This was a topic discussed on Talk Social with Wahine Media, a weekly radio segment on The Matt DiGeronimo Show. Listen to the podcast replay here.

If someone walks into your store, do you run and hide in back room? Hopefully not, so why would you ignore your customers online?

My husband and I were at a restaurant last night and next to us was a little girl with her father. She said “Knock knock” and he quickly said “There’s no one home.” While that stopped her in her tracks, it doesn’t work for social media. Several companies in Hawaii are discovering the PR nightmare of “no one home”. Even if you don’t have a social media presence, people are talking about you online and it’s your job to listen… and respond. So Mr. Ostrich, pull your head out of sand and be where your customers are, and listen. If you don’t, you’re missing an opportunity, and one that your competitor will be only to happy to seize.

And here’s an example I saw on Twitter the other day:

Cust 1 tweets: I am so mad at @comcast right now. What a rip off.
Cust 2 tweets: I know. Seriously bad customer service.
Crickets from Comcast
And then Direct TV rides in to the rescue with: Hey Cust 1&2: Come to DIRECTV. Get more, pay less. I’d be happy to help. Care to chat?

Are you using social media as a customer service hub? And before you say yes, are you responding? Are they canned responses?

Let me pull out my brass knuckles, shine the interrogation light on you and ask: How long does it take you to reply? Did you know customers expect you to respond within 3-4 hrs? 50% are going to drop a business after 1 week of inaction. Fact: Customers pay attention to how you respond and it impacts their buying decisions.

Customer service on social gives you so many opportunities to shine, to exceed your customer’s expectation. And it’s easy. Rather than just responding to complaints and inquiries, start responding to all comments (For example your customer says “I like that picture” and your response might be “We do too, how’s your week going?”) Keeping the conversation going is the best way to create a community of happy, loyal fans.

Just as your customers share their happy experiences, you can also expect to hear negative feedback. This is a good thing. There is a wealth of data at your fingertips. Your customers will happily and freely share which product they like better, product A or B. There’s your quality control folks.

“Not responding to a customer in social media is like hanging up on them. With millions watching.” We love this quote by @DaveKerpen

Companies facing PR disasters actually came out looking better after using social media to tackle problems head-on in public but whether you choose to answer publicly or take it off-line, it is important to respond. Acknowledge mistakes and promise to do better… and then do better.

Be there, listen, acknowledge, and find a fair solution and a win/win if you can. Respond quickly (before a crisis) in a voice that is relatable, not robotic. Mano y mano, friend to friend. This is a game changer folks. Of course all this great work goes out the window if you don’t provide outstanding face-to-face customer service too. If I were your customer, would I think you provided great customer service?

Remember, compliment or rant, rave or recommendation, they all find their way to social media. It’s up to you to do something with it.

What brands are you interacting with online? Is it because they have good people skills—aka customer service? Give kudos to your favorite brands below, on The Matt DiGeronimo Show Facebook page, or on Twitter using hashtag #talksocial, and they just may be featured on the show. Until next time, we’ll see you on social!