It is strange to think that just a few short years ago, social media did not exist. If a customer required support from a business they were restricted to the support channels of that company, whether that was through email or a premium rate telephone number.
Nowadays, if that brand has a social media presence at all then the average customer will just expect to fire off a tweet or post a message on their Facebook wall demanding that something be done about their problem.
Some brands still choose to basically just ignore any complaints that are directed at them via social media, but these are becoming few and far between. The problem with ignoring your customers on social media when they have issues is that when people search for mentions of your brand, all they will see is an endless stream of negativity with no resolution or apparent interest from the company.
Engaging with the customers on social media that have a problem with your business ensures that it is not just a one-way torrent of complaints and abuse. The general public will be able to see if the business is reaching out to assist people with their issues and internally it will hopefully allow the business to really prioritise the most important issues that customers are having.
This is particularly important when things go wrong – for example, if your website goes down and this prevents people from accessing something that they pay you to provide for them, those customers are going to be hopping mad. In actual fact, they will even be angry if you are offering them a service for free – as clearly demonstrated by the many people who go on Twitter to complain furiously whenever Facebook is down for any length of time!
In the early days of social media many large companies or celebrities joined for the very first time only when they were undergoing a crisis or they needed to improve their public image somehow. This is because people wanted to be reassured that work is being done to make improvements and be kept in the loop about the progress of those updates.
But as the owner of a much smaller business, do you really need to provide customer support via Twitter or Facebook in the same way? Well, the answer is yes, for the same reason as the bigger companies. If people are talking negatively about your business online, it is advisable that you intervene and try to make amends so that you at least have some control over the dialogue. Prospective customers will be less likely to be put off from your company if they see you actively trying to resolve problems.
The trick to providing customer service over social media (especially if you operate on a shoestring budget and have very little time to spend on it) is to get the conversation to move off the social media site as soon as possible and deal with their problem through your own Helpdesk instead.