If there's a single notion that every business (regardless of industry) can benefit from internalizing, it's that customer support trumps practically everything in terms of importance. Even if you're selling products or services that are of exceptional quality, poor customer support will do nothing but give you a negative reputation and cause you to lose business.
Like many things in life, however, the quest for perfection in customer support often seems to be neverending.
After all, there are countless methods that can be employed, and not all of them are created equal. Phone support is, of course, an important service to offer, but it only covers one small end of the spectrum.
One thing that often goes overlooked by those trying to streamline their methods of providing high-quality support to customers is the opportunity to use social platforms as a jumping-off point.
Social media is all around us at this point, and there are a multitude of reasons why it has taken off. Networks such as Facebook and Twitter are just the tip of the iceberg, too, as the concept of the social intranet is quickly gaining traction and proving to be one of the best ways to address the needs of clients and customers.
Understanding how social customer support software can benefit your business is the first step towards making a shift in what might be a new direction. Once you see what you have to gain, getting the ball rolling becomes a no-brainer.
In many cases, time is absolutely of the essence when it comes to receiving feedback from customers and clients.
This is especially true for software companies, as software updates can sometimes go terribly awry, and the sooner you can learn about the issue, the sooner you can fix it.
Social customer support allows you to receive feedback in an almost instantaneous fashion, which means you can get to addressing any problems that might arise immediately. If you have a team devoted specifically to handling online support claims, you won't have to worry about the potential repercussions that could come along with waiting too long to get things back on track.
Your customers, then, become signposts for the quality of your output, and in the end, they're doing your business quite a service.
No matter what your business specializes in, it's exceptionally important for your customers to feel as if they're being taken care of.
Think about some of the largest firms out there, and you're bound to notice the fact that many of them make it quite clear that they hold customer support in high regard.
Great customer support is a true virtue, after all, and letting your audience know that you're there for them no matter what they might need will get you a lot of mileage. Since social customer support is a relatively new concept, keeping your business on the cutting edge will do nothing but help to improve your reputation.
When your daily schedule is packed to the brim, it can be easy to overlook the importance of building strong relationships with your customers.
You need to keep in mind that your customers are the reason you're in business in the first place.
Because social platforms allow for immediate and direct conversation between you and your customers, they serve as an excellent resource for building stronger relationships with your audience. When you engage with customers/clients in such a way, it fosters trust, helping to ensure that they stick with your company for the long haul.
There are a variety of different platforms that allow you to provide social customer support to your audience, all of which can be effective when properly utilized.
While each offers its own set of benefits, however, it's best to take a multifaceted approach. Any combination of the following platforms will take you one step closer to building strong relationships with your customers, especially if you have a dedicated team focusing on offering support.
Chances are your business already has a Facebook or Twitter account, and for good reason. Social media is what today's customers and clients understand best, which means they have little trouble offering feedback or asking questions via these services.
The ease of use that comes along with social media can be very beneficial to businesses that are trying to move towards social customer support — think of it as a way of “breaking in” your customers and helping them to get comfortable with the direction you're heading in.
At the moment, Facebook and Twitter are without a doubt the best social media network for businesses and customers to interact via, but there's no reason to believe this might not change in the future. Goolge+ is gaining in the ranks as well.
Depending upon the types of products and services your business offers, starting a dedicated forum for customer support can be very effective.
Forums are typically more well-organized than social media networks like Facebook when it comes to where questions and feedback can be posted, as there are typically a number of different categories to file things under.
For example, you could have a specific section of your forum for each product or service you sell, which will help to ensure that important questions or comments don't get lost in the mix.
When a forum is well-designed, it helps to create a community that evolves over time to become a think tank for your business.
The newest addition to the world of social customer support is social intranet software, and it's making waves in the community for businesses of all sizes.
Social intranet software can be viewed as an amalgamation of many different platforms that came before it, including (but not limited to) forums and social media networks. This type of software is often used internally as a social intranet, but there's no reason why you can't use social intranet software as a method for communicating back and forth with your customers.
There are many different options available, so be sure you do adequate research before choosing any one particular piece of software to go with, avoiding "out of the box" solutions and instead looking towards software that can be tailored specifically to your needs.
If you're going to make a move towards implementing social customer service software, there's nothing more important than ensuring that you implement it properly. Implementation can be difficult at times, but it's far from impossible. So long as you take your time and don't rush anything, you'll have a good chance of being on the right track.
Making a shift towards a new style of customer support isn't something that happens overnight. You need to give yourself an adequate amount of time in order to ensure that everything comes together smoothly, as rushing things will do nothing but cause headaches.
In the end, you'll be wasting time rather than saving time considering the fact that you'll likely need to go back and fix problems that could've been avoided in the first place.
Stagger the process by tackling one element of customer support at a time, rolling out your new strategy over the course of a few weeks or months rather than days.
Once you've gotten things off the ground, you need to follow through on your original intentions and provide the best and most helpful customer support possible.
When feedback is given or issues are reported, it's important to take action as soon as possible instead of waiting around. Your customers want to know that you're going to address their concerns if they're actively taking the time to share them with you, and a lack of action can result in a damaged reputation for your business.
It can be quite helpful to have a team of employees working under you whose primary responsibility is to handle any/all inquiries from customers and clients, as this will ensure you don't have to worry about getting overwhelmed or missing important feedback.
What often goes overlooked when it comes to customer support is that customers are usually taking precious moments of time out of their day simply to provide you with feedback about your products and services.
It's easy to take things like this for granted, but you won't be doing yourself any favors if you do. Instead, take a moment to reward your customers for their loyalty by offering discounts, special deals and other incentives. Rewarding your customers can get you a lot of mileage, especially if you're clear about how much your business appreciates their feedback.
In the end, there's no getting around the fact that customer support is moving in a more social direction than has ever been seen in the past.
Even though social customer support may still be in its early stages, it's quite likely that it will only continue to evolve as the years go by.
Get a headstart on it now, and you'll be one step ahead of the competition.
Tim is a co-founder and president of Axero and the author of his forthcoming book, Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Break Down the Invisible Barriers to Employee Engagement. He's spilt insightful ink on the pages of Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, CNBC, Today, and other top publications.
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