Social Media Customer Service: A 6 Step Guide to Best Practice

Posted by Michaela Bayley on July 20, 2018

Social Media

Savvy consumers can derive an informed perception of any product, business or idea online well before they commit to it. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they expect a swift response to their questions and issues online.

Research shows that nearly half of all US consumers use social media to ask questions, to complain or to report satisfaction, and a third of social media users prefer social media customer service to a phone call.

Technology and social media intelligence services now exist to quickly identify online chatter and address any issues - often faster than a service order or a phone call. As a result, social media is a great marketing and customer service tool for businesses. 

However, a response rate of 4.9% indicates that many leading retail brands are not adequately equipped to handle these incoming messages.

A study by Lithium Technologies found that 53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour, regardless of when they tweeted. That percentage climbs even higher to 72% if it’s a complaint. Therefore, providing fast customer support through social media is paramount for any retail brand’s social media strategy.

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Research suggests that the ability to manage customer service through social media can turn complaints into future revenue. If a customer receives great service via social media, they will spend 21% more. Meanwhile, 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend the company to others.

Part I: Finding Comments About Your Business:

  1. Run an audit: Find out where customers are commenting, on what platforms, and the context of how they are posting. Are they on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook?
  2. Set up monitoring streams: Tools such as TweetDeck or HootSuite, allow social media account holders to monitor various hashtags, profiles, and mentions. Streams to set-up include:
  • Words that aren’t just your Twitter handle: Include streams with your company name, misspellings, and product names.
  • Positive and negative comments: A stream that includes mentions of your brand with positive or negative words.
  • Questions: Set up a stream for messages containing your brand name, a question mark, and excluding your website URL. Answering questions promptly (Twitter within one hour) is crucial to customer satisfaction.
  • Blog posts: Comments directly on blog posts on the company site need to be answered, either by customer service or content marketing teams.
  • Keep an eye on your mentions, comments and replies: Set up a system for hourly, daily, and weekly monitoring of the different streams, pages, and inboxes where people are connecting with your brand. This will prepare you to respond promptly and quickly resolve problems for your valued customers. 

Part II: How to Find Comments and Respond to Customers

  1. Build a system to get questions answered quickly: Decide and assign which team member is answering what social platform, or the type of questions they will be answering.
  2. Consider setting up a dedicated channel for support: If you are noticing a large influx of customer queries, it may be best to set-up a social media channel specifically for support. Hint: Have your team sign-off on each answer with their name/initials to personalize the experience.

Part III: Determine Guardrails About When You’ll Respond and When You Won’t

  1. Figure out what you’ll say when you do respond: Make sure your team is on the same page about how to respond to negative social media posts and messages. Steer clear of getting involved in “troll” conversations that aren’t related to your company and drag politics, pop culture, or arguments into your social media (and ensure everyone on your team is on the same page).
  2. Build best practises about responding. These could include:
  • Stay positive, but personable: Keep things light and positive, while avoiding sarcasm until the problem is solved.
  • Be transparent: Being honest about the time span that the problem will be resolved, or if you genuinely do not know, is better than risking upsetting a customer with a dishonest answer.
  • Know when to “take it offline”: Invite customers to send you a direct message or email if they need to share their personal information for you to help them, or if the conversation is getting tense. That will minimize external visibility on the conversation and potentially solve the problem faster than waiting for a customer to tweet back at you.

Part IV: How to Measure and Report Social Media Interactions

  1. Track conversations as a source of qualitative data (recurring questions, positive and negative feedback, etc).
  2. Try to quantify data as well, by possibly sending a customer satisfaction survey after a customer has been helped online.

Part V: Opportunities When Using Social Media Customer Service Strategies

  1. Customer loyalty: Research suggests that the ability to manage customer service through social media can turn complaints into future revenue. Customers who receive great service via social media will spend 21% more, while 71% of consumers who have had a good social media experience will probably recommend your service or products to others.
  2. Reduce customer service costs: Less messages going to your dedicated customer service people, the more you save on costs.

Part VI: 3 Tips for Exceptional Social Media Customer Service

  1. Humanize your brand: People tend to favour dealing with actual people rather than with companies. Using signatures/initials after an interaction helps humanize your responses.
  2. Set up alerts, listen, and speak their language: Find the potential crisis before it escalates by working on your social listening skills and responding in a human way that connects with your customers.
  3. Be helpful, and point back to your brand: List your operating hours, link to other regions, and provide detailed information and research to customers via online.

Want to learn more about social media as a marketing tool? Contact The Brit Agency today.

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Michaela Bayley

Written by Michaela Bayley