makes an argument for why more companies should be moving in this social direction.

  • Increasing Customer Advocacy – Organizations should get into the habit of listening to what’s being said on social channels. This is how organizations will identify what their customers truly value, what their customers’ biggest concerns are, and how they can better meet their customers’ needs and address their concerns. Social customer service executed well will most likely lead to an increase in brand advocates.
  • Increasing Customer Loyalty – “Organizations should optimize their social media content by integrating tips-and-tricks, how-tos and other ‘help’ material and ensuring they are doing their best to resolve customer inquiries.”

Four Tips Before Moving Your Customer Service Approach to Social Media (socialmediatoday)

Customers who engage with brands via social media platforms don’t ask questions or make complaints with the expectation of being ignored. Customers want answers! Southwest Airlines is a great example of a brand using social media to develop valuable exchanges between customers and the brand. Southwest utilizes their page to promote their brand, sales, and new features. They also spend significant time engaging with their customer base and providing support and education directly from their social media pages.  Socialmediatoday contributor Courtney Kettman offers some key reasons why social customer service works and how other organizations can become successful at this practice.

  • Convenience – Posting on social media platforms like Facebook is easy for the customer and leaves them with the feeling that their inquiry will get attention from others, including fellow customers. Organizations should not get bogged down by social engagement if they already exist on the social platform.
  • Strength in Numbers – Groups of customers can ban together in a “strength in numbers” approach to reach the intended brand. Brands can use these posts to educate a large group about the issue instead of taking it offline and responding solely to the individual.
  • Response Time – Customers usually expect a reply to their inquiry within a few hours. The good news for brands is that “responses don’t need to quite as in depth as a traditional email reply.” This can certainly help brands cut down the amount of time it takes to craft a detailed well thought out email specific to each individual.

Subway’s Tweets Top List (Entrepreneur)

Subway is another great example of a brand that has taken social customer service to the next level through their tweets. A recent survey of U.S. consumers reports that the Subway sandwich franchise outperforms its dining industry peers in communicating with customers over social media platforms. Paul Bamundo, who heads up Subway’s social media team, commented on what Subway does to impress their customers. “With nearly 15 million friends on our Facebook page and over 555,555 followers on Twitter, we spend a tremendous amount of time not only sharing news about special promotions at Subway, but also listening, responding and amplifying customers’ stories or their concerns to make sure they know they are being heard,” he said. C-suite staff at Subway focuses on the benefits that social media can have for the company’s global brand and continues to emphasize the importance of engaging fans with interesting content instead of simply focusing on the number of likes and followers.

How American Airlines Gets Social Media Right (CNBC)

American Airlines is using social media to extend its reach, gain visibility and build meaningful relationships with customers. Impressed on all scales by how successful American’s social customer service has been, CNBC’s Darren Booth interviewed Jonathan Pierce, American’s director of social media communications to learn more about their social team and the strategy behind their social influence. The over encompassing theme throughout the interview is that the customers come first and that American’s goal is to give customers the ability to easily access information about the company, their destination, and any other inquiries they may have. Read the full interview and get a better scope of American’ social media practices and how they’ve become so successful in the art of social customer service.


Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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Nicole Castro

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