© Sprout’s Consumer Survey, Sprout Social. Retrieved from The Q2 2016 Sprout Social Index on July 4, 2017.
Beep. Ding. Swoosh. Those are the sounds that fill our office spaces, coffee shops…or any place that has people for that matter.
There is no denying we live in a world where most of us have our eyes buried in our phones, are constantly on the go and can admit that taking our phone to the bathroom has become normal practice – we don’t want to miss a thing! Because of this need to always be connected and have information right at our fingertips, customers have, now more than ever, a stronger, louder voice – and depending on who they are – a big influence.
In an effort to keep customers happy or informed, quick response rates have skyrocketed and started to become a vital practice in social media management and an integral part of an overall social media customer service strategy.
“In fact, 90% of people surveyed have used social in some way to communicate directly with a brand. What’s more, social surpasses phone and email as the first place most people turn when they have a problem or issue with a product or service.” – Sprout’s consumer survey, 2016.
It may sound like a time-consuming task, but it shows customers that their inquiries are important and a company cares about what they have to say or share. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Next, according to freelance writer and Business News Daily Contributor, Danielle Corcione, building real customer relationships, using a hashtag, focus on creating a customer advocate base, and creating an opportunity for referrals are four ways a business can use social media for customer service success.
Obviously, the goal of a company should be to increase the bottom line, but it should not be the focus. Building a solid, loyal customer base that will continually come back (maybe even for generations), who will advocate for your product or service, and make them feel like they are part of a ‘brand family’ should be a close second goal. In my own experience, when I shared a post or tweet about my favourite product and tagged the company, and the company interacted with me, I was positively impacted and now inclined to go back or share their information on my social media channels. I felt heard and like I had some influence.
Herrle’s Country Farm Market
A local business that does a great job of sharing its products, interacting with its customers and giving back to the community in which it belongs to is Herrle’s Country Farm Market.
The St. Agatha, Ontario-based small business has created an authentic voice, one, that many who have grown up in Kitchener-Waterloo, are very familiar with – a local farmer who is family and community oriented. Yes, the tri-city area is growing at a rapid pace, but the roots of this community are still strong: buy local, support local, farmers feed cities.
Trevor Herrle-Braun, who is the Owner and Manager of Herrle’s and the voice behind its very active social media accounts, can be seen incorporating the history and community loyalty into the Herrle’s Market social media strategy. Each message is carefully crafted. Trevor is diligent about responding to inquiries, posting original content, and sharing customer testimonials to its various social channels – and the Region of Waterloo is eating it up (pun intended). With more than 11,000 Twitter followers, pictures of freshly baked pies, notifying its customer community that the highly anticipated sweet corn season is just around the corner, and leveraging its online community relationship to encourage others to get involved in various communities initiatives are just some of the reasons their positive social interactions outweigh the negative.
Trevor’s social media strategy also proves that a small business with limited resources can still be successful on social media and have a great impact.
Herrle’s Owner Interview
Trevor was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about the social media strategy behind the popular Herrle’s Market accounts. Here is what he had to say:
KP: What social media accounts do you use for your business?
THB: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram
KP: What’s the purpose of using your social media accounts?
THB: It is mainly to connect and interact with our customers. Completely information driven in a light-hearted way. It is also a way to advertise, but not solely. I find the message gets lost if it is used just for advertising. Customers like to see what happens on the farm, in-season and off-season, snippets of our life, our community involvement, and our customer engagement.
KP: Do you have a strategy when responding to customer inquiries? If so, what is it?
THB: In the case of a negative comment, I always follow a 24-hour rule. I never respond right away. A negative comment is rare, but it does happen and warrants a response. I just need time to write and erase, and write and erase again. The response has to be polite but also firm as to maintain control of the conversation. The customer is not always right and sometimes they just need to voice their concern. I also spend a bit of time researching that individual before I respond to see what they’re history is – are they a vigilant and constant complainer, and just looking to complain about everything? This simple solution usually is an easy way for me to formulate my response – you can learn a lot about someone’s personality on social media. But, I will say most customer inquiries that come through are positive and looking for relevant information.
KP: Why have you chosen to utilize social media? And how has that helped in dealing with customers?
THB: Social media is a very useful tool. It is a great way to get a message out to a vast numbers of people (customers) quickly, efficiently. Before, we would have relied on paper and/or radio. This way we control the message and the timing. It has helped because we have also noticed a drop in our telephone inquiries. We can send a post and reach most people who may have a simple question who would normally reach for the phone. Message control is the big reason for utilizing.
KP: What are some pros and cons of responding to customer questions or concerns via social media?
THB: Pros – controlling the message, quick response, reach in the community, customers can reach 24-hours outside of business hours, approachable, knowing that a family member is a few short characters away, and the relationship building (I get the “I feel like I know you” when I meet someone physically for the first time). Cons – can be an easy platform for people to complain (easy for people to hide behind their account/screen).
“Our social media is kept positive for a reason and the responses are generally positive. I have worked very hard over the last 7 years to create and control the audience that fits our business.” – Trevor Herrle-Braun, Owner and Manager of Herrle’s Country Farm Market
(T. Herrle-Braun, personal communication, July 2, 2017).
Now, I’m off to buy some Little Janes (a.k.a buns stuff with cream…yummmmm!)
Lessons for Others
- Don’t be afraid to take the time to craft an appropriate and informed response to a customer complaint or inquiry. It is better to be safe and accurate, using the right tone, than to be sorry.
- Be transparent, especially if you are a small or local business. Reoccurring and potential customers like to see how supporting a local business is better than big box stores or large chains. When you share first-hand images or content of what your business sells or promotes, and how it supports other business around you, it gives your business more of a ‘personality.’
- Have fun with your online community. Put yourself in the picture or dialogue, use GIFs and memes, if it fits your business tone.
Herrle's Country Farm Market
Name of Organization Contact: Trevor Herrle-Braun
Authored by: isabel.p
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
- Sherbill, E. (2017). Baby meme, “That feeling you get….when delivering exceptional customer service”. In Cleverbridge Blog. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from http://www.cleverbridge.com/corporate/five-fundamentals-of-world-class-customer-support/
- Sprout Social. (2016). The Q2 2016 Sprout Social Index. Retrieved July 4, 2017, from https://sproutsocial.com/insights/data/q2-2016/
- Corcione, D. (2017, March 9). How to Use Social Media for Customer Service. Business News Daily. Retrieved July 4, 2017, from http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5917-social-media-customer-service.html.