This post will explain:
- The many benefits of using social media for customer service
- Best practices (How to)
- Worst practices (How not to!)
Using social media as a tool for customer service has a multitude of benefits.
The unique immediacy and transparency of social networks means that consumers can instantly have direct communication with the brand they have just purchased from.
It gives them a sense of empowerment and a quick and effective response will make your brand look great in front of your loyal followers who can watch every step of the online conversation.
Though the intimacy involved with using social media for customer service is part of its charm, it can leave you vulnerable to complaints.
Here’s a few stats that underline why your business should be using social media customer service:
Over 1 million people view tweets regarding customer service each and every week
A study by global management consulting firm, Bain & Company, shows that when a company responds to a request from a consumer, that consumer will spend 20-40% more with that company.
A staggering 80% of companies believe they provide ‘superior’ customer service, whilst just 8% of customers agree with these same companies’ claims.
Craft a customer service strategy
Chances are that if you’re a big company, you already have a customer service strategy and a PR department with plans in place ready for any potential crisis. However, even brands of this size must effectively incorporate social media customer service into their existing policies.
Ensure that all relevant staff members are trained in your new protocol and are versed in answers for potential customer complaints, comments and queries.
There are plenty of good free tools out there for monitoring your brands mentions including:
Training staff to be proficient in these tools should be priority number one. It will give you a solid overview of the sentiment of what people are saying online about your brand.
Every business, whether B2B or B2C, intrinsically entertaining or a little drab, needs an active blog!
You should be using your company blog to answer customer queries, provide useful information about your brand and expand on any points that don’t fit into 140 characters/a social media post short enough to maintain the focus of a typical user.
Take direct action
When a consumer comes to you with a complaint or request via social media, you should reply directly through the medium in which they chose to contact you.
Asking customers to phone, email or come in store will simply frustrate them and demonstrate to the rest of your followers that your customer service is inept.
Naturally, some aspects of a complaint or request, such as private and confidential information should never be shared via social media. Requesting the customer to bring the conversation offline or onto email would make sense in these circumstances.
For larger companies, it’s recommended that you have separate social media accounts for customer service and also for general marketing efforts as the KPI’s of these accounts will be vastly different.
For example, a brands main account will look at shares, ‘likes’ and general engagement from users as a sign of success, whereas the customer service account will aim for a quick response rate and customer satisfaction rating.
ASOS are famed for their great social media customer service
Depending on the nature of your business and its size, 24/7 hour support may not always be viable… or even necessary. Whilst it’s a nice luxury to have, you can save time and the cost it will take to employ someone to man the account full time by explicitly stating the hours in which you will respond.
Online travel company, Expedia, display their responsive hours both in their Twitter bio and header image
However formal your business wishes to portray itself as, you should always come across as human and empathetic when conducting customer service; especially on social media!
Using names or signatures on the end of responses to customers is both personable and practical. The customer knows they are talking to a human being, not an automated robot, and the representative can track each enquiry.
Here you can see the friendly and informative reply by Argos’ representative, Natalie.
Going the extra mile
(This is by no means a mandatory part of the social media customer service experience). A nonetheless great way to improve brand exposure is to go the extra mile for your customers like @JetBlue did:
The move was picked up by various media outlets and went viral. This lead to a lot of mentions online and a great bit of exposure for the notoriously customer friendly company
We got in touch with JetBlue and they gave us this Corporate Communications statement:
When @Tunde24_7 was rather upset about his lack of internet connection, he was quick to let his service provider know.
Rather than ignoring the expletive and slang-laden tweet, O2 decided to (carefully) respond in a language that their customer would prefer, gaining thousands of RT’s and exposure in the process:
Social Media is all about communication.
The ease of which you can, not only receive feedback from customers, but also proactively search for and request it is a great weapon to have. Always encourage users to leave reviews on your social profiles and sites such as Yelp. This also has SEO benefits.
Pro Tip: Consumer review sites in your niche are great for keeping an eye on the competition and seeing what they’re doing right… or wrong!
Whilst you could create an email survey or poll on your social media profile to understand your customers desires, if it’s obvious from their comments that there is a prevailing demand then utilise this feedback.
For example, if you’re an ecommerce brand specialising in selling shirts and your customers are constantly posting across social media that they love your product but you don’t have it in XL, then you should seriously consider bringing out an XL version!
This data is gold dust, disregard it at your peril.
Finally, assuming you are a corporate business with many subsets, once the data is collated you should share it with the relevant people within your company to produce an actionable plan going forward.
As mentioned previously, the KPI’s for using social media for marketing and using it for customer service are greatly different. Some customer service metrics that should definitely be checked include:
- Message volume
How many customers are getting in contact with you via social media over a certain period of time? Message volume gives you a good indication of how popular the service is.
This could have a variety of meanings. For example, you could be doing a great job of replying and more customers are feeling inclined to contact you or, on the other hand, your representatives could be failing to resolve queries quickly enough.
- Resolution time and rate
According to a recent study, 74% of consumers expect a response on social media within at least an hour!
Make no mistake about it, on social media speed is crucial in customer service but what percentage of the enquiries that you receive are you resolving? It’s one thing to reply to every comment but it’s another to reply to an effective standard.
- Customer satisfaction
Some of the great social listening and sentiment discovery tools that have been mentioned previously in this post are vital in tallying the percentage of satisfied customers for any given time period.
Using automation tools for scheduling content is imperative for larger brands, especially when they are trying to appeal to users round the clock.
Also, the odd ‘thank you for following’ automated tweet never hurt anybody but when you are automating every single response to consumer queries, you are completely defeating the point of ‘customer service’. Especially when your customers are less than flattering about your services…
Biting the bait from trolls
What the hell does that mean?
Well let’s be honest, social media can be a scarily honest place at times and there’s plenty of people hiding behind usernames ready to shoot down your company.
The bigger you get, the more users you will attract and the higher chance that someone will badmouth you. It happens. This is how not to respond:
Does it really need pointing out that serious unrest and protests that lead to many deaths isn’t the best topic to crack a joke on social media about? No one told Kenneth Cole…
Just search ‘social media customer service fails’ and you will see countless examples of these in action. There’s the old adage ‘all publicity is good publicity’ but some of these just take the biscuit.
- A lot of consumers use social media for customer service and expect brands to be proficient in their response
- Begin by creating a social media customer service strategy using a combination of free and paid social listening tools
- Be quick and helpful in your response
- Carefully consider using humour or ‘going the extra mile’ to boost brand awareness
- Leverage data to find new opportunities
- Measure key metrics
- DO NOT – automate everything, feed the trolls or be inappropriate