How to Use Social Networks for Reputation Management and Customer Service

Most commercial aircraft typically fly between 460 and 575 mph and can complete a flight from New York to London in eight hours and 30 minutes. Yet, their speed is no match for the pace at which the repercussions of their PR disasters can travel through social media.

In July of 2009, United Airlines lost 10% of its market value after Canadian musician Dave Carroll posted a YouTube video about his frustrations with customer service after the airline had tossed and broken his $3,500 Taylor Guitar on the tarmac. About 19 million views later, consumers suddenly had a powerful voice on social networks, and customer service would never be the same.

Southwest Airlines took the message to heart. Dallas Business Journal tells the story of how its social media team sprang into action when a customer tweeted his irritation with long lines at the ticket counter at Chicago Midway. A Southwest representative showed the tweet to a ground operations representative who called the airport station manager, who then sent more gate agents to the ticket counter before a Southwest employee thanked the traveler. Then, the station manager located the Twitter user in line, shook his hand and thanked him for letting the airline know something was wrong.

This response was a far cry from United Airlines’ handling of Dave Carroll’s pleas for compensation. The disparity between the two cases exemplifies new awareness companies of all sizes now have about social media and the voice of the consumer. Brands must use social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to immediately identify problems, trigger processes by which the issues can be fixed and then thank and possibly even reward the notifying customer (before addressing the public at large about the problem and resolution). That process took just seven minutes for Southwest Airlines, which became one of the thousands of exemplary case studies in reputation management and customer service through social platforms.

An Exploding Customer Service Channel

The power of social media as a customer service and reputation management platform is poised to grow as younger, tech-forward generations become primary customer segments ahead of Generation Xers and Baby Boomers. Those segments, unfortunately, do not spend quite as much time on social platforms.

Millennials and Generation Y users know that sites and applications like Facebook and Instagram are not traditional advertising and marketing platforms. On television, radio and in print advertising, the advertiser controls the conversation and the brand image. On social media, companies cede that influence to consumers. While social media puts brand image in the hands of consumers, social platforms offer unprecedented opportunities to connect and engage with customers, grow databases and build brand awareness.

Consider these statistics about the reach and influence potential of social platforms:

  • Facebook alone has 7 billion active monthly users
  • Twenty billion messages are exchanged between people and businesses every month on Facebook Messenger
  • YouTube has 3 billion users
  • Instagram has 4 billion users
  • 64% of people would rather message than call a business
  • Most customers expect a business to respond on social media in less than an hour, and 6% expect a response in under five minutes.

How Companies Should Harness Social Platforms

Best practices have quickly emerged for using social platforms. Here are five quick tips for instituting proper customer service and reputation management in an organization:

  1. Have a dedicated professional or team producing YouTube content that addresses customer questions, concerns and PR issues. This content can be sent to traditional media outlets and used on Facebook, the company website and other platforms.
  2. Use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as primary social platforms to provide breaking updates about customer service issues and resolutions to widespread customer problems.
  3. Use Facebook Messenger and a website chatbot to provide instant access to live support personnel who can handle issues online, just as call center operators process them on the phone. In many smaller organizations, the same personnel engage with both channels.
  4. Do not wait to respond to customers who have service issues; monitor conversations on social platforms and proactively manage responses. This also gives decision-makers more time to formulate appropriate resolutions.
  5. Train your social media representatives in the tone of voice, expected response times, protocols for escalations, message approval procedures, permission management and FAQs.

The rising social media-centric and platform-savvy companies of today are the inevitable market leaders of tomorrow. As a result, there are many career opportunities in managing social media customer service teams in nearly every industry and sector. If such job opportunities appeal to you, consider how an advanced business degree focused on marketing online could position you for leadership in this fast-growing and dynamic area of marketing.

Learn more about Youngstown State University’s online Master of Business Administration with a Specialization in Marketing online program.

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