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Social media and consumer support

Date posted:  11/13/15 12:00:00 AM Social media is becoming a great tool for customer service issues.

If you've ever had a problem with a particular product, company or service, chances are, you called a hotline, wrote a letter or went directly to a branch to complain to a service specialist or manager. But that no longer seems to be the best way to go about handling your issue, according to a recent report from Forbes.

With the boom of social media, consumers are now voicing beefs directly to a company's Twitter feed or Facebook page.

"A lot of people think that Twitter is a fad and you can't really use it effectively to talk to customers," Bianca Buckridee, vice president of social media operations at a large national bank, told Forbes.

To Buckridee, that frame of mind is out-of-date. She told Forbes that one of the biggest advantages of having a Twitter page dedicated to customer support is allowing the consumer to see exactly who they are talking to, which can create a sense of comfort and rapport.

"We have customers returning to the channel saying, 'Hey, let me know when Theo gets in,' or 'I want to talk to Danni; she knows exactly where I'm at and what I'm going through,'" Buckridee said. "It's so cool that our customers can tweet one handle and get help for a litany of things. A retail account, a credit card, a mortgage, an auto loan, a student loan, investment questions…. You've got one team now that can actually allocate that and get an answer to you, pretty much in real time."

One click away
Social media feeds also allow consumers with a complaint to reach the company they wish to speak to very quickly, which hasn't always been the case, but is now becoming commonplace.

"A year ago, when [consumers] got a social media response from a brand on a customer care issue, they were pleasantly surprised," Dennis Stoutenburgh, Stratus Contact Solutions' co-founder, told Forbes. "We're getting to the point now that if companies don't respond, they will have a black mark against them."

American Airlines, for example, first brought about its social media presence using an outside agency in 2009. But two years later, the airline company moved the process in-house. It now employs 17 people who are solely dedicated to social media customer service, with another four working on brand engagement and one measuring social media reports.

"What's really important to us, especially after the rough year the company had in 2012 with bankruptcy and [public relations] issues, is to go from being vigilant about protecting our brand reputation in the social space — which we should always be doing anyway — to really building customer loyalty," Katy Phillips, American Airlines' senior analyst in social communications, told Forbes. "I think we've created, and will continue to create, some 'wow' moments for our customers."

Trends to avoid when using social media
As great as social media has been for customer support and marketing tactics for many businesses, a recent report from Marketing Land suggests a few pitfalls to avoid when logging onto those social media accounts.

Marketing Land said many businesses were too dependent on Facebook despite it showing declining numbers among teenage users. As Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat move into the public's eye, there are different outlets and opportunities to make a splash with consumers other than relying just on Facebook.

Social media outlets such as Vine and Instagram, which support multimedia storytelling, created new channels for the way businesses can reach people. Instead of focusing on print or copy to resonate among potential consumers, video story telling, especially in short-form online videos, has turned into one of the advertising powers of the 21st Century.