By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you ignoring your customers’ cries for help…on social media? A new study from LiveOps and Harris Interactive found customers expect a business to be just as responsive to customer service complaints on social media as it is anywhere else. If you’re ignoring customers’ posts, tweets and pins about problems with your business, you are falling short of their basic expectations—and that could hurt your business.

It’s easy to do. Many small businesses start a social media campaign, maybe creating a presence on one or two channels, but then their participation drops to the occasional post or tweet. Or maybe you got really excited about the potential of social media, and you started participating in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, you name it. Suddenly you find you’ve spread yourself too thin and you can’t keep up with all of the avenues you’re involved with.

LiveOps found a whopping 85 percent of consumers say that the way a company handles customer interactions and complaints on social media is a reflection of their overall customer service. More than one-third (34 percent) of respondents say if they have a problem with a company, the first place they’ll go to air the issue is the company’s social media channels.  Younger consumers are especially likely to use social media for customer service purposes—50 percent of Gen X and 71 percent of Gen Y say they’ve used social media to initiate communication with a brand recently.

But while consumers are reaching out on social media, they feel companies are falling short in their responses. The study found some 70 percent of complaints on Facebook and Twitter go ignored by companies.

Responding to your customers on social media not only makes a difference to your brand by preventing people from badmouthing you online, but also to your bottom line: The study found customers who felt companies were responsive on social media spent an average of 30 percent more with those firms.

What it boils down to is this: There’s no longer a divide between customer service online, on the phone, in your store and on social media. Consumers perceive it all as one big thing—your brand. If any aspect of your customer service falls short, it affects their perception of your business as a whole.

What can you do?

  • Monitor your social media accounts. Use social media monitoring tools like Sprout Social or Trackur to keep on top of what’s said about your business. Set up Google Alerts on your company name so you can catch mentions of your business on the Web.
  • Don’t stretch yourself too thin. If you can’t be responsive on 10 social media channels, dial it back. Figure out which social media accounts matter the most to your business, and focus there. As your mom always said, it’s better to do one thing well than 5 things poorly.
  • Be real. Customers appreciate authenticity on social media. When they have a problem, often they just want to be heard. Responding quickly and being willing to listen will go a long way toward resolving any hard feelings that may exist.

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