Remember the time your laptop broke down, and you had to wait for hours listening to an automated voice telling you how important your call was? Or the time you had to miss breakfast, lunch and half a day’s pay just to get somebody at the local service station to open your car’s hood?
Businesses have always assumed customer service to be a premium value add to their products and services. In fact Silver-Gold-Platinum support structures have become so common that even businesses that create customer support products charge subscription fees for their services. That’s ironic because (a) if you CAN provide Platinum service, that should be the defacto, and (b) giving your customers exceptional service is not really a choice you make any more!
Back in the days, the only way consumers could get a brand to “hear” them was through the support hotline, email or the company website. And it was at least ok (albeit unfair) to offer premium support to just a shining subset of customers. But today, with customers tweeting their fury and sharing their agonies on Facebook, providing mediocre support is just suicidal.
Businesses stuck with rigid support subscription models are unable to leverage social media and make their customer service proactive. As a result, they get even more entrenched in their old school support structures, praying for the good days of silvers and platinum to return, and believing support to still be an option they get to make. Here is why they couldn’t be more wrong:
1. The need for real-time communication
Customers aren’t really going to wait for businesses to take their time responding to queries any more. Businesses declining to facilitate real-time support are shooting themselves in the foot. In an age of instant gratification, if your business doesn’t at the very least acknowledge my problem right away, you’ve lost me already!
2. The customer frames the rules
When a customer screams his agonies on Twitter, businesses that aren’t there to show that they care are just leaving their chips on the table for competition. The only thing worse than not having a social media presence for your brand is being apathetic and attempting to divert customer queries to traditional channels. If I had a bone to pick, and went as far as telling the world about it, I need a solution right there. Not a link to your support portal, or an automated voice on your customer care hotline.
3. The early bird catches the worm
Did I tell you about the competition part? Your customers are talking about you already on social networks. And so are your competitors’ customers. We’ve already bandied out examples of companies who are stealing large portions of the social pie from their competitors, one Twitter mention at a time.
Where businesses fall short
None of these points are world-changingly, paradigm-shiftingly new. And yet, a majority of businesses are yet to jump into the social train, citing two main barriers – Bandwidth and Reputation.
We’ve all heard heads of support talk about how their social media efforts are limited due to resource constraints. True, a Facebook page with no activity isn’t really a lot more value that no page at all. But their problem rests in the “execution” part, and the right tool can help a business manage traditional and social channels without feeling a pinch.
What should be done?
The more troubling problem is when businesses choose to not have any social presence because of the fear of blunders and negative word of mouth. Remember the old adage of “better to stay silent and let people assume you are a fool, than talk and remove all doubt”?
Unfortunately that doesn’t cut it today. Your customers are already there talking about you, whether you like it or not. You could either participate and engage, or stay back and disappear.
We are seeing more and more success stories on social support every passing day. The perfect social media support strategy just comes down to getting on the field and showing you care. The best tools can take you a long way, but social support is all about incorporating the human element.