You’ve already got the “secret” weapon for new customer acquisition — it’s called customer service. But your customer service team is now treading in what used to be marketing territory, because of the explosion of social media. Customer care is your new brand and marketing differentiator.

Social networks have radically changed the customer life cycle — customer care is now the beginning of that cycle and marketing used to own that. Companies using social networks for customer care can easily differentiate themselves from competitors who don’t.

Excellent customer care on the social web can drive new customer acquisition and lower your branding, marketing and advertising costs.

The funnel turns into a circle

In the traditional funnel, marketing’s role is to drive awareness and generate leads. Customer care is there in the middle, just after the selection and purchase has been made.

The social web has completely changed this paradigm. The customer life cycle is now better expressed as a continual circle. The social networks put customer care at the top of this loop. Providing customer service in social channels generates positive word-of-mouth and builds relationships with brand fans. Those fans, in turn, build product- and brand-awareness by sharing their excitement about products and services. Consumers entering or in the buying cycle will find the amazing solution to their problem through search engines. And if, after purchase, the product satisfies or exceeds their expectations,and they receive excellent customer support in the channel of their choice they will tell their friends.

The spiraling circle

This behavior will continue to spiral out across the social channels, independent of geography. It makes it possible for the smallest companies to have a successful web presence and skip the overhead of bricks-and-mortar altogether. If you’re a B2B, it frees up your sales department to work with the serious prospects because customers will convert themselves. Here’s a tip: whether you’re a  B2C or B2B, make it simple for your customers to educate themselves about your product and offerings and purchase without sales assistance.

In 2008, I was doing marketing and customer service at a tech startup. I created a webpage consisting of training videos and FAQs and I had a service-level agreement for customer support of two hours. We also had a Paypal button that allowed people to purchase a $500-per-month subscription. I was thrilled to have a conversion rate of one “blue bird” per week converting with no interaction with sales.

Consumers are in charge. They expect the best customer service and they want it in the channels they choose. Are you providing that? Are your competitors providing customer care in the social channels? Are you missing out on new customers that are learning about their products?

The opinions expressed in this are solely that of the author. 

Featured image courtesy Helga Weber