Customer Service III: Don’t Let the Social Media “Phone” Go Unanswered

If you’re like a lot of doctors, you’ve probably found yourself wondering if maintaining a presence on the major social networks is really worth the effort. After all, recent changes at Facebook mean you’re probably reaching fewer fans and you certainly can’t describe intensive subjects like cosmetic surgery — or your practice values — in 140 characters. Why bother, you might ask, if there’s no return on the investment?

Not so fast, doc. Even though Facebook, Twitter, etc., may not work very well as sales channels, they’re still important, and likely to become increasingly so, as a tool for customer service. And with more people spending more time on social media, ignoring that fact can torpedo your online reputation before you know it.

Simply put, assuming all customer inquiries and issues will come in via phone or email is no longer an option. In fact, according to a recent study from Accent Marketing:

  • Nearly one-third (29%) of consumers like to use social media to resolve customer service issues with a brand or company
  • Nearly half of all consumers (44%) expect a response from brand on Facebook over other social media channels
  • Nearly half (47%) think that Facebook is the quickest social media channel to solve customer service issues
  • Between 2009 and 2012 the number of customers using Twitter for customer service has doubled to 22% — yet more than 70% of a brand’s customer requests go unanswered on the platform

Such numbers are indicators that social media continues to evolve. Originally developed as a digital meeting place where like-minded people could share common interests, it was inevitable that businesses would figure out that that meeting place could also be a marketplace where they, too, could join the conversation. And even if most people still don’t make purchases via Facebook and Twitter, they’ve clearly discovered the value of sharing their good and bad experiences with companies socially.

Unfortunately, when it comes to customer service, most companies are still stuck in the 20th-century belief that customer service is the exclusive domain of the telephone (and maybe email). As the folks at Accent Marketing put it,

Today’s digitally empowered consumers are no longer only interacting with brands through a single channel. Gone are the days when a toll-free telephone number was all a brand needed to engage with their customers. Now, brands need to have a strategic customer engagement plan across channels, especially on social media. Social media customer engagement is a vital piece to the overall offering of reaching all customer engagement channels.

In other words, letting the social media “phone” go unanswered only makes it more likely that potential patients will call someone else the next time.

Doctor Takeaways

Monitor social mentions consistently

The only thing worse than not responding to a customer-service issue is missing it entirely because your silence can be easily misconstrued as indifference. Assigning a staff member to monitor your online profiles on a daily basis will alert you to potential issues while social listening tools, such as HootSuite and SocialMention, will collect brand references from sites you might never find otherwise.

Respond quickly to concerns (and kudos)

While the phone and email still outscore social media in terms of overall customer-service satisfaction, more and more consumers are discovering that they get a faster response via social media. Part of the reason is that the Internet has sped everything up, giving rise to higher expectations, but it may also be that the public nature of their commentary serves as a squeaky wheel that gets them the grease they seek. A quick response shows you’re listening and that you want to help.

Respect the doctor-patient relationship

Just because a patient reveals her identity and/or her experience with your practice via social media doesn’t give doctors the green light to discuss the medical aspects of her case in a social setting. If there’s any doubt at all that engaging in a social conversation will violate patient privacy, responses should be limited to requesting that the conversation be continued offline.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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