How Manufacturers Can Manage Social Media for Customer Service

Manufacturer vs Retailer Relationship

Manufacturers can work with retailers to manage social media customer service to increase sales, save customers, and increase awareness. Here’s how.


I was reading Barry Abraham’s article titled, “Control vs. Support in the Manufacturer-Retailer Relationship.” He states that the paradigm in the manufacturer / retailer relationship needs to shift from ‘Command and Control’ to ‘Enable and Facilitate.’ A ‘command and control’ relationship, which has been the norm in the industry, is where a manufacturer simply controls what products are made, and lets the retailers hold all of the relationships with the customers. An ‘enable and facilitate’ relationship, by contrast, means that manufacturers (who know their own brand and its brand promise best) need to help retailers deliver on their brand promise by facilitating the retailers in various ways.

One simple way to apply this paradigm shift is in the manufacturer’s approach to social media. Clearly, brand is hugely important to a manufacturer. Social media provides a public outlet for consumers to discuss the experience they have had with your brand online and in the retailer’s store. As a manufacturer, this presents you with the opportunity to reach out, nurture your customer relationships, and foster brand loyalty with a robust customer support program in social media.

Where do the retailers fit into this puzzle? Naturally, most retailers have a social media presence. This means they are monitoring for mentions of their stores as well as customers’ experiences in their stores or online shops. However, manufacturers should provide the same level of customer product support as realized on phones, emails, and chats through social media.

At Global Response, we’ve been tasked with outlining and implementing the nuances in approach necessary to provide social media support in a timely and accurate manner with retailers and manufacturers. What we have found is that both business types find value in handling social media customer engagements; however their approaches are necessarily very different.

From a retailer’s perspective, there are many more in-person interactions that may cause complaints about service. From a manufacturer’s perspective, most interactions involve product quality and questions on product delivery. Therefore, the dialogue necessary to resolve the customer issues are different, but similar levels of product and brand knowledge are necessary for the interactions to go smoothly.

With careful planning, the manufacturer and retailer can work together to escalate retailer-specific complaints to retailer customer service representatives, and manufacturer-specific complaints to manufacturer customer service representatives for response.

Take this model for how a contact center would handle a retailer’s customer service interactions across multiple channels while escalating product-specific questions to the manufacturer’s tier two team:

Manufacturer and Retailer: Social Customer Service Relationship

This process can be re-engineered to make sure that the opposite is true; the contact center is handling customer service interactions on behalf of the manufacturer and escalating in-store specific inquiries to the retailer.

Either way, a dedicated customer support team, working for a manufacturer, retailer, or a third party service provider, who already handle phones, email, and or chats for your brand can extend their function to social media. This makes sense both from a product / brand expertise perspective as well as a cost saving perspective.

In most cases, with a nominal set-up fee, dedicated support agents already staffed in your contact center can be cross-trained to manage social media mentions for your brand. Strategically, this approach makes sense from multiple perspectives. These agents already know your brand, and are trained to handle your customer interactions. Also, retention of highly-qualified agents during non-peak periods due to the addition of social media customer service can alleviate challenges with hiring new agents for season, training them, and then letting them go only to rebuild again.

From a customer perspective, brands who proactively respond to queries in social media increase loyalty, referrals and lifetime value. By taking the next step to engage with customers on the social networks in which they feel most comfortable helps both manufacturers and retailers come together to become omni-channel merchants.

The key takeaway from this relationship is both the manufacturer and retailer have social media mentions that require customer support. By working together with the expertise of their dedicated customer support center, they can set up response, escalation, and reporting protocols, thereby extending the function of their dedicated customer support team(s) to social media.

Global Response has been working in customer service for nearly 40 years. Extending our Brand Care Agents to social media on behalf of your brand is a natural fit. We manage your presences on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and other online communities providing tracking and trending for disposition, timeliness, and accuracy of response. Contact us today for more information.

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