Social Customer Service: Are You Nordstrom or Walmart?

If you’re like many aesthetic professionals, you probably don’t use Twitter all that much. Let’s face it, it’s tough to discuss complex subjects like cosmetic surgery or form a connection with potential patients in 140 characters.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the micro-blogging site. If nothing else, it gives you another way to see what’s being said about you on the Internet and, in turn, respond to issues that might otherwise escalate into full-on disasters.

That, in a nutshell, is what social customer service is all about: using social media not just to gain exposure with potential patients but also as a channel to monitor and manage the concerns and compliments existing patients share.

Consider this analysis from Econsultancy, in which the writer used Twitter to reach out to 21 major retailers with a customer service inquiry. You can read the entire post here but to cut to the chase, someone from Nordstrom provided a personalized response within two minutes. Four days later, there still wasn’t a peep out of Walmart.

It’s no coincidence that one has a stellar reputation among consumers and the other, well, doesn’t.

Clearly, returning a pair of shoes and resolving a medical concern are completely different matters and you certainly don’t want to get into a public discussion of what can be a highly private matter. But the point still stands: As more people spend more time on social channels, they increasingly expect the businesses they patronize to provide customer service through them, as well. Here’s how:

Monitor social mentions consistently

If you’re going to maintain a presence on Facebook and Twitter, it’s only natural that people will expect to be able to communicate with you through them. Assigning a staff member to monitor your online profiles on a daily basis will alert you to situations that warrant a response, while social listening tools, such as Hootsuite and Social Mention, allow you to track mentions of your practice, monitor relevant keywords and sometimes get a sense of the sentiments behind the discussions.

Respond quickly to concerns (and kudos)

Like they say in the movie theaters: The audience is listening. As a result, comments and questions that go unanswered are still seen by untold numbers of others who read them and then make snap judgments about how responsive your practice will be to their own inquiries and issues. Acknowledging concerns and kudos quickly sends the message that you value patients’ input and are eager to help.

Respect the doctor-patient relationship

Given the public nature of the major social networks and the fundamental importance of protecting patient privacy, you could easily be forgiven for forgoing social customer service entirely. But, again, if you’re going to be present, people will expect to be able to interact with you so the better approach is to proceed with caution. 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.

Done well and carefully, incorporating social customer service into your practice can be a key differentiator that separates you from less forward-thinking competitors. As Joshua March, CEO and founder of Conversocial puts it,

In an always on and real-time messaging world, consumers expect far more than they have before. Responding slower than consumers expect — or even neglecting to answer social complaints at all — will result in consumers abandoning you for the competition. Brands must recognize that social media has become a mainstream customer service channel. Only then can you be ready for the future.

When those brands are medical practices and those consumers are patients, the future is now.

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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