When you're trying to contact a customer service representative for a particular company, the odds are good that you need help right away. That means that you need to be able to get in touch with customer service quickly. But with all the different channels of communication you may have available, it can be difficult to determine which is best.

Choose the Route That Works Best for You
Most companies will direct your to call for customer service, with a few preferring to have customers use some sort of email or web form to help. But though the company in question has a preference for how it provides customer service, you don't have to use it. You should, instead, focus on the strategy that's going to get you the best service in the least time. For many companies, that means using social media.

By sending out a tweet mentioning your problem with a specific company or posting to that company's Facebook page, you can often get a fast response from someone who wants to resolve the problem to your satisfaction. That's because social media is a public forum: anyone looking for information about the company can see your complaints, which is bad for that company's business. It's in a company's best interest to get the problem solved as quickly as possible.

Public Relations Nightmare
When Sir Patrick Stewart, of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" fame, tweeted that he'd "lost the will to live" due to a 36-hour wait for Time Warner to install cable at his new apartment, it was retweeted over 1,800 times. That represents a huge problem for Time Warner. That single tweet will likely make many potential new customers for the company look for an alternative. You may not be able to have quite such a dramatic impact, and companies are taking online influence into account for how rapidly they respond to customer service requests over social media. But the public nature of such a post will still work in your favor to get you a faster response than through a non-public channel such as the telephone. Companies are well aware that even if you don't have the reach of Captain Picard, your friends and family will still see the issues you post about, as well as how they resolve the problem.

Increasing Numbers Turning to Social Media
According to a 2012 study by NM Incite, 47% of social media users in the U.S. use the platform to get customer service. It's becoming more prevalent, to the point that most large companies have a social media team that can at least direct inquiries to where they need to be. Almost one-third of users reported preferring to reach out to companies they need service from via social media, rather than the telephone, and this number which is likely to grow. Most users seem to have a more positive customer service experience using social media, and 71% of social media users who get great customer service said that would recommend the company they use afterward.

Providing customer service through social media hasn't been perfected yet: companies are still sorting out the best ways to deal with issues such as providing lengthy advice in a forum limited to 140 characters, as Twitter is. Customer service through social media is rapidly evolving, however, and most companies seem committed to providing help through social networks.

The Bottom Line
If you haven't already, consider using social media to reach out for customer service, at least to organizations you know are already on Twitter or Facebook. You may be pleasantly surprised at how good your customer service experience is. Of course, if you're facing an emergency and don't receive a rapid response, you always have the backup option of calling or going through the company's other preferred channels.

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