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4 steps to enhancing the customer experience with social media Social media marketing isn’t just about winning followers. Columnist Alison Zeringue shares tips for improving customer service and delighting consumers publicly through your social channels.

4 steps to enhancing the customer experience with social media

Social media marketing isn’t just about winning followers. Columnist Alison Zeringue shares tips for improving customer service and delighting consumers publicly through your social channels.

Social media has been the “buzz” in marketing practically since its inception. And while your business should absolutely be utilizing these channels as an integral part of your marketing strategy, it’s time to move past thinking about your social media pages and handles solely in terms of marketing with the goal of customer acquisition.

You need to use social media to enhance your customers’ experiences with your brand. It’s time to delight.

Set the stage: Engage your customers, don’t bombard them

While some less savvy companies might think of their social media accounts as a publisher of free ads, this is not the case, thanks to the ever-declining reach of organic social content. Besides, no one is delighted by an endless deluge of promotional materials, after which you might find people tuning you out, and probably, unfollowing you.

When creating a content calendar, you need to consider what your social media followers likely expect to get out of following you. They probably want to hear about sales and promotions; maybe they like to find out about new products the moment they launch; or they might be interested in news from your industry.

In addition to occasional sales messages, you should be showcasing your culture and creating a conversational environment where customers feel welcome to provide feedback. Ask for their opinions. Instagram’s new poll feature in Instagram Stories (aka Snapchat 2.0) is a prime example of a fun way to engage your customers in a genuine way while learning about their likes or dislikes.

Pro tip: To add a poll to your Story, use the “Poll” sticker from the stickers menu. Here you can enter a question and two response options. When users view your story and respond, they see which option is in the lead. Story creators can later view respondents by viewing the Story and swiping up.

Dealing with customer service inquiries and feedback

Consumers are increasingly making their purchase decisions online — from researching, browsing and purchasing goods and services all the way through use of the product or service. It follows that they’re also taking their customer service inquiries online. If they bought from you online, it’s all the more likely that they’ll expect to engage with you online post-purchase.

For retail stores, customers have no quicker, easier way to connect than through social media. And when they do contact retailers through Facebook, Twitter or some other platform, they’ll likely do it publicly. This comes with its own set of challenges. But marketers of businesses that sell products or services online should consider it first and foremost an opportunity.

You now have the chance to showcase your customer service and delight a customer publicly. Of course, that also means the stakes are raised. Below are four key tips for dealing with customer service inquiries and feedback through social media.

1. Choose and train the right representative

The first step to enhancing your customers’ experience on social media is to carefully choose the employees or individuals who will take on the task of customer service on your social channels. This is not a task to delegate to an intern simply because they “understand social” more than anyone else in your company.

It’s more important to choose someone with the right skill set to provide the best customer experience possible. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable allowing your delegate to meet with customers in person or answer their questions, then you shouldn’t appoint them as your social responder. This job requires training just as much as any other customer-facing position in your organization.

Pro tip: With my team, I preach an acronym, L.E.A.R.N. (listen, empathize, apologize, respond, and now), for handling client complaints, objections or feedback. I love this acronym because the steps are self-explanatory and provide a framework for thinking about and responding to customers in real time.

2. Respond with a sense of urgency

Time really is a key factor here, especially with negative feedback. When people see a complaint go unanswered, it looks like avoidance — or worse, indifference. Canned, unemotional and impersonal responses can amplify an already negative situation.

To prevent this, personalize all replies to customers on social. Create some basic ground rules for whoever mans your social channels throughout the day: Use the customer’s name; be genuine; make sure they feel like someone from your operation took the time to truly address their problem or question. In the event of a problem or issue, provide a fix publicly if it’s possible to do so.

Pro tip: If the issue needs investigation, invite the customer to contact you through private messaging on the social platform they already used to communicate with you. For example, when a customer writes to you on Twitter, don’t ask them to call your customer service 800 number; simply ask them to direct-message you through Twitter. And it should go without saying, always remain professional and polite.

3. Don’t neglect the positive vibes

While it might seem obvious that you need to address complaints, you should also respond to and amplify positive feedback. Aside from word-of-mouth referrals, social is the media by which customers can quickly and easily become advocates for your business.

Whether it’s a simple check-in letting their friends know they visited your store, a review detailing their experience or some other accolades made public by a customer, any exposure is good for your business — so why let it stop there? Retweet, share and thank users who mention your brand.

Pro tip: Offer discount codes, giveaways or other incentives to further delight your happy customers. These tools shouldn’t be reserved only for service recovery. You could turn someone with a warm view of your company into a full-on brand ambassador by making them feel valued.

4. Mine the data for trends and opportunities

Your job isn’t done once you respond to individual customers. Now is your opportunity to collect all the data and identify trends, common customer pain points or requests for new features/products.

Companies have often used surveys to try to gauge customer satisfaction and identify opportunities. Now, we have customers coming directly to the company with this information via social media.

Recording customer feedback can offer great value to your company. It can be used to build out an FAQ page on your website, generate blog content for an effective inbound strategy, identify keywords that you should be monitoring or make improvements within your company.

The bottom line is to always remember to keep the “social” in social media. Treat your customers like humans who are valued and have something to say that is worth your time, and you might pick up more than just followers. You might cultivate the kind of brand loyalty that converts occasional buyers into lifelong promoters.