The shifting balance of power in customer service

Any effective customer service strategy ought to be based on one simple but crucial premise: the voices of customers matter. That is to say, it is paramount not only to listen to and understand the feedback from your customers, but also to act upon it.

shutterstock_227939422After all, the success of a business in terms of sales depends on customer satisfaction. Previously the bulk of customer service efforts was conducted behind closed doors – over the telephone, email, or even post – which enabled companies a great deal of control over proceedings. Not so anymore given the ubiquitous nature of social media; the balance of power is shifting.

Particularly since the launch of Facebook in 2004, the nature of interpersonal communication online has continued to develop, becoming increasingly open and public. This had obvious appeal for companies on the lookout for fresh ways to reach a captive audience. However, pursuing such social media marketing tactics also entailed the ability of customers to directly, and very publicly, air their feedback, positive or otherwise. Suddenly companies are facing the challenge of conducting their customer service in a transparent manner, where anyone and everyone may scrutinise how it is handled.

In this sense it’s true to an extent that customers now possess significant influence in terms of the public image and perceived trustworthiness of a business. However, rather than be resigned to this fact, brands can turn it to their advantage by publicly displaying excellent customer service skills. With these classic skills and a little understanding of how to engage customers over social media, your business can actually benefit, even from those potential angry Facebook comments from customers.

The key difference with Facebook, for example, is that it’s designed for personal interaction within a wider community setting. Thus, your Facebook activity should therefore reflect this by actively presenting your brand’s content and responding to feedback in a more personal style. Simple steps such as replying as rapidly as possible and adopting a more informal tone can do wonders for fostering a sense of brand loyalty because it demonstrates a willingness to engage on an individual level.

Furthermore, it is also a chance to better convey the reliability and personality of your brand. In a time when consumers are growing more sceptical of traditional branding and advertising techniques, what better way to demonstrate your trustworthiness than showing your human face, being honest, and transparent where everyone can see it? This also extends to being proactive rather than merely reactive. If there’s an important development in your products or services that may impact your customer base, then keep them informed.

This individual approach can take a step further with the assistance of a customer relationship manager (CRM) like Brand Embassy, which assists to collate all your social media streams and tracks correspondence between customers and particular staff members. At the core of this strategy is the recognition that social media unlocks great potential for building one-to-one relationships.

The key point to stress here is the fact that customers now have much more control over how they communicate with your brand, which actually presents a golden opportunity to show publicly that you care about each individual experience. Be sure to grasp it.