July 9, 2014 | Sheri Hebbeln
In ecommerce, having a social media presence is essentially a given. It helps push sales, gives your Web store a wider presence and audience and expands your brand in as many places as possible. However, many ecommerce stores have not extended their use of social media to the important field of customer service and support. The idea of "social customer service" remains new to most online stores such as wineries, even those that are veterans to the business. Still, having a strong bridge between social outlets and your business is crucial, and thus it is essential to see social customer service as an important component of ecommerce fulfillment.
Social media-based customer service is a form of consumer relations that utilizes social media to resolve product or service issues. Most brands tend to have a social media presence at the listening level, as described by Conversocial. However, others have started to take the direction of having specialists engaging customers over Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets in order to better understand issues and get feedback on new product developments. An increasing number of companies have been also working to build out this service to the point of making it part of a support center, with customer service representatives serving also as social media agents. An example of this could be a wine merchant monitoring bulk orders of a particular pinot noir through the responses of chefs and restaurant owners who have a similar presence.
Making social more than marketing
The use of social media in customer service stands to benefit any ecommerce site, especially when it can better monitor fulfillment situations that develop, such as a delayed shipment. Gadi BenMark, in an article for McKinsey Quarterly, reports that many companies have failed to recognize that in recent years, customers tend to use social outlets when they have grievances with a product or service. These firms often get distressed when their Facebook pages are littered with complaints, feeling that these outlets are meant to be marketing tools, not as places to address problems. Not coincidentally, they tend to see service and marketing as separate spheres of business operations. However, by making social media a service operation, with customer care on hand to deal with problems on the group level, there is a far greater chance of being able to manage problems before they get out of hand.
There are other advantages to social media that using a call center or a support forum lack as well. For example, while support forums require registration and other hoops to jump through just to file a complaint, a user will only need a Twitter or Facebook account, which they likely have for other reasons, to connect with customer care agents. They don't even need to follow your page or Twitter account to make their problems clear. That seems like trouble until you realize that with proper management of their problem, they get the sense you care about them. Such a positive experience can only heighten your brand reputation.
Caring more than selling
Of course, when managing social customer service regarding your ecommerce solution, you must not fall into the traps that tend to come with handling social media users, as Micah Solomon of Forbes recommends. For example, someone may attack your online wine store viciously after having a shipment gone awry. While legal recourse may seem like a good idea, that tends to backfire in spectacular ways because it then becomes an argument that you can't win. A more effective solution would be to react calmly to the situation. If positive engagement doesn't work, just let the customer go. A benefit of social media is that if you hear a complaint out in social media, you can directly engage with him or her through Twitter direct messaging or other means. You may be able to contain a problem before it goes viral through such forthright interaction.