By John Devlin, Managing Director, Ascensos

Despite many ways in which customers can get in touch with businesses these days, social media, the most recent addition to the mix, has emerged as the preferred way for consumers to reach out to brands directly. Recent studies have shown that 67% of consumers have used a company's social media site for servicing and 33% of social media users even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone.

We are in a new age of customer servicing where social media takes centre stage. Many businesses know this but implementing strong and responsive social media presences can be a challenge. Here are a few practical tips to help businesses get a head start in engaging with their customers on social media.

1. Tone of voice — Tone of voice is about creating a consistent brand personality that your customers can connect with. Many brands are concerned that having multiple people working on their social media profiles means compromises will need to be made with regards to tone of voice. This doesn’t need to be the case, but it does require that the right training program is created to ensure Brand Ambassadors, who deliver service on social, use the right tone, style and messaging in such as public forum.

2. Know what customers want — The free feedback gained from social is a prime opportunity for any business to understand what motivates its customer base, to make steps to improve its operational efficiencies and to use these insights to continually evolve the customer experience. Additionally, there is an increasing amount of research available online that correlates customer satisfaction with positive behaviours such as advocacy and repurchase.

3. Less marketing, more social — Social media has evolved beyond the megaphone announcements and even past the point of storytelling. It should be all about engagement and building strong relationships with your followers, encouraging them to become advocates for your brand and spread the positive sentiment. Brands play a key role in facilitating this level of communication. If a customer talks to a brand and they don’t talk back. It’s game over.

4. Adequate resourcing — By the nature of social, it’s switched on 24/7, therefore, so should your brand be. It no longer makes sense to restrict customer service support to the traditional 9am-5pm office hours on this channel. Not only have consumer expectations increased with regards to response times, but the potential impact negative word of mouth can hold for a brands’ reputation if left to fester can be incredibly damaging and a turn off for other customers. Plus, with your competitors a mere click away the chances are they will be watching your every move. If you don’t help your customers, your competitors will undoubtedly be quick to do so.

5. Integrated approach — Social media as a customer service channel should be all about the collaboration between customer service and marketing. Social as a channel for customer service is a cheaper alternative to other customer contact channels; voice, email etc. Brands often struggle to allocate budget to social despite it topping the list as far as impact and reputation is concerned.