Today, instead of walking into a store, customers might be more likely to read online reviews, check out social media pages, and interact through online conversations before making a purchase. This
means that you can’t ignore online customer service—especially through social media. People expect to be able to post a customer service-related question on your Facebook page, or tweet to your
company’s Twitter handle, and get a quick response (usually within the hour!).
Small businesses may not have the budget to create a unique online service portal. But social media offers an effective, low-cost way to interact with your customers and build a reputation for quick
Why social media?
Social networking sites are where your customers spend their time, and where they’re most likely to reach out when a customer service need arises. Why? One of the most important reasons is
convenience. With 60 percent of social media usage time spent on mobile devices
, it is an easy
way to connect regardless of location. Modern customers have also learned that companies are more likely to respond when their complaints are public, as opposed to getting put on hold for an
If customer service has not been a focal point of your business, or you have yet to take advantage of the communication opportunities that social media provides, there’s no better time than now.
Implement the tactics below for extending your customer service arm on social media.
Tactics for successful customer service on social media
1. Think fast
The one thing that social media doesn’t allow is time
. The longer a response takes from the time a comment is made, the more time it has to stew, to spread and to become more negative than
it was initially.
If customer questions, concerns and comments are going unanswered, your brand is falling short. If you work with a team, consider assigning specific people to field online requests and to respond to
comments on social media account pages and directory listings and reviews. That way, customer inquiries won’t fall through the cracks. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by requests on different social
media channels, you can use tools like HootSuite
, or SproutSocial
to help you gather social media messages in one place and then assign them to the right person to answer. The more proactive you are, the
more successful your customer service initiative will be.
Train your current customer service team on social media best practices. Set a time limit for how long a question or comment can sit without a response, and keep it short. With social media,
24 hours is no longer an acceptable response time. Think one to five hours max.
In fact, 42% of customers expect a response within
, but top companies can take up to 11 hours
One company known for solid response times is Zappos. Through their Facebook page
, Zappos responds to all questions and comments within a
short period of time. When a response is not necessary, the company “likes” to demonstrate acknowledgement. Customers are satisfied and the company has become known for speedy service. Response times
2. Consider responses ahead of time
Not all customer comments can be anticipated, but the nature of those comments can. For instance, a comment will probably fall into one of the following categories:
- A positive experience or story.
- A negative experience that requires remediation.
- A question regarding products or procedures.
- A public venting.
Create a category list similar to this one. From there, consider what your company’s policy will be regarding each one. A simple “thank you” or “like” can go a long way toward showing customers who
take the time to leave positive comments that you appreciate them. Bonus points if you can feature their experience on your site and/or tweet it out.
A negative experience that requires remediation could be handled publicly, or with a “thank you for your response, please check your inbox for a message regarding next steps.” Public vents sometimes
just require sympathy and understanding. It’s best to have your general strategy thought through ahead of time, so you don’t have to come up with a response in the heat of the moment. It also ensures
that each customer gets a consistent response.
JetBlue Airways has become known for their timely and consistent customer service on Twitter
. Their page is full of real time
conversations with customers inquiring about arrival times and other last minute travel situations. Because the company has a policy and team in place to handle customer inquiries, their service is
seamless and well-regarded.
3. Ask for feedback to demonstrate responsiveness
It’s easy to overlook how a customer engagement
tactic like posting a question or hosting a contest can have a positive influence on customer service
. When followers and
customers alike see your brand profile engaging others, they understand you are active and will actually respond to them.
This makes it more likely that they will reach out when they have a
problem or praise. And customers reaching out is exactly what you want—it makes it much easier to respond. Think of this tactic as the ice-breaker that allows for smoother customer service in the
Starbucks, the largest coffee retailer in the world, understands the value of fostering engagement. By creating the Twitter handle @mystarbucksidea
, the brand encourages customers to submit ideas and they respond genuinely. This lays the foundation for a positive customer service experience.
4. Be professional
You wouldn’t send out a press release that has grammatical errors or release an official statement that didn’t make sense or sound professional, right? Social media should be no different. Disruptive
Communications, a digital marketing firm based in London, performed a survey to gauge what customers consider to be turnoffs on social media
. Topping the
list? Poor spelling and grammar. So even though you are trying to respond quickly, take the time to proofread what you say
and make sure it sounds professional and polished.
5. Show gratitude
If there’s one thing that’s universal, it's that people like to feel appreciated. Customers want to know that your brand appreciates their business and that you value them. Companies with
top-notch customer service always voice their appreciation for customers, even when the customer has a complaint or criticism
Shutterfly, an online photo gift retailer, makes this a priority at all times. By posting thank you messages on Facebook for various milestones and including special incentives with these messages,
they show appreciation in a tangible manner on a regular basis. What could your brand do to demonstrate gratitude through social media?
6. Be humble and admit when you’ve slipped up
While most businesses aim to deliver the best customer service experience they possibly can, situations do arise where we all fall short. When faced with negative comments on social media
, there are a variety of routes you can take to settle disputes.
A safe and reasonable approach is to simply be humble. If a customer passionately feels your support team has let them down, you should acknowledge the issue, apologize, and provide a solution. Don’t
argue or make excuses. Here’s a solid example of how to handle this situation from the small business APG Exhibits
Most notable in this response is when the APG Exhibits support member says, “We have discussed your project issue in the morning production meeting and they will be contacting you first thing this
morning with an update to solve the issue.” This lets the customer know her problem is a priority for their team
—it’s a part of their meeting.
7. Humanize your brand
Social media is designed to connect. These connections are mainly human to human, so when brands get involved in the mix the human element and appeal can get lost.
Businesses can add a more human element to their social media profiles by posting content that would naturally appear in our own news feeds, such as weddings, birthdays, celebrations, events,
milestones, fundraisers, and even some goofiness every now and then.
Renewal By Andersen
, a window/door replacement service, does this by posting shorts little features on their staff members
. We now associate a real person with their
, rather than just an impersonal, automated machine. As a bonus, customers who can put a face to the support member they’re talking to will often be more polite.
8. Go the extra mile
Think about the times that you’ve needed to lodge a complaint or reach out for a company. How did it go? What could have made the experience better?
Far too often, brands see customer service inquiries as one-time events. A customer has a question or concern, it is responded to in the hopes of making it go away: end of story. Perhaps the story
shouldn’t end there, maybe going the extra mile could turn an otherwise disappointed customer into a long-term, loyal customer who refers others; maybe even a brand advocate.
To make this happen it just takes a little follow through. On a monthly basis, set aside time to go through past customer service complaints on social media and to follow up
out; send a message and ask if the customer is satisfied with the resolution. Check to see if there’s anything else you can do. Rewarding and/or thanking customers lends itself to resurrecting older
conversations, which keeps your actions and good deeds public.
Social media is the new normal for customer service
Social media is the new normal for customer service. It’s perceived as more effective and trustworthy than traditional call centers and is part of the daily routine for the majority of your current
and potential customers. Follow the tactics listed above to extend your customer service and to see results immediately. Your brand’s longevity may depend upon it.