As it appeared in the Daily Nation on August 18th 2020
Dr Lucy Kiruthu
Are you on any social media platform? Do you use social media to interact with businesses? A variety of social media channels do exist. In a world that has gone digital, smart companies, continue to adopt the use of the channels for business. To create awareness and to offer customer support, social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Facebook are popular. Over the last five years, the adoption of these channels has experienced steady growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this growth in the last five months. In place of face-to-face and phone interactions, customers have shifted online and embraced social media interactions more.
Today, many brands are intentional about interacting with their customers via social media. They do so daily and in real-time, some even have social media coverage around the clock. These social media interactions present an opportunity to connect more with customers. Initially, social media accounts were largely used by marketers as marketing communications channels. However, for many consumer brands, social media is today playing a key role in customer support. Customer experience teams have taken charge of social media interactions. In Kenya, it is evident that telephone services providers, cable TV and internet services providers, online stores, fast foods, financial services providers are among those that are offering customer support via social media. They handle queries, complaints and even chitchat with their customers.
Unfortunately, many companies have neglected social media accounts. Recently I asked a friend of mine why no one manages her business twitter account. To my surprise, she told me that a former staff never handed over the account credentials. Other businesses have chosen to keep off social media. I believe it is better to keep off than have an account that is poorly managed. Businesses with social media accounts need to be more proactive in responding to customer queries. It is also critical to understand customer behavior across the different social media channels. For example, customers interacting via twitter expect a much faster response than those who make interact via Facebook. A few weeks ago, I conducted a survey that indicated twitter responses should ideally be within 10 minutes and Facebook responses within an hour. Some customers expect real-time responses across different social media channels. What is your response time? Do you realize that ignoring a social media customer request is the same as ignoring a customer who visits your business or ignoring them when they call?
Every social media interaction with an existing or potential customer can evoke positive, negative or no feelings. What feeling do you wish to evoke? Smart companies use social media to evoke positive feelings. They do so to retain existing customers, win new customers and build brand advocacy. Every business must be on the lookout for social media interactions that concern their brand and for customer request. When customers make requests both privately and publicly, they need responses. This is a good time to build the customer interaction skills of your social media team!
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy