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I’ll admit it:

I’ve complained to a brand publicly via social media.

Have you?

My comments were responded to, and the problem resolved. But this is not always the case with every business—and it should be.

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

With this, many people having an issue or question may look for a quick solution by using social media for customer service inquiries.

In fact, 67% of consumers have engaged a brand’s social media site for their customer service needs.

That’s a lot of people, and a lot of exposure for a brand!

Ultimately, building an inclusive and helpful community via social media is the goal for any business.

In order to be effective, using social media for customer service must now become a part of your overall social media strategy.

SEE ALSO: 7 Effective Social Media Best Practices for Business

67% of consumers have engaged a brand's social media site for their customer service needs.Click To Tweet

Are you using social media for customer service in the right way for your business?

Take a look at six key elements you’ll want to employ in your efforts.


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 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.

42% of consumers expect a customer service response on social media within 60 minutes.Click To Tweet

The effects of poor response time are real, causing customers 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

6 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service | What happens after a poor customer experience (statistics)

Read that one more time: 56% will never use the company again.

On social media, timely responses are rewarded.

Using Facebook for Customer Service Quickly

On Facebook, your company’s response rate is clearly shown on your page.

Facebook only considers your business “quick” (or, very responsive) when it replies within 5 minutes or less—around the clock!

6 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service | Facebook response rate badge (very responsive)

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 options for serving customers quickly and effectively on Facebook.

Using Twitter for Customer Service Quickly

With Twitter, it’s safe to say that people expect to be replied to 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. Conversations often occur in the same rapid fashion as texting.

By the numbers, 53% want a response within the hour on Twitter. This jumps up to 72% expecting a response within an hour after issuing a complaint.

To excel at Twitter, use the relationship-building techniques found at the center of any solid customer service process:

  • Listen
  • Appreciate
  • Resolve

The challenge is Twitter’s 140-character limit, requiring a concise message.

In some cases, acknowledging a customer service issue, thanking the customer and providing resolution can be done in 140 characters or less!

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.

6 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service | Reply as quickly as possible on social media

2. Know which social media posts should be resolved in public or private.

You already know you can’t please everyone, so prepare for the inevitable negative comment or complaint.

Create a process to provide clear direction for handling customer service on social media for your business.

Guidelines are important to document and follow, as consistency can only strengthen your brand building.

I’ll explain further.

Outline which kinds of comments should be resolved publicly. These would exist on page posts or reviews for Facebook, or openly via tweets on Twitter.

Then, determine which conversations should become private—whether it be moved to direct message, email or phone.

This process looks different for every business, but follows a general framework.

Create a process to handle customer service on social media for your business.Click To Tweet

Ask yourself the following questions to help create a process that works for you:

QUESTION #1
Who will review incoming customer comments to determine if it requires a positive/negative interaction?

QUESTION #2
What are some examples of positive and negative comments, based on customer service interactions your company has already had?

QUESTION #3
How do you handle it—if the interaction is negative, do you diffuse immediately or direct the customer to the phone for support?

6 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service | Know which social media posts should be resolved in public or private
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3. Respond to all social media feedback, questions and comments.

Every post, review and check-in on social media should be acknowledged.

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!

Every post, review and check-in on social media should be acknowledged.Click To Tweet

Use the data you gathered while answering the questions above.

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, responses should be written in ways that cannot be misconstrued.

However unlike email, these replies will be public—as will the time stamp (see point #1, above: reply as soon as possible).

Users want personal attention, so customize the reply to the individual on a case-by-case basis. Scripted replies are guidelines to be modified to fit a situation.

6 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service | Respond to all social media feedback, questions and comments.

The goal is to create a community feel. Responses that seem automated are counter-productive.

For example, mirroring words can make someone feel heard:

I understand that you are upset about (insert their complaint here, and their 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.

For major corporations, replying to every single post may not align with the overall social media strategy simply because of the sheer number of comments.

The rate at which your company replies to posts can align with 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.

4. 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.

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.

6 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service | Include a greeting and be transparent with names or initials

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. You’re left addressing 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.


5. 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/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 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.

Always meet negativity with positivity when a customer complains on social media.Click To Tweet

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.

Let’s take a look at how Applebee’s handles an issue (they are known more for their humorous, quirky customer service responses on social media).

Applebee’s replies in a timely manner, greets a customer by name, apologizes, offers a phone number to take it offline AND signs with initials. All in under 140 characters.


6. Monitor customer service on social media with a tool

The moderator for incoming customer service 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 who has had social media platforms for a long time and just now using social media for customer service purposes.

Monitoring customer service activity on Facebook and Twitter (and other platforms like Instagram or Google+) is best accomplished with tools such as:

These types of social media tools offer the ability to listen to consumers across multiple platforms. Accounts can be monitored by a single customer service representative, or a team.

6 Key Elements of Using Social Media for Customer Service | Monitor customer service on social media with a tool

You’ll be able to add streams that show search results for phrases such as your brand name. This will help in responding to instances where issues or questions are asked, without your company having a direct @ mention or being tagged.

Oftentimes 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.


Conclusion

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.

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 platforms to support customers by including the six key elements provided here.

Let’s recap your social media customer service strategy:

  1. Reply as quickly as possible on social media
  2. Know which social media posts should be resolved in public or private
  3. Respond to all social media feedback, questions and comments
  4. Include a greeting and be transparent with names or initials
  5. Combat negativity with positivity on social media
  6. Monitor customer service on social media with a tool

How are you planning on using social media for customer service?

We’d love to hear your comments below!

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