ListenOne of the best ways to use social media is to listen for customer service opportunities. Treat each piece of information as a gift, because that’s exactly what it is. You’re getting valuable insight straight from the people who matter most – your customers.

Avoid A Crisis

Monitoring your brand mentions gives you the ability to identify customer service issues as they emerge. Handling these issues as they arise, in real-time, can prevent a potential crisis. In doing so, you can monitor and track ongoing customer concerns, and share that feedback with the teams in your organization.

Build Relationships

Take the opportunity to build relationships with your social consumers. Use your social networks not just to answer questions but to ask them as well. Be sure to respond to positive feedback (and negative – see above) and share helpful company information. For example, share answers to the top 5 frequently asked questions. Try sharing fun, little-known facts about your company to help strengthen your social customers’ bond with your brand.

Get Feedback

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, ask your customers directly for their comments and questions about your current products. But before you do, be sure your social media strategy includes a plan for tracking those responses, as well as how you’re going to handle both the good and the bad. It may be bold, but that is one sure-fire way to receive instant feedback.

Boost Sales

Another up-side to listening to your customers’ concerns is that they may provide insight and opportunities for new product offerings and potential new product features. You may even discover new uses for your existing products – which in turn, could boost sales.

Get Ahead of the Competition

Though you may not think listening to what people are saying about your competitors might be a customer service opportunity, it is. Listening to the conversations around your competitors’ products is the perfect opportunity to fill a need that your competitors cannot. That type of competitive intelligence could also lead you to new product offerings and potential new product features.  For more in competitive intelligence, download our eBook, Getting the Competitive Edge with Social Media.

We focus much of our time and energy on engaging and interacting with our social customers that we may forget that it’s also alright to listen. When you take the time to listen and respond thoughtfully, social consumers will come to rely on the customer service you provide though these channels. It will open the lines of communication and give you back so much more than you invest.

For even more ideas on how you can build social media into your business strategy, check out this month’s eBook, 30 Ideas for your 2012 Social Media Plan.

Are you using social media monitoring to listen for customer service opportunities? How does your brand help consumers through its social networks? Do you think there are drawbacks to providing customer service though social channels?