Why Brands Should Use Social Media for Customer Service

This post will explain:

  • The many benefits of using social media for customer service
  • Best practices (How to)
  • Worst practices (How not to!)

brands-social-media-customer-service

The benefits

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.

However, every business in the world will receive a complaint at some point. You should see this as a challenge and opportunity to answer your customers query, turning a negative brand experience into a positive one whilst simultaneously gaining exposure.

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

    So what? – There’s a huge number of eyes checking out how brands communicate with consumers online. This is a great opportunity to wow them with top notch customer service.

  • 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.

    So what? – Investing time and effort into creating an effective social media customer service strategy literally repays your business.

  • A staggering 80% of companies believe they provide ‘superior’ customer service, whilst just 8% of customers agree with these same companies’ claims.

    So what? – Many businesses are under the false illusion that they provide their customers with great customer service when they don’t. Think on the bright side – there’s huge room for improvement and after following the tips in this post, you’ll most likely be way ahead of your competitors.

Best Practices

  • 1

    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:

For larger companies whom already get plenty of mentions online, you should consider investing in paid social listening tools such as Trackur, Simply Measured or Sprout Social.

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.

  • 2

    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.

customer service asos

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.

customer service expedia

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.

customer service argos

Here you can see the friendly and informative reply by Argos’ representative, Natalie.
  • 3

    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:

customer service jetblue

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:

“JetBlue crew members across the network love those opportunities to wow a customer.

We believe that our social customer service should be reflective of what a customer can expect from any crew member within the organization.

Any organization that prides itself on their customer experience should embrace the opportunity to reflect that in any venue they can.”

  • 4

    Humour

    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:

customer service social media

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.

  • 5

    Measuring success

    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.

Worst Practices

  • 1

    Bad automation

    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…

customer service on social media
  • 2

    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:

sinking to their standards
  • 3

    Leveraging controversy/tragedy

    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…

tragedy controversey

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.

TL;DR

  • 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
George Bates

Author: George Bates

George is a Digital Marketer at Midas Media with expertise in a variety of online marketing methods. He specialises in technical SEO as well as creative content writing.

  • O2UK

    Great article George, and thanks for sharing with us. We’re glad to have been featured on your article as a positive influence on Social Media alongside some other great brands. At O2 we do our best to keep it real and relevant and ‘Tunde’ is a reflection of that – it shows off our human and fun side too.

    Find us at @O2 on Twitter or ‘O2 UK’ on Facebook. If anyone reading this ever needs help or wants to ask a Q, just drop us a line… We’re a friendly bunch :-)

    • Ed Leake

      Thanks for taking the time to reply guys :)

  • http://www.midasmedia.co.uk George Bates

    Thanks for the compliment and taking the time to leave a comment guys :)

    I couldn’t write an article about social media customer service without mentioning that famous conversation!

    Keep up the good work!

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