Getting back to customers quickly isn't enough to make your brand stand out. According to Gartner, by 2020, 90% of companies will be utilizing social media for customer service. This means that social customer service is now more of a requirement than a recommendation for your brand. It's vital for your company to spend the time figuring out what today's connected consumer expects from their digitally-enabled customer service.

Social media can render customer service a cohesive and engaging experience. If misemployed, however, it can lose you customers or harm your company's reputation, and in a highly public way.

Think of social customer service as a branding opportunity. Interacting with customers on a public platform adds a greater level of responsibility. People are watching and taking note of how your company does at assisting current as well as prospective customers.  

The following are three common mistakes companies make with their social customer service. By avoiding them, you'll be able to turn customers into brand advocates and fans.  

Ranking efficiency over familiarity

Customers are reaching out to companies via messenger more and more. Automated messaging is great for streamlining purposes. MIT Technology Review found in 2017 over 90% of world-known brands use artificial intelligence for such purposes. But customer service specialists are crucial for those delicate and intricate issues that require the human touch. After all, emotions drive consumers' decisions.

People respond well to communication and assistance that is genuine and personal. This lies in the small details: addressing someone by name, letting them know your own name, and other ways you show your consumers you hear and understand where they are coming from.

Never underestimate the power of empathy and meeting your customers where they are. Don't forget to follow-up with them and confirm that their issue has been fully resolved. It's possible to be both timely and friendly.

Ignoring the good stuff

Don't forget to celebrate your customer service successes. According to Esteban Kolsky of ThinkJar, 72% of customers will share with six people or more about their positive customer service experience. In other words, your social customer service has the power to turn consumers into vocal fans, and onlookers into first time customers. When someone posts about a positive experience they had with your company, be sure to thank them and share their opinion--you'll build credibility by doing so. Your customers want to see that you are competent and authentic when carrying out customer service.

Only being reactive

Consistently communicate with your customers on social media platforms. Take it upon yourself to notify customers of issues before they come to you with the problem. It is also probable that if a few customers are experiencing a problem, there are others running into the same issue. This is why continual feedback is key. By noticing these complications, and notifying your customer base as soon as possible, you minimize the chances of losing customers' loyalty and respect. Your customers are likely to find your proactive approach kind and considerate.

Transparency is key here. Tell your customers what you're company is doing to the fix problems and when they can expect them to be resolved. Don't be afraid to be the one who provides that initial introduction to your social customer. Doing so builds both brand awareness and brand loyalty.

Customers expect nothing short of superb social customer service. A company's action or lack thereof towards a customer has lasting and real effects. Customer advocacy increases by 25% when a brand responds to a customer complain on social media. If a company fails to respond, however, customer advocacy decreases more than 40%.

Your social media practices can lay the groundwork for continuous customer engagement and can draw a lot of positive attention to your brand. Respond to each and every customer and do so with empathy. Highlight your individual customer service successes and be proactive.

Outstanding customer service is on the rise. The American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer found that 81% of Americans claim that their expectations for service are being met or even exceeded. Only 67% of Americans felt this way in 2014.

Investing in social customer service is undoubtedly valuable and profitable. When you think about it, what better way is there to market your company than provide your customers with the best service you possibly can?

Published on: Nov 13, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.