Human beings are, by nature, an impatient lot and over the years it seems we have gotten steadily less and less patient. Only a century ago we marvelled at the speed of boats that would carry you from England to America in 4 days and now a plane can make the trip less than 12 hours. We were shocked at the speed of the postman who could deliver letters in less than a week and now we can read an email in less than a minute. Before we had to contend with merely talking to loved ones on the phone and hearing their voices but now we can have face to face conversations thanks to the magic of Skype. Truly we are living in an unprecedented time where technology and society have merged to make our lives so much easier….but with this new wave of social media we are also living in a time where brands must be hyper aware. 

​Yesterday I talked about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software and why it was necessary for brands to listen to what their customers are saying but today I want to touch on the why it’s important to listen to your customers post sale. Once the customer has come to the store (or website) and left they still expect a decent customer service experience. This is especially true if they have any questions regarding the product or have found that their usage does not match the advertising. 

It’s important for brands to realise the power of a good social media response time. If your team can respond within minutes of a question being asked then they’ve allayed a potentially catastrophic scenario with an angry customer.

Eons ago (i.e. about a decade ago) people would simply return to the store where they bought the product, phoned up a customer service representative or sent an email to the company. Today however, the customer can reach out to a brand through a variety of social media channels and they expect a response pretty quickly.  ​

These days, with the proliferation of smartphones, it’s necessary for every brand to be on social media and a good community manager has to know how to act as the brand in question. Those who tweet at your brand or write on your Facebook page are doing so under the impression (correctly) that the social media profile is simply an extension of your marketing and customer service team. They will shout at you with problems, tell you how they had a horrible time in your store and make sure that they tell all their friends (and all your potential customers) about how they would never shop with you again. ​It’s a the job of a good community manager to respond to them and transform an angry complainer into a happy repeat customer. 

This can be done in a number of ways but the best way is to simply respond to them. If a customer tweets at you or writes on your Facebook wall it is visible to the whole world. You appear to be an uncaring brand if you do not answer their question. You should never allow a comment on your Facebook wall to go unanswered even if you simply have to say “we are on it” or “thank you for your comment”. A customer should not feel that they are simply shouting at the wind. They must believe that they are getting the best service possible. 

Unfortunately as social media is inherently ​instantaneous many customers believe that customer service should be as well. This recent graph shows how quickly customers expect a response time through social media. 

As you can see 67% of customers expect a response within the day and 42% of customers expect a response within the hour. It’s important to realise that they don’t necessarily expect their problem to be SOLVED within the hour but rather to simply receive a response. ​A customer can be very angry at a brand but that anger can dissipate in an instant if they believe that their needs are looking after. The quicker you respond, the less chance you have of having a truly angry customer on your hands. 

If the brand representative can assure the customer that their complaint has been passed onto the relevant department, and get more contact information like an email address, then the complaint is automatically taken off the very public world of social media and into the private world of email to email exchange. 

But what about smaller companies that can’t afford to have their Twitter and Facebook feeds staffed 24/7 by social media genii? What should they do? Whilst I would love to say that customers would be understanding of the fact that ​most brands don’t have someone checking up trending topics at 3am that is not the case. When a customer the world over wants a reply he expects it within the hour. The best way that a brand can ensure that people aren’t unrealistically expecting a response is to put in your Twitter or Facebook bio that support questions will be answered between a specific time (i.e. between 8am and 5pm Monday – Friday). This shows that you recognise that whilst your brand may be global your support team are still human beings who aren’t able to respond to every tweet and comment within thirty seconds. 

It’s important for brands to realise the power of a good social media response time. If your team can respond within minutes of a question being asked then they’ve allayed a potentially catastrophic scenario with an angry customer. ​We are past the days of support questions being answered within a few days or a week. Now brands must get on the social media bandwagon and give their customers the best service possible in the quickest time possible.