5 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service
by: Sonia Gregory
Have you ever complained to a brand publicly via social media?
I’ll admit it, I have done this.
Fortunately, my comments received a response and a resolution to the problem. But this is not always the case with every business—and it should be.
Following essential social media customer service best practices is vital to supporting your consumer base and retaining them long term.
In this article, you’ll discover:
- how to leverage social media as a customer support channel,
- examples of social media customer service from brands,
- what to do with negative comments and complaints,
- tools to monitor customer service on social media,
- …and more.
Let’s dive in!
Social Media and Customer Service
A two-way conversation, or social connection, has long been the intended purpose for social media.
We’re now seeing social media platforms used to grow business by:
- Boosting brand awareness
- Marketing products or services
- “Listening” to consumers
Social media and customer service may not have been an intentional combination of these channels when developed.
However, many people having an issue or question look for a quick solution by using social media for customer service inquiries on a frequent basis.
In fact, 67% of consumers have engaged a brand’s social media for customer service needs.
That’s a lot of people and a lot of exposure to a brand!
Ultimately, creating a brand with an inclusive and helpful community via social media is the goal of any business.
In order to be effective, using social media for customer service must now become a part of your overall social media strategy.
Are you using social media for customer service in the right way for your business?
Take a look at five key elements you’ll want to employ in your efforts.
5 Social Media Customer Service Best Practices
1. Reply as quickly as possible on social media
Most forms of customer support via phone and email are not typically expected to be available 24/7. Yet, social media customer support has created an “always-on” expectation.
As a result, 42% of consumers expect a response on social media within 60 minutes.
This means responding to inquiries, reviews, and complaints as quickly as possible is the best social media customer service strategy.
The effects of poor response time for customer service through social media are real, causing people to:
- Tell their family and friends about the experience
- Use another channel to escalate their concerns again
- Buy less from a company in the future
- Not recommend a brand’s products or services
- Complain publicly via social media
Read that one more time: 56% will never use the company again.
On social media customer service inquiries, timely responses are rewarded.
Using Facebook for Customer Service
Your company’s Facebook support response time rate is clearly shown on your Facebook page.
Facebook only considers your business “quick” (or, very responsive) when it replies within 5 minutes or less—around the clock!
Now, you may not have the ability or resources to monitor social media accounts 24 hours a day.
Fortunately, the addition of programmable messenger “bots” and customizable away messages for off-hours give you other quick and effective options for providing customer service on Facebook.
Using Twitter for Customer Service
With Twitter, it’s safe to say that people expect a reply immediately.
This is, of course, the nature of Twitter.
The platform is often compared to a 24-hour news ticker with a constant flow of information. Therefore, conversations often occur in the same rapid fashion as texting.
By the numbers, 53% want a response within the hour on Twitter. What’s more, this jumps up to 72% expecting a response within an hour after issuing a complaint.
To excel at customer service on Twitter, use the relationship-building techniques found at the center of any solid customer support process:
The challenge is Twitter’s 280-character limit, requiring a concise message.
In some cases, acknowledging a customer service issue, thanking the customer, and providing resolution can be done in 280 characters or less!
But when it cannot, guide customers to DM (direct messages).
This is especially useful if an issue is negative—since Tweets are public and DMs are private.
Remembering the need for real-time replies on both public and private correspondence is important when it comes to using social media for customer service—and especially on Twitter.
Take a look at one of the more successful social media customer service examples, resulting in a sale.
Social Media Customer Service Examples: Best Buy
As seen in the screenshot below, Best Buy did not receive a direct @ mention on Twitter by the customer. They were likely listening for their brand name with a tool to monitor customer service on social media (see more on this later).
Within the hour, a customer service social media representative responded with a helpful message suggesting product specific to the customer’s pain point. In addition, the Best Buy rep even suggested items on sale.
Later within the same day, the customer purchases from the Best Buy brand and takes the time to notify them in the same social media thread on Twitter.
Here’s the deal:
Social media response times are certainly an important metric to focus on and include in a customer service strategy. Not only can it strengthen the relationship with a customer, but can boost sales in the right context!
2. Respond to all social media feedback, questions, and comments.
Every post, review, and check-in on social media needs acknowledgment.
This is one of the biggest social media customer service best practices.
Don’t let someone’s thoughts go into a black hole.
A customer wants to be heard, plain and simple!
Since so many comments can be viewed by the public, businesses have an incentive to be attentive to everybody via social media.
The incentive is crystal clear: not replying equates to ignoring a customer.
Just as no business would ignore a customer in their store, no business should leave a comment unattended online!
Streamlining Your Social Media Customer Service Process
Use the data you gathered while answering the questions above in section #2.
Create a series of pre-written replies to help streamline the process of social network moderation.
The key to using canned responses is ensuring they read correctly to the end-user.
Similarly to email replies, the customer will interpret words without tone and inflection. So, the best customer service responses should be written in ways that cannot be misconstrued.
However, unlike email these replies will be public—as will the time stamp (see section #1: reply as soon as possible on social media).
Users want personal attention, so customize the reply to the individual on a case-by-case basis. Scripted replies are guidelines you will modify to fit a situation.
The goal is to create a community feel.
