The following is a guest contributed post from Larry Caretsky, CEO of Commence Corporation.
Are you using social media to manage relationships with customers? If not, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. Social customer relationship management, also known as Social CRM, is a must in today’s evolving marketplace. Even if you aren’t using social channels like Facebook, Twitter and blogs to reach out to customers, chances are your customers are using social media to talk about your company.
Social media platforms can either drive prospects to your site / store or send potential customers away, and how you choose to engage social media participants will be the key factor that determines which outcome you’ll get. If you are helpful and engaging online, you’ll make a good impression. If you are dismissive or unresponsive, customers and prospects will take note.
For example, suppose you manage an online store that sells aftermarket automotive gear, and a customer contacts you to inquire about a specific item that you don’t sell or have in stock. If you are helpful to that customer, providing information on where she can find the item she’s looking for, she’s likely to provide positive feedback about your company on Twitter or another social platform and come back to you when she needs something that you do sell.
On the other hand, if a customer has a disputed charge and is unable to reach your customer service team to resolve it, he may decide to take to Twitter or another platform to share that frustrating experience with all his friends. And that could cost you business in the future.
So how can you leverage social media to get new business and build a positive relationship with customers? Here are three tips to help you get started:
1. Have a two-way conversation: Engaging in a dialogue is what social media is all about, so when a customer sends a social media message, respond. If someone compliments your company on Twitter, retweet the comment, or thank them for a Facebook or blog mention. If your customer experienced a problem, let him or her know you’re prepared to make it right.
2. Be transparent: Some business owners respond to social media messages with a direct or private message, but that’s a missed opportunity. Even when responding to a complaint, if you provide an answer that others can see, you’re demonstrating that you care about your customers. Of course, it’s almost always a bad idea to engage someone who is being unreasonable. But if you’re making a good faith effort with a reasonable customer, those following the conversation will see that.
3. Do a periodic social media roundup: One great way to extend the social media conversation (and generate more free publicity for your company) is to do a weekly, biweekly or monthly round up of social media mentions. You can use an online newsletter or Facebook post for this purpose. It should include thanks to the customers who provided your business with compliments and also express gratitude to customers who complained – because they gave you an opportunity to improve.
The basics of customer service and relationship management haven’t changed: Customers still like to be engaged and to feel that they’ve been heard. They generally appreciate any help that you provide and resent being ignored. What has changed is the way customers and businesses communicate.
That’s why you should strongly consider incorporating Social CRM into your marketing and customer relations strategy. If you don’t use social media tools, conversations are happening all around you that you don’t know about, which can result in missed opportunities. And using social media can open up a whole new way to relate to your customers and prospects, positioning your business for greater success.