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So, by now, you may be wondering if servicing clients through social media really saves you any time or money.

Actually, Tiles says, it may increase service demands. That's because you're reaching out to people who might not have called or asked for help before. So, a better customer care program may lead people to ask for help when they need it.

Citibank's Frank Eliason, director of global social media and author of @YourService (Wiley), says there are occasions in which social care can help save time and money:

Customers Assisting Customers – This occurs a great deal in online forums within the tech sector – developers help other developers, for instance, through an online forum. This kind of social care can work in financial services, too, Eliason says, until there's a need for greater customer account information.

Proactive Communication on Issues – It's easy for a firm to find itself inundated with calls when an issue or crisis arises – a website gone down, for instance. But firms that are proactive can actually use social care to reduce the number of incoming calls and drag on staff from such an event. A simple message displayed to customers online or through social media that says, “We're down but we expect to be back up” can deflect calls and build customer loyalty.


So by now we know that there's a growing trend to service clients through social media, that clients expect more of their service providers today than ever before, and that the rewards of good social care can extend beyond loyalty to greater spending. Now what?

Let's look at the five key steps to getting a social care program under way:

1. Choose the Platform(s) – No surprise: Twitter and Facebook are the top platforms for client serving. But don't feel compelled to use both; you can certainly start with one. Just remember that if you're using your firm's account – say on Twitter – both for corporate communications and customer service purposes, you may be faced with quite a number of issues to address, and rather quickly.

2. Choose Keywords Carefully – Think about those key words to describe your social care account or profile. These are key words clients may be using to search for you when they do have a customer service need. For instance, if you wanted to ask your bank a question through Twitter, how would you go about finding their Twitter handle? “Schwab” and “customer service” might be the most logical for that firm. Watch out for common names. If your investment firm is “Smith Investment Advisors,” you can be sure you'll get an avalanche of inquiries, and not all for your firm. Tiles suggests using the firm's name with other keywords.

3. Determine Your Purpose: Reactive or Proactive? – Determine your social media care philosophy: Will you be reactive only or are you looking to build stronger relationships, perhaps hoping it may lead to even more business? If the latter is the case, consider key words connected with your core product or service areas so you can engage with people on those topics. The audience you reach as a result might not ever mention your brand, but it's still an opportunity to make yourself known.

4. Promote It – If you decide to engage in social media care through one of the social networks, be sure to tell the world. Of course, you should share it through your social media accounts, but don't forget the myriad other ways such as company newsletters, e-mails, brochures, and other traditional means. Also remember to tell your employees so they, too, can spread the word.

5. Staff It Right – Who's going to manage your social media care efforts? An employee? An outside consultant? You? Determine how you're going to set up the care and feeding of your customers. Be sure people are properly trained and engage in some mock social care to get everyone comfortable before going live.

One final word: If you decide to use social media for client servicing or customer management, commit wholeheartedly. The last thing you want to do is to get a program under way, only to find it taking a back seat to other priorities. You'll only risk losing customers and hurting your brand.

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