#Realtime social savvy consumers are the new frontier for businesses

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Katie Griffith is a tweeter. And she doesn't mind letting a business know if she's not happy.

"I told them that their service was bad..." she said on a recent night out. And when the business didn't respond?

"I didn't like it, cuz I was like you should answer me if I'm talking about your service in your store," she said.

Griffith represents the new frontier for business, more accustomed to sending out marketing tweets, rather than answering them. And more accustomed to handling customer service issues in a call center or via e-mail.

"I think in the past, let's say 2009-2010, it was kind of a want to have, or you know, this is a good thing to do we need to be working at this," said Zena Weist of LevelFive Solutions, an Overland Park-based digital web development and design firm. "Now in 2013-2014 it's a 'must have.'"

And she should know. She was the first Director of Social Media at Kansas City-based H & R Block, launching social media for customer service back in 2010.

Ryan Noonan is AMC Theatre's first Director of Social Media, another major company headquartered in the Kansas City area that believes in using Twitter and Facebook for more than just pushing content.

"We try to err on the side of engagement," Noonan said, adding "If there's an opportunity to engage and respond then we want to."

Recently Noonan, now Director of Public Relations for AMC, showed us the chain's marketing team that responds to tweets and posts. Working in an open area of the company's new Leawood headquarters, team members rotate keeping an eye on social media for mentions or direct communication. After-hours, they monitor from their smart phones and homes.

"So someone's come at us saying that our concession lines at a specific location are long," Noonan noted as he pointed to a screen following Twitter feeds. "So it's an opportunity not only for us to apologize for the experience but to follow up a little bit. Is this an ongoing issue? Is this out of the ordinary?"

The team had reached out to the Miami based location and to the tweeter to deal with the problem.

In the past, an e-mail or phone call would have come after the theatre experience, meaning today, customer service issues are being dealt with in real-time by more and more companies embracing social media.

Recent studies show consumers expectations that they'll have their "tweets" responded too are rising. In one study, 42% wanted a response within an hour.

Says marketing expert Weist: "If you're not monitoring social media on a customer service end, your competitors are."

Even small businesses are getting into the act. Dawna Rutledge is a metro realtor who uses Twitter to market homes she's selling. But as a consumer, she expects a response and results if she has a concern.

If not, "then you get a bad review. Bad news travels fast," she said.

Or for the social savvy, goes #Viral.

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