Customer service used to be about answering telephones and responding to written requests, but our fast paced, social media-driven society has put this function firmly in the spotlight. Consumers now post on a variety of social media platforms about anything from a positive experience with a product to an issue with an item being out of stock.  

With the rapid evolution of these channels and the immediacy of the content, we have started to see the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram become customer service portals as well as places where people can publish selfies or thoughts on the job at hand. 

This change is a good thing for the customer service side of the business, as it allows organisations to see what consumers are saying about their products as well as providing them with channels through which they can build relationships, educate, advise and highlight key messages to a large and engaged audience. 

At Mirka, we use Twitter not only to promote our products but also to direct customers to other areas such as customer services. Sometimes 280 characters are not enough to provide all the information required, so we aim to drive traffic back to our website, where users can find out more detailed information and where they can potentially look at other solutions. 

We also point users to our added value services such as our approved service centres and we use social media to ask for feedback to help us continually improve what we are offering.

While some companies may view that there is a downside to these channels, as they offer an immediate way to get in contact with the brand, often in a negative way, they have a strong upside if handled correctly.  A good customer service team would respond to comments or questions within 30 minutes to one hour of receiving them. Even if the posting is negative, the person should feel warmer towards the company because he or she is being listened to. 

With Twitter, businesses should think carefully about the tone of the response.  At Mirka, we aim to answer in a more conversational voice, as it humanises the brand and makes people feel as if they are talking to a real person instead of an automated system that churns out generic answers. We prefer to direct message (DM) or take the query offline so we can make contact and provide full details as required. 

For Instagram, the platform is used more as a customer service tool to educate users through product imagery shown in its natural environment, as well as provide them with relevant information.  For example, where to find products or how to register a warranty.

The advice and information posted on social media is starting to play a bigger role as part of the customer service strategies of businesses, because having a good online presence shows your customers that you care about them and are willing to listen to their queries or issues and are very accessible. This, in turn, will lead to a greater rapport being built with them, leading to goodwill towards the brand, the end result of which is usually increased sales and greater profitability.