A 2013 survey showed 2/3 of customers have used a company’s social media website for customer service purposes. And younger consumers, between the ages of 18 and 29 are more likely to use a brands’ social media presence for service interactions than they are for marketing. Another study revealed 33% of customers would rather go to social media than reach out to a company on the telephone.
That means businesses must provide customer service through their social media channels, and while some of them are doing a great job (read: Netflix, JetBlue, and Starbucks), others aren’t doing much of anything to address what their customers are asking for. Research shows 1/3 of customer complaints are never answered, and most of those come from social media. This may not seem like a big deal, but not answering a compliant can decrease customer advocacy by as much as 50% – ouch! But, taking the time to answer it can help increase advocacy by as much as 25%.
1. Focus on Response Time
In customer service, your response time matters, but it definitely matters when it comes to social media. While the average response time from businesses is five hours, 40% of customers who complain on social media expect a reply within an hour. And in terms of email, businesses take an average of 44 hours – or nearly two days – to reply. That’s just too long, which makes customers feel like they’re being ignored, even when they’re not.
The speed of response time remains the most important factor in customer satisfaction. It is more important than friendliness, accuracy, or even truthfulness. Yes, people are more okay with being lied to by an agent (not that it’s okay) than they are a long wait time. As long as you’re fast, they’ll be more forgiving.
How do you increase that response time? Make someone on your team accountable for finding the social media complaints or issues – more on how to make that process efficient below –and making sure they’re handled. It’s easy to accidentally ignored customers if someone’s not in charge of making sure the issues are funneled to the appropriate customer service agents.
Remember, the bulk of customer complains will fall into a select few situations that recur often. Because of this, you can role play with other staff to develop a plan for the most common complaints and questions you deal with. If you notice the same questions and issues coming up again and again, consider reviewing your FAQs and other help documentation. It may be time to update it to ensure you have solid self-help options for your customers.
2. Use Social Listening Tools
Social media listening tools, also called social media monitoring tools, make it easier for you to keep track of who is saying what about your brand, and when.
- Hootsuite: This free tool helps you listen across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, and more. Though it’s best known for its social media management features, the tool can help you track mentions of your brand’s social media handles. The free plan allows management of three social media profiles along with scheduling. There is a pro version, which starts at $19.99/month when billed annually. The paid plans allow for additional profiles, as well as the ability to schedule updates, RSS integrations, analytics, and more. Some paid plans also include the ability to schedule content in bulk, and to assign tasks to team members.
- Google Alerts: This helps you find out if websites and blogs are talking about your company, more than it helps you monitor customer service as inquiries come in. You can schedule alerts to come in as they happen, or to have them come in once a day, or once a week. You can also choose to receive all results, or only the best results. Since you want to keep response time quick, and you want to see as much as possible, it’s best to get all results, as they happen. Deliver them to a central email account that all customer service agents have access to, and setup a protocol for how to handle them. Even positive comments deserve acknowledgement.
- Social Mention: This tool allows you to get real-time social media search and analysis for anything. You can search across everything, or choose to find mentions only in blogs, videos, microblogs, images, bookmarks, and questions. The platform monitors more than 80 social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Digg, and more. You can see more about the reach, passion, sentiment, keywords, hashtags, and the sites in the analysis results.
- Reputology: Managing your online reputation is important for your business – and that’s part of what social listening tools help you do. This is a review management and monitoring platform, which can help you if any social customer service issues were accidentally overlooked or ignored before the new protocols were implemented. It’s also particularly helpful if your business has multiple locations that must be managed. Pricing starts at $29.00/month when billed annually for a single location. If you have more than one location, or are interested in an agency or re-seller plan, you must contact for pricing and more information. If you have a Hootsuite account, you can integrate this service with it.
- Brandwatch: Brandwatch offers deep social listening capabilities, and provides analytics. With that analytics data, you can make better business decisions to ensure you’re serving your customers to the best of your ability. It gives you access to insights from more than 70 million traffic sources all over the web, including social media, blogs, news sites, review sites, and more. This is a paid service, but pricing information is not publicly listed. You must call and schedule a demo to learn more about the product. If you have a Hootsuite Enterprise level account, you can integrate it there, too.
