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The customer service industry has been a constant for as long as I can remember – and even longer. As long as there has been bartering, there has been customer service. So it’s perfectly understandable if when we think ‘modern,’ the customer service industry isn’t the first thing we think of. However, as customer demands have changed – or evolved, over time, the customer service industry has had to adapt in order to reach its customers and keep them happy. Basically, they’ve joined the 21st century and joined social media.

Social media has emerged as an effective way to provide customer service – and even have consumers engaged by a live human being, even through a computer or mobile device. For example, social media sites saw an opportunity to reach even more customers and are recruiting big companies (and smaller online retailers) to engage with their customers, hoping to improve the overall customer service experience. But why would customers want to engage with brands in a place where they communicate with their friends? Because of the quality of the experience and by the almost immediate engagement they receive, which is leaps and bounds better than the typical automated hell we’re used to. 

Recently, someone I know received a private message from an online retailer that included the receipt of their purchase, a link to track the package and a place to add customer feedback about their shopping experience. Rather than getting multiple emails, they received it all in one message. This is the future of customer service.

But it’s not just online retailers experimenting with business messenger. Big brands like Hyatt, Wal-Mart and KLM Airlines, to name a few, have also joined the fray.

Hyatt was one of the first brands to start using Messenger to help guests with their customer service needs. Their marketing team thought that having around-the-clock social care efforts was a no-brainer, so they implemented this as a test and it shot off like a rocket. Having a feature that’s also mobile is one sure fire way to have a meaningful conversation with guests when they’re on the road. As a frequent traveler myself, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this type of customer service.  A quick message with a customer service representative instead of trying to remember your log-in information on some website can make a big difference to any traveler, especially the business traveler who often has short windows of time to get things done.

Hyatt was approached to test this service in early fall and by December, the number of messages they received from customers multiplied nearly 20-fold, without doing a single thing to promote this service. Customers today are savvy enough to find these features all on their own. As chat apps become more popular and people tend to spend more time on them, it’s clear to me that companies need to start taking the leap and going to the place where their customers gather. “Build it and they will come” might’ve worked for Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams,” but it might not be 100% accurate in this case. It’s more like “go where they gather.”

Sprint is another brand that has taken to social media to help better serve their customers. The telecom giant will also use its messenger integration to serve an increasing number of customers that prefer to address account and service-related issues via social media.

Customer service has the power to elevate a company from good to great and delivering this service requires everyone in the organization to step up, be a leader and actually provide exceptional customer service. By focusing on the customer, and not the money they’re making for you, you are ensuring that the customer remembers you, has a pleasant experience, becomes a repeat customer and helps spread the word to his/her friends – right there on social media. It’s kind of like a one-stop shop.

This is the next wave of ecommerce business and what will differentiate retailers this time around is not their ability to scale or do logistics, but their ability to establish brand personality.

Some marketing executives believe this type of customer service is “reintroducing personal back to shopping,” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s back to creating rich content and interactions between your clients and your business. After all, without loyal customers your business could cease to exist. Make sure you appreciate them. They’ll appreciate you back.