When you envision social media, what do you see?
- A place where people can communicate with others about their interests, activities and experiences?
- A venue where you can interact with potential patients, provide insights and promote your practice?
- An avenue for customer service where you can respond to customer inquiries and concerns?
If you didn’t answer “All of the above,” a new report from Oracle suggests you’re missing out on the next stage in the evolution of the medium: as a tool to provide the kind of customer service that generates loyal patients and new business.
Social media has surpassed its beginnings as a marketing venue and become a critical channel for customer support, says the report. More than 40% of consumers using social sites such as Facebook value access to customer service and nearly one in three expect a company to provide direct access to customer support and product experts.
In fact, when consumers were asked what types of information were most important to them when connecting with brands via social media, the top three answers were “product news and information” (62%), customer comments and reviews (47%) and “direct response to my questions” (43%).
As for particular outlets that consumers expected companies to use to provide customer service, the top three were Facebook (46%), company blogs (29%) and support forums (27%). And, as the experts at eMarketer suggest, companies that provide customer service through social media don’t just help consumers; they also help themselves:
The potential return for brands that stay engaged on social networks is significant. Customers who have a great experience on social media can easily become brand advocates, and are already in the right place to spread the word.
1. Make a plan before you need to use it
According to Oracle, 29% of consumers on Facebook expect a response within two hours when they post a question at a company’s page and 22% expect a same-day response. These may be unreasonable expectations for busy doctors so it’s imperative to have a plan in place — who will answer inquiries, what they should say and how to proceed — before someone posts a question or complaint.
2. Make getting additional help and information as easy as possible
Many aesthetic consumers turn to social media for research but when it comes to the specifics of their situation they prefer privacy (or the anonymity of sites like RealSelf.com). Make it easy for them to shift gears by ensuring your social media outlets include options for direct contact, including your phone number, email address and practice website.
3. Make sure your customer service plan meshes with patient confidentiality
By definition, customer service includes dealing with unhappy customers. When it does, you don’t want to get into an argument or risk compromising patient confidentiality in a social setting. At that point, it’s not just important to take the conversation offline — it’s imperative.