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Visual Customer Service in the Social Media Age [Infographic]

If you needed to quickly learn how to fix a leaky faucet, would you reach for an in-depth instruction manual, or find a short tutorial video on YouTube? If you’re inclined toward the latter, then you’re in good company.

The US Department of Labor found that 65% of information people remember is information learned through a hybrid of oral and visual presentation, and most speculation suggests that our knowledge retention processes are becoming more visually-based.

So, for services reps, promoters, and content marketers, the next step in your online branding campaign may be to open up your social channels for customer service.  This post will serve as a guide to optimizing your social media for high quality customer support.

Why Visual Media is the Future

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At its essence, the shift in preference towards visual media means that online social platforms are changing.

It’s expected that by 2016, 55% of all web traffic will be video, and that mobile video traffic in particular will increase by 1800%. The majority of internet traffic being dedicated to videos is a relatively new concept, but something worth taking note of.

Once online videos have become this widespread, people will be looking for videos to answer their problems, just as they will for most other kinds of information.

This is why understanding visual media and how it relates to customer service could be integral to keeping your business afloat once a new model for web-based content becomes dominant.

Even more importantly, evolving visual media platforms mean newer resources are becoming available to businesses. Whether or not you’re already running into the limitations of traditional customer service outreach methods, creating visual customer service channels will not only keep your business relevant, but improve customer service quality as well.

Visual platforms encourage people to play an active role in finding a solution.  This is something that works especially well with younger customers, who are increasingly becoming an important demographic for online business.

Visual platforms also streamline marketing strategies – a picture is worth 1,000 words after all – and allow customers and service reps to put faces to online personas.  This helps one to humanize the other, as well as encourages both to communicate with more patience and respect.

Some advances in online customer service are already taking notice of this change.

A new service, called Like2Buy, now allows users to shop directly from Instagram in response to customers having no direct way to buy things posted in Instagram photos.

This is just one way customer service is being provided on visual platforms, as well as a glimpse into how visual media is already changing to accommodate businesses.

I will now walk you through the three primary visual media platforms: YouTube, Instagram, and Vine, and discuss how each one can be best leveraged for customer support.

YouTube

YouTube gets 4 billion daily video views, with a 20.5% share in the US video ad market.  It is the hub for video content, and videos play a crucial role in customer support.

This is because YouTube has no limitations on what goes into a video as far as your customer service needs are concerned. Whether you’re looking to post long, in-depth tutorial videos or quick informational videos, YouTube is optimized for both kinds of content.

Designate a specific support channel for posting tutorials for products and installations.  By making this separate from your normal promotional channel, you can separate customer support traffic from conversion traffic, allowing you to accommodate each group of visitors.

A YouTube support channel can also save you the trouble of hosting videos on your own domain.  Archive your video walkthroughs on your YouTube channel, then embed them on your homepage for easy viewing:

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But YouTube shouldn’t be reserved exclusively for tutorials.  It is also a great venue for FAQs and product updates.

Any information that could be deemed pertinent to resolving your customer’s issues is worth uploading to your YouTube support channel.  Worst case scenario, you accidentally sell your customer on the latest service upgrade.

A major component of Toyota’s recovery from the devastating 2010 recall was their video engagement.  They went to YouTube with full disclosure, sharing every step of their process so customers knew just how many safety precautions were being taken.

And, in spite of all conventional YouTube wisdom, don’t ignore the comments.

By reading and responding to service-related responses in a timely fashion, you can transform each video’s comment section into a highly specialized forum for further discussion.  Ideally, the video topics will help to organically categorize queries by relevance.

But again, YouTube commenters haven’t earned their infamy from willingness to cooperate.  If shepherding this flock proves too burdensome, you might turn to other media for the direct engagement.

Instagram

A recent study by Forrester found that Instagram, on average, brought a higher percentage of engagement per follower than all other leading social media combined. It is, by far, the most effective at generating active followers, but how do you leverage a photography app for customer support?

This is where you can take a more passive, responsive role.   Instagram is often linked with Twitter.  If you’re not providing customer support through Twitter, you really should be, but that’s an argument for another post.

To get started, you don’t even need to have a specific Instagram account for customer service.  All you need is to get a hashtag out there.  Customers can log in to Instagram, take a photo or video of their problem and tag it with #MyBrandSupport.

This creates an archive of customer service queries, to be viewed by your team from anywhere that they have access to the internet.  Now you have the opportunity (and obligation) to respond to these queries either through Instagram or Twitter.

If the customer’s problem requires more attention, you can always request additional contact information via a private message.

A good place to start is optimizing hashtags. Instagram is a hashtag-friendly medium.  Optimized posts carry up to 11 tags, and when used strategically, you can utilize those tags like a web, connecting your content to 11 different online communities.

Instagram is a also a great medium for promoting company culture. Snap a photo of company social events or a typical day in the office to cultivate a reputation for your workplace.  Highlight photos that represent your company’s welcoming atmosphere and core professional values.

And, as I mentioned before, new web apps such as Like2Buy are already being developed to make up for the areas where Instagram currently falls short.

Vine

Overall, Vine functions similarly to instagram.  As a Twitter-integrated platform for short videos, it provides customers with an opportunity to visually communicate issues that might be too difficult to explain in text.

However, Vine’s unique value lies in its short, looping video clips, which are incidentally the perfect medium for quick and easy tutorials.

While Ikea’s step-by-step building tutorials on YouTube are a great idea and extremely helpful, customers don’t want to have to scan through a 7-10 minute video in order to find just one or two relevant steps near the end.

Imagine instead, if you could just break each step down into a 6 second stop-motion clip, archived either on your website or on your Vine profile.  This would allow customers to skip right to their point of interest, the way they would when browsing a technical manual.

Likewise, customers can easily correlate their own attempts at certain points with the relevant video clips, allowing support reps to visually confirm whether it’s human error or a faulty product.

General Tips for Social Customer Service

Social customer service is a huge, rising trend across virtually all industries. For the visually-focused customer, it is far more convenient and less stressful to type your concerns in a box on Facebook or Twitter than to sit on hold, waiting for a call center representative to connect you on the spot.

But even within this new paradigm, service reps have work to do. Active engagement and quick responses are essential to maintaining a working customer service platform.

You want your social customer platforms to be easily identifiable.  Activate specific customer service accounts with unambiguous screen names like “(yourbrand)support” to clearly distinguish it from your general marketing channels.

Also, take this as an opportunity to learn from the worst, and let service reps take off their sales hats.  Once you’ve parsed the prospects from the active clients and routed them across separate channels, you can tone down the advertising and focus on meeting customer needs.

As Zappos has shown us in recent years, great customer service goes a long way in building your brand.

As you develop more of a supportive community around your brand name, your biggest fans are more likely to chime in to support other customers and their issues.

You want to allow and encourage this.  Not only does it send a powerful message about the relationship between your brand and your customers, but it makes the work for your service reps quick and easy.

Conclusion

Social media is both an easy and important tool for delivering valuable information to a new generation of visual learners.

Following these tips on using YouTube, Instagram and Vine for customer service will make sure that you’re taking advantage of a new way of connecting with customers, as well as staying up-to-date with customers’ needs.

Visual media contains the future of customer service, and things are probably only going to get more accommodating, and make more kinds of aid and outreach possible.

Now that you know what your customers are looking for in visual media and how to get it to them, you should have no problem keeping up with new generations of internet users.

Are you using visual customer service in your business? What are some limitations of YouTube, Instagram and Vine? How can they be overcome? Are any businesses doing this particularly well? Let me know in the comments.

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