Exceptional customer service can be a powerful differentiator between companies in any industry.

New research shows that customers are increasingly looking to social media not just for brand information, but for support as well.

Neglecting service requests on social platforms can have dire consequences for customer retention and profits.

This presents both a challenge and opportunity for B2B companies seeking to build their brand in a crowded marketplace.

Research Insights

Social media statistics emphasize this missed opportunity. JD Power’s “Social Media Benchmark Study” provided showed that 2/3 of consumers used social channels for customer support, versus 33% who used social media to access marketing information.

This is a consumer study, but B2B buyers are people, too, and it’s not a big leap to expect their habits as consumers to influence their behavior in B2B interactions.

Second, American Express reported that social media users are willing to pay a 21% price premium to do business with companies that provide exceptional service. These buyers are also significantly more likely to say that they have not completed an intended purchase because of poor customer service.

These social media users will tell more people about a good experience, and they will also spread the word at a far greater rate about bad experiences.

The Gap in Social Media Customer Service

Unfortunately, a large percentage of service requests and concerns expressed through social media are ignored. While businesses may engage in social listening, that doesn’t mean they’re responding!

Understanding trends in how customers want to be served is essential for B2B marketers whose goal is to build a brand that stands out. Superior service is a clear differentiator for business offerings as well as consumer markets.

The Overlooked Opportunity in Social Media

It’s tempting to focus all our efforts on social media campaigns, contests, and content. Doing so overlooks a huge opportunity to create brand experiences that build value for business-to-business customers. It is also the fundamental step in creating an effective omni-channel digital business card.

Simply providing exceptional service can mean the difference between added brand equity and declining profits as customers go elsewhere. Taking cues from consumer marketing, B2B CMOs should be looking for ways to deliver customer-centric experiences.

Listening, responding, and following up on social media requests sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not. Harnessing social media tools is one piece of the puzzle. Appropriate technology is required so that internal support teams can capture feedback and act on it, and fortunately, these tools are readily available and quite affordable.

Training and Preparing Internal Teams

At the same time, internal teams need to be primed to take action. They should be trained to interpret messages that may seem – at least on the surface – to be innocuous. When a buyer expresses general frustration or disappointment, there is probably a deeper issue at stake that is worth pursuing. Those insights could even inspire the development of a B2B ecommerce portal, further enhancing buyer convenience and satisfaction.

Being proactive in reaching out to customers who voice concerns, even when they don’t mention your company by name, is a great place to start. Once those issues are identified, you need a process to track responses and ensure satisfaction beyond the social interaction. Taking an issue offline at the appropriate time can create a more personal connection that reinforces brand value and leads to future sales.

When looking to expand your culture of social support, a corporate social media “Center of Excellence” can help. A cross-functional team can be very useful in establishing corporate policies and procedures on how support requests surfaced through social media are handled. Using effective CRM tools will streamline this process.

Evaluating and Enhancing B2B Branding Efforts

If you have concerns about the progress of your B2B branding efforts, I’d encourage you to take a holistic look at your customer experience. Ask some probing questions like:

  • Are you able to capture customer complaints via social media?
  • Are all your touch points (social, email, chat, call centers) delivering consistent messages?
  • Are customer concerns given the same priority as sales opportunities, or does your company treat them as a distraction or nuisance?
  • Is the response offered via social media meeting customer expectations?
  • Are you proactively connecting with customers and prospects not just for sales, but for service as well?

With a little digging, you’ll quickly determine if you should step up your social media support to create a positive impact on your customer experience – and your brand.

Key Takeaways

  • Studies indicate the majority of consumers now use social media for customer support and service needs. This reliance on digital channels is beginning to influence B2B buyer behavior as well.
  • Customers willing to pay more for good service are also more likely to stop a purchase altogether due to poor experiences. Negative social media interactions can thus directly impact revenue.
  • Many service requests on social media currently go unanswered, representing a missed opportunity for meaningful customer engagement. Monitoring channels for complaints, questions, and feedback show customers their voice matters.
  • Following up on social media inquiries with offline, personalized communication builds trust, meets expectations, and reinforces brand value.
  • Establishing cross-functional “Centers of Excellence” helps implement policies and processes to handle social support consistently and effectively across the organization.

Focusing on customer-centric interactions, online and off, ensures social media improves rather than erodes the customer experience. This in turn builds a distinguished and profitable brand in the digital age.