Do you like your customers?

The customer is always right. But do you have to like them too?

Social networking has changed the way many firms handle customer service. And those same social networking sites have given other firms the type of PR headaches they have spent years studiously trying to avoid.

Learning how to make best use of social networking sites is vitally important these days. A growing number of companies are taken a carefully considered and measured approach to using social media channels to interact with their customers…and even to like them.

Customer engagement has never been so easy...or so immediate

These companies are actively engaging in a very public conversation with people who buy their products and services, causing a mini revolution in terms of traditional customer service.

Social networking is revolutionising customer service. There are more and more examples of companies using Twitter to deal with individual customer complaints and get important product messages out to the public as quickly as possible.

London Midland has recently won a deserved award for the proactive way it uses Twitter to keep passengers informed of what is happening on the various train routes it operates. The tweets might not help make the trains run on time, but they do provide live updates and enable the company to engage more productively with passengers.

Equally, firms are creating pages on Facebook that are far from staid corporate sites with mission statements. Instead they encourage customers to engage with them, offer them incentives and special deals, make them feel valued.

Of course, they are not reaching all their customers this way and more traditional methods are still being utilised.

However, it is significant that important lessons are being learned in the way firms are engaging with customers via social media and that is trickling through company policies.

We all have horror stories to share about poor customer service. Twitter, Facebook, blogs and online forums can all help companies handle complaints, deal with enquiries, reward customer loyalty and generally maintain a positive brand image with a simple and quick click of the mouse.

It will be interesting to see how those companies who have “got” social networking so far continue to evolve in 2012.

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