The Art of Listening: Social Media Enables Dialogue

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Are you making the most of your social media presence?

Social media platforms wield amazing power for brands and businesses of all varieties and sizes. They allow business owners to connect, interact, and establish relationships with both current and future customers while simultaneously elevating their brand brand awareness and, ultimately, pushing sales. But if social media is really this important, why (as reported in AdWeek) do 80 percent of customer queries on these platforms go unanswered?

Social media makes it easier than ever to both listen to and engage your customers in meaningful dialogue. Let's look at some of the best practices that have been established for making the most of this opportunity.

1. First, Understand

Social media posts are as diverse and wide-ranging as the people writing them. Customers have a variety of different opinions, perspectives, and, ways of expressing themselves as well. When a post or comment is originally received, take a moment to truly understand what the customer is saying.

When responding to compliments, attempt to pinpoint the specific aspects of your product or service that the customer was pleased with (a certain employee, branch, or feature) and build your response based on those. Engage your customers by letting them know you will thank all those involved with that particular process and pass along their compliment. This shows your customer you are genuine and value your employees, and also allows you the opportunity to build on an individual success point. 

Now, if the comment is negative (whether you agree with it or not), take a step back to analyze the issue. In Forbes, Brad Smith, an Executive Vice President of Customer Experience writes, 

One of the very best things you can do to extend your relationship with that customer is to fully disclose the root causes of the issues and the steps you are taking to arrest and address it.”

Explain to them that you understand that a problem exists and you are working to correct it. 

2. Act Quickly, But With Reason 

Would you ignore a customer who walked into your business and asked a question or filed a complaint? Of course not! And with Facebook and Twitter rapidly becoming the preferred platform for customer feedback, you can't ignore those complaints online either.

But before you respond, take a moment to compose yourself and strategize your response. It should highlight the best aspects of your business and should mirror what your response would look like if the customers were with you in person. In ForbesShama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, explains,

“You don’t want to fly off the handle and do something to make yourself look bad. Especially if you think the customer complaint is false, your instinct is to react in the heat of the moment.”

Take a deep breath, then respond. 

3. Get Old School

While social media platforms are a fantastic way to engage with customers, please realize they are not the only way to communicate. Important customers or clients with issues often deserve something more than an electronic apology at the click of a button. Don't be afraid to take major complaints off social media and voice your apologies in person. Pick up the phone or hand write a response if you can access the necessary information. These apologies often go farther than those on social media. 

4. Turn That Frown Upside Down

Negative responses don't have to remain negative. Engage your less positive customers and use the conversation to highlight your strengths. When you handle negative comments correctly, it gives your business a chance to highlight positive qualities such as trust, consistency, and experience.

Tim Devaney, an experienced business columnist, describes one such response,

“I’m sorry you had a bad experience. We’ve been in business 25 years, we serve thousands of customers a week, and we strive to create the best possible dining experience for the community.”

With responses such as this, you allow the customer to feel acknowledged and important while also explaining to the rest of your followers that the mistake was an anomaly. 

5. Speak About the Solution

Apologies are important and they make your customers feel noticed…for a while. But fixing the problem(s) is really what your customers and, ultimately, you should care about. By engaging with customers and then analyzing and applying their feedback, a solution to one problem can reach hundreds, possibly thousands, of customers. 

In an article on Seek Social Media'Blog, Carole Billingsley, a social media consultant, explains,

“When you deal with complaints effectively, disgruntled customers will tell their friends how awesome your company is and what great customer service you offer. And they’ll encourage their friends to buy from you.”

Your worst enemy just became your company's best friend!

Social media platforms offer businesses unrivaled access to customers' opinions. The idea may seem intimidating: tens of thousands of customers are all gathered in the same “room” essentially ready to share what they know. Engage them by starting two-way conversations. Analyze the problems they share, apply solutions, and then engage with them again. Follow these steps and you will appear genuine and real in this virtual world we live in — and that is something your customers won't forget. 

Share your social media strategies by commenting or tweeting @EidsonPartners!

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