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By. Mai Overton

Who needs customer service anyway?

In a tight economy, customer service tends to be the first thing that goes by the wayside but that's exactly what shouldn't happen in good business. Delivering an exceptional experience is absolutely crucial in any economy, but perhaps even more critical a depressed economy. How can you achieve this goal in 2012? One smart and less expensive way to do this is to hire a mid-senior level social media representative.

Companies seeking economical ways to win customers should also consider refining their customer outreach strategies by hiring social media specialists. L.L. Bean, the Freeport, Maine-based company best known for its sturdy snow boots, recently assembled a 10-member team to interact with customers on Facebook, Twitter and product review websites. Their focus is to answer questions, respond to complaints, alert shoppers to new products and reinforce the brand's message.

Of course, starting a social media team from scratch isn't exactly cheap, but compared to running focus groups and conducting surveys, it's a reasonable customer service expenditure. "Monitoring social media passively -- listening in to what people are saying about you -- and then taking proactive actions when needed is a good idea," notes Wharton's Fader. "It's a big step to go there, but once you're there, it's very low cost."*

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