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Most business owners think of social media as a useful and effective marketing tool. It drives online traffic, generates overall interest in the business’s backstory, promotes the company’s brand, and gets its logo noticed. But social media can be more than that. Utilizing social platforms can be an excellent instrument in the development of improved customer service protocols because it provides companies with an alternative means of feedback and supplying consumers with consistent and responsive assistance.

Great customer service leads to an increase in consumer loyalty by showing your customers you care. Being responsive to customers online is a way to build your reputation as a trustworthy business that values its followers. Capitalizing on social media platforms means constantly perusing and surveying social media feeds to improve customer service and deliver timely one-on-one responses. Brands that fall short in the area of customer service show that they are not actively listening to or engaging with their consumers, and they will ultimately find it difficult to maintain consumer loyalty long-term.

If your company currently utilizes social media platforms, and you want to up your customer service game by using social media monitoring, you may want to follow some of these suggestions.

Your primary goal is to build real and lasting customer relationships. Don’t be one of those businesses that approach social media monitoring as a means for marketing and self-promotion. These businesses tend to be unresponsive to social media comments. Remember that other customers are watching, and will take note when issues remain unresolved. They will also be cognizant of the positive feedback provided by consumers and timely responses from your company that express gratitude for feedback and take the time for appreciation and resolution.

Utilize your business Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts you currently hold as a viable opportunity to engage in conversations with your customers. Real, trusting, and ongoing relationships with consumers can only be forged through regular contact and open lines of communication. Use positive and negative feedback as starting points for developing discourses and lines of communication that will improve your product and your service.

Your secondary goal is to choose the social media platforms that work for your business. If the goal is to build relationships with your consumers, you must go where your consumers are. Survey your customers and analyze which platforms are most active with your customers so that you can use those as your customer service channels. Not all social media platforms work equally well for every business, so focus your time and energy on those that will provide the best and most communication for you.

Once you have determined which platforms on which to focus, be sure to monitor your mentions so that you can gauge your online media presence and reputation. There are a variety of free social media monitoring tools available for businesses that can help your company hear what your audience is saying about you, learn what is being stated about your competitors, and gather data that you can analyze. All of these insights will help you know your customers better, improve your marketing strategies, and serve your loyal consumers well.

Understand that it is human nature to complain before we compliment. Responding to positive social media mentions are generally not difficult and often require a simple “thank you.” Timely responses, however positive, are critical to letting you know that you value their support and loyalty, so be sure to respond quickly and appropriately.

Negative feedback, however, requires a little more finesse. Because it is difficult to determine tone in text, be sure to maintain a positive, collaborative and conciliatory message that opens up a line of communication that will lead to a resolution of the issue. A positive outcome for both parties is preferable, so take your time in developing a thoughtful response to customer concern or complaint. Some issues might be easy to resolve, especially if you throw in a complimentary company t-shirt designed through a template, while others may need you to take it offline. Request the customer’s contact information so that an email or phone call may be used to deal with the concern or complaint.

Customer service, after all, is about the customer. Building a community of satisfied consumers will go a long way in promoting your business and making it successful. Nothing markets a company like a large, strong base of satisfied consumers. As Raymond Johns Success Formula indicates, “Over the years, I have learned that customer service is the most important part of any business…To over-deliver in service to a customer is by far the most valuable thing to a business. Because there are only two ways to improve the operations of a business: increase sales or decrease costs.”

In what ways have you used social media to boost your customer service experience? Feel free to share below.