By Zachary Mesenbourg, Senior Social Media Strategist and Data Scientist at 7Summits Unless you have been unplugged from the world since roughly 2004 – no computer, no smartphone and no tablet – you are undoubtedly aware of the pervasiveness of social networks and communities. At this point, most brands have started to get smart about how those social networks impact their businesses – including how they affect consumer perception of their brand. While many companies and, more specifically, marketing managers know they need to react to discussions online and engage with consumers, many face budget and/or time constraints. This drastically inhibits their ability to do one of the most basic but necessary functions: research and listen to what people are saying about their brands in real-time. This post seeks to explain why active social listening will help you better connect with your key consumers through targeted customer service. Customer Expectations If you have even owned one social channel – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other – it is a guarantee that customers not only assume you are willing to handle customer service issues on that channel, but they also expect a speedy response. A recent study by Hubshout provides an updated look at customer expectations related to social media response times. The results: – 42% of customers expect a response to any question within one hour – 32% expect a response within 30 minutes – Even more telling? 57% think that response time should be the same on the weekends as it is during the week – And most importantly, 72% expect a response within one hour when they have a customer service issue or complaint To show you the effect that failing to engage with consumers can have on your business, look no further than the overflow impact on call centers: – 40% who were ignored on social channels called a customer service center (which means that you just lost both time and money) – 38% said they would feel even more negatively about a brand if they did not get a timely response (which means that you can kiss the sale goodbye) This is what makes active social listening so critical. You should be constantly watching your own communities, as well as enlisting someone to listen across all social channels to see how, when and where your products and services are being discussed. Not only will that help you limit your customer service problems, it can help you course correct in real-time thanks to instantaneous feedback. Laterooms.com Case Study In April, Brandwatch released a case study about LateRooms.com, a UK-based hotel booking specialty site, and how it effectively leveraged social listening to improve customer service. By being vigilant, LateRooms.com was able to not only appease unhappy customers, but also innovate in the process. First, because LateRooms.com was constantly monitoring social conversations, it uncovered a forum in which one unhappy customer was telling others not to use the service. If the company had not been actively listening to all mentions of its brand online, this post would have been entirely missed. Instead, the company was able to quickly identify and contact the dissatisfied customer to mitigate the problem. Second, the company created LateRooms.com Concierge to engage with anyone looking for travel advice by responding with “top spots” and “great deals.” The result? 30% of inquiries that went through the Concierge ultimately became sales, which reinforced the ROI of social listening. This process flow of Listen, Assess, Engage is just one example of how being smart about social listening can create a lot of business value. Why It Matters From 7Summits’ perspective, improving customer service is just one of innumerable ways social listening can impact your business. The first step is simply realizing that you should take part in social listening. The second step is clearly defining the business objectives that social listening can affect (for example, reducing call center volume, lifting brand perception or improving response time). And lastly, layering data and analytics on top of it all to measure impact and ROI. In the end, don’t just listen for the sake of listening – make sure your social listening has a purpose. So unless you are willing to dedicate additional resources to uncover actionable consumer insights surrounding your customer service efforts, saying that you “pay attention to your customers” on social media is just lip service.