Hence, responses that seem automated are counter-productive.
For major corporations, replying to every single post may not align with the overall strategy for social media and customer service simply because of the sheer number of comments.
The rate at which your company replies to posts can align with the size of your brand.
- Small businesses need to reply to everything as a means of community-building.
- Mid- to large-size companies may choose to acknowledge positive comments with a simple “like”, while putting more time into turning negative comments around.
- Large corporations often dedicate entire teams when using social media for customer service. Some even manage support from a totally different account or page than the brand.
Social Media Customer Service Examples: JetBlue
Airline travel can be frustrating when so many things can go wrong with delays, cancellations, lost luggage, etc. Therefore, customers often take to Twitter and Facebook to voice their complaints on social media publicly and can do so easily via a smartphone.
In this situation, relating to the issue, and acknowledging the frustration helps a JetBlue customer service rep diffuse the emotion of an angry flyer.
When crafting customer service responses on social media, mirroring words can make someone feel heard:
“Thank you for reaching out,[name].” or “I understand that you are upset about (insert their complaint here, [name]). We would like to speak with you by phone to learn more about the situation, so we can find a way to remedy it for you. Please call us: insert phone number.”
3. Include a greeting and be transparent with names or initials.
If a name is apparent from your customer’s social profile, don’t hesitate to use it with a greeting.
A simple “Hello [name]”, or “Hi [name]” helps reach out with a personal touch. In the image below you can see what to do if the customer does not show his or her name. Simply replace [name] with “there”.
Furthermore, closing social media customer service responses with a -Sonia or -SG (first name or initials) also humanizes the response.
This creates accountability on both sides of the coin.
- It makes the user feel heard by an actual person.
- It allows the business to see who replied should there ever be a dispute.
Seems simple, but many companies don’t do this. These are easy things to include that soften a reply considerably.
Imagine that you are leaving a concerned comment or review, and the brand reaches out to you publicly. You wish to reply, but you don’t know who replied to you. So you just address the company or no one at all.
Giving a customer your name humanizes the brand instantly. It offers them, someone, to speak to directly should they be interested in continuing the conversation.
4. Combat negativity with positivity on social media
When a negative comment is posted, businesses can be inclined to defend themselves.
Always meet negativity with positivity.
They say the customer is always right, and that age-old saying applies ten-fold online.
When a customer complains in the store, perhaps three other customers could overhear.
When a customer complains on social media, every single one of your customers could potentially see it in their news feed!
Remaining positive also helps to breed support from your loyal customers.
Other fans or followers will often rally around the business when a single negative follower is antagonizing the company. Depending on how likely your business is to be on the receiving end of social media negativity, brainstorming positive responses can be a crucial piece of your customer service social media strategy.
To prepare for negative content on social media, consider gathering previous negative calls and emails for review. Then, create 1-3 positive responses for each.
The most important thing is to show you care and value the customer’s opinion, regardless of whether it started out negative.
Demonstrating empathy in your responses goes a long way when using social media for customer service. In some cases, it’s the difference between a 1-star review and a 5-star one.
Social Media Customer Service Examples: Apple
Let’s take a look at how Apple handles an issue (they are known more for their humorous, quirky customer service responses on social media).
Apple replies in a timely manner, greets the customer by name, apologizes, offers a phone number to take it offline, AND signs with initials. All in under 280 characters!
(Note: Since the original publishing of this article, Twitter increased their character count from 140 to 280)
5. Monitor customer service through social media with a tool
The moderator for incoming customer service through social media should be given the same training that traditional representatives receive, and a tool to aid their process.
This holds true, regardless of whether you are a company with a new social media presence. Or, a company that has had social media platforms for a long time and just now using social media for customer service purposes.
Social Media Customer Service Tools
Monitoring customer service activity on Facebook and Twitter (and other platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn) is best accomplished with tools such as:
These types of social customer service tools offer the ability to listen to consumers across multiple platforms. Accounts can be monitored by a single customer service representative or a team.
You’ll be able to add streams that show search results for phrases such as your brand name. What’s more, it can help you respond to questions or issues, without your company being directly @ mentioned or being tagged.
Oftentimes customer service social media training is included with the price of an online tool or software. Take advantage of this!
Because social media never “closes”, tools can notify you with a text or on an app—even when your business is off-hours.
When they need to ask a question or solve a problem, consumers worldwide said they prefer to get help online, according to a study by Oracle on customer service.
The role of social media in customer service can play a big part in the success of your brand loyalty and advocacy.
With the right preparation and listening tool, using social media for customer service can take your digital community to the next level.
Be ready to use your social media platforms to support customers by including the five key elements provided here.
Let’s recap the essentials of your social media customer service strategy:
- Reply as quickly as possible on social media
- Know which social media posts to resolve in public or private
- Respond to all social media feedback, questions, and comments
- Include a greeting and be transparent with names or initials
- Combat negativity with positivity on social media
- Monitor customer service through social media with a tool
How are you planning on using social media for customer service?
Tell us in the comments below!
V Eight Marketing is a full service Digital Marketing Agency for Automotive Companies to support Revenue growth through your Digital Presence. Your online presence needs to be a lead generating machine. We can help you with that. Get a free consultation for your next social media marketing project.
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