Customer service on social mediaAre you investing your time, money and energy into social media campaigns yet are still not seeing the ROI that you want? The problem could lie in your response time.

Recent studies have shown that brands can lose up to a third of their customer base through late responses or just by ignoring customers all together. So that carefully crafted brand image that you have so lovingly cultivated over the years, through generating interesting content and effective social media strategies – well, you can kiss it goodbye if you do not engage with your online audience.

It is no longer enough for businesses to treat social media as a one-way channel of communication. As Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service states “we want to have better dialogue, not just a monologue” with customers. Broadcasting your latest products and building B2C relationships is a two-way street. If you want your audience to engage with your products and services, it’s essential that you engage with them as well. Here’s why:

1. It’s expected

A recent study by Sprout Social reveals that brands only respond to 11% of people on social media and more damningly, companies send 23 promotional messages for every one they respond to. Yet despite this, consumers still (rightly) expect a response via social media and will be deterred if they do not receive one.

On average, companies keep customers waiting for 10 hours. While most respondents believe four hours is a reasonable waiting time, other research suggests that this window for appropriate response could fall even lower, with 42% of consumers expecting to hear a response within 60 minutes.

Significantly, the majority of consumers reach out via social media before trying any other method. Further research into consumer behaviour has also revealed that 36% of people have used a social media platform to contact a company and 65% said they preferred it to phoning a call centre. After all, no one enjoys spending hours on hold waiting for their complaint to be heard by someone in a call centre on another continent, all while dreary, muffled elevator music plays. *Insert sighing emoji*

2. It’s the future

Brands such as Nike, Xbox and BooHoo have all opened Twitter pages dedicated to solving customer queries and have teams working around the clock to manage the page. The immediacy of the interaction and the personalised responses are a huge hit with consumers, and not just the young ones.

Now, of course, not all companies have the resources nor the manpower to provide 24 hour service, but simply dedicating a set amount of time in your social media strategy to not just talk, but to listen can make a huge difference.

Interact with your followers, thank them for their messages and be understanding and succinct with your responses. You will be surprised at the things people can forgive if they are treated fairly and feel heard. Most companies already pride themselves on their standard of customer service, so why neglect a huge portion of your audience simply because the complaint comes via a tweet rather than an email?

3. It’s bad for brand image

Back in the day when a strongly worded letter was the chosen vessel for complaints, companies could handle them privately and rarely had to worry about bad news getting out. Word of mouth has always been effective, but Facebook users on average have 338 friends, with 15% having more than 500, and younger users often reaching the 1000s. That is a lot of reach, and the power lies completely with the consumer.

Dealing with complaints has never been easy, but now rather than groaning to our partners or shouting down the phone, 36% of us will share our negative experiences online and a further 30% of us will switch to a competitor altogether. The internet has connected the world in a way that is both a blessing and a curse. We can share in each other’s delights and successes through the click of a button, but it also means that complaints and failures are public knowledge as well.

Equally, good online customer service can work wonders in your favour. Recent studies confirm that 75% of consumers are likely to share a good experience on social media and 70% are more likely to use a brand’s product or service in the future. From Argos’ ‘badman’ Twitter response to Virgin Trains delivering loo roll to a disgruntled teenager stuck in the toilet, brands that respond with personal, quick and often witty retorts or solutions are sure to be a favourite among followers. But if you cannot be funny, just be friendly.

It seems that there is a deficit between what customers expect and what brands deliver. So why not get ahead of your competitors by strengthening your social media strategies and dedicate time to actually listen; after all, it is free feedback. Even if the response is just a referral to your customer service platform, a little bit of love goes a long way and no one likes to feel ignored.