- Addictomatic: This tool is an ideal choice for getting an overall view of your brand. You’ll see what your brand looks like on Flickr, YouTube, Bing News, YouTube, Ask.com, Google, and more. Once you’ve created your brand’s custom page with your search, you can bookmark it and come back to it again and again to monitor changes.
3. Be Human
People don’t want to be treated like a number. When you humanize your brand and take the time to address your customers by name, and go above and beyond to keep them happy, it will show. When something is your fault, admit it. Don’t use jargon or other techniques to hide behind a corporate wall, or to avoid admitting where the company took a misstep. Always respond with concern and empathy.
Take for example, the story of DiGornio Pizza. Years ago, they jumped on the #WhyIStayed hashtag trend, without realizing it was a hashtag meant for people to share their emotional stories of abusive relationships. When they realized what they’d done, they went beyond simply deleting the tweets, and came forward with a heartfelt apology.
Taco Bell takes social media to the human level by going above and beyond, “New menu launches this weekend!” type tweets. They engage in banter with their customers, and will even dish out comebacks to their haters – in a lighthearted and humorous way. Their customers know they can be heard, which helps the overall brand image.
4. Provide a Style Guide and Training to Reps
Regardless of whether you’ve got one person or 250 people handling your customer service efforts on and off social media, there should be a consistent tone and voice used. That’s why it is important to provide training, that includes a style guide with a list of acceptable responses. You don’t want everything to be canned, of course, but you want reps to know what could be constituted as crossing a line. You want all your customers to feel like they’ve been treated with respect whether John or Nancy is the one answering them.
While you always want to address the issue publicly, there are certain situations where the issue must be taken offline to resolve completely. Your agents should know what these situations are, and what the possible solutions are.
Issues should always be taken offline when there are many back and forth replies required to address the concern. They should always be taken offline when any sensitive data is required, such as email address, account number, passwords, or financial data. Simply apologize to the customer and ask them to email/private message/call with the sensitive information so the agent can take a closer look.
“Customer, apologies for the inconvenience. Check the “Other” folder on your Facebook Messenger. I’ve reached out to you there. – Rep Initials”
“Customer, so sorry you’re experiencing this. Can you please follow and DM with your order #? – Rep Initials”
“Customer, my apologies for the trouble. If your need help with your email settings, don’t hestitate to LiveChat us [bitly link] – Rep Initials”
Under what circumstances are they allowed to give a refund for the product or service? Under what circumstances should they offer a discount on future orders, or offer free shipping, or free bonus product? At what point should an issue be escalated to a supervisor? When they know the rules about what they can and cannot do and when, they have more freedom to come up with the solution that will keep the company the happiest.
5. Learn from Customers
Listen carefully to what your customers are saying. They’re telling you exactly what you can do to make your business better for them. And when you help them with a customer service issue, do what you can to get their feedback. Only when ask when you can, and when it’s appropriate to do so. You can use those social listening tools to monitor what people are saying about your customer service efforts, too, so the more information you get, the more you’ll begin to see potential areas for improvement.
6. Use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
If you’re not already using CRM to gather and keep track of customer data, the fact that it can help you improve your customer service and customer satisfaction. You can make notes in the customer’s record about the reason they contacted you, and how the issue was resolved. That way, if the customer has to reach out again in the future, or if the issue is taken off social media and escalated, the next agent can know what’s going on. This keeps the customer from having to repeat the same story over and over, which saves time – and helps the experience go better.
For instance, if Jane spoke to Tracy on Monday, and reaches on social media on Thursday, this time talking to Sarah, Sarah can make reference to the fact that she knows Jane talked to Tracy, and can go directly to the next step to resolve the issue.
What is Great Social Media Customer Service?
Great social media customer service is great customer service. No matter the channel or method, a quality response should correctly identify the customer’s issue, give them (or provide links to) more information, close the issue – even after a customer says thank you – and includes a personal touch. It should also be consistent across the organization in terms of response time and tone. You can do this whether a customer calls in on the phone, emails, shows up in person, or contacts you on social media. Don’t strive to make your social media customer service the best – strive to make your entire customer service department the best – across all channels in your organization.
What tips and tricks do you have for ensuring everyone gets stellar customer service from your company? Share them below.