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How to Navigate Customer Service on Social Media

Learn how you can use social media to manage customer service.

It’s the ability to communicate directly with customers that gives social media such tremendous power for businesses. Traditional forms of promotion don’t offer this interactive element, meaning there is always a bit of a barrier between your brand and the customer. Social media has torn down that barrier and there is more connection between buyer and seller than ever before. 

This is a great opportunity for your brand, but only if it is harnessed correctly. It’s also possible for customer service on social media to go horribly wrong. With this article, we’d like to provide some guidance on how to manage social media customer service, so you can have positive interactions with both existing and potential customers. Let’s get started!

The Value of Doing It Right

Everything you do in your business needs to come with a benefit to be worthy of an investment. It’s this core fundamental concept that is behind all actions in business. The investment you make could be time, money, or both – but putting something into an endeavor is only worthwhile if there is a possibility of getting something meaningful in return. 

So, what do you stand to gain if you bother making an investment of time (and probably money) in customer service on social media? Here are some possibilities –

  • Boost in customer satisfaction. First and foremost, this endeavor is about creating more satisfied customers. Even the best business with the best products is going to have problems come up from time to time. The issue for a business isn’t having customers come back with problems or complaints – it’s failing to deal with those issues properly. When you offer prompt and helpful service on social media, you are giving customers an easy way to resolve their problems without having to sit on hold or submit a form and wait for an answer. Giving customers great service has always been important for every business and social media can be an effective tool to do just that. 
  • A promotional tool. The one big difference between offering customer service on social media as opposed to other channels is that the service you provide on a social platform will be out in the open for all to see. This can be a great thing when done correctly. If you think about it, offering excellent service in a private chat on your website is great for that customer, but no one else sees it. If you can give others a peak behind the curtain, they’ll see how helpful and responsive you are to your customers – and it might encourage those who haven’t purchased yet to jump on board. It’s often the case that you’ll need to move customer service requests off of social media at some point to respect the privacy of the customer, but even starting out on a social platform can help improve your brand’s reputation. 
  • An existing platform. For small businesses, using social media as an intake option for customer service requests might save them from using a costly service, or developing an in-house solution. Those social media platforms already exist and are free to use, so why not leverage them for the benefit of your business?

Getting customer service on social media right can benefit both your business and your customers. When everyone stands to win, there is plenty of motivation to work hard to get it right. With the rest of this article, we’ll talk about tactics you can use to effectively deal with this part of your business. 

Putting the Basics in Place

There will come a time when it’s important to optimize how you handle this process, and we’ll talk a bit more about that later on. For now, however, we need to make sure that you have the basics in place for customer service on social media to function properly. There are a few things to consider here, but it’s actually a pretty quick and easy process. 

  • Create accounts. The first step is to break out customer service from the rest of your social media accounts. You likely already have main accounts in place on all of the primary social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, you don’t really want to run customer service through these accounts, as that approach would quickly make things complicated and messy. Instead, take a moment to create secondary accounts on each platform that are specifically meant for customer service. This will keep things nice and tidy and make it clear where your customers should go when they have an issue. Of course, you’ll want to name the account in such a way that makes it obvious what it is for and what business it represents. 
  • Put someone in charge. These new accounts aren’t going to do any good if no one is monitoring them. It’s important to have one specific person in charge of social media support questions and complaints, so no one has to wait long to get an answer. Depending on the structure of your business, you might have one person who does this work all the time, or you might rotate the duty among a few different members of the team. If you are only going to staff this account during certain hours of the day, or days of the week, make that clear on the account so everyone knows when they can expect a response. 
  • Respond every time. As a standard operating procedure, make it a point to respond to each and every inquiry that is received by your support accounts. Even if the response is nothing more than asking someone to contact you via another channel, you always want to connect in some way and make it clear that messages to these accounts will not be ignored. 
  • Periodic brand searches. One other fundamental you’ll want to establish within this process is searching for brand mentions on the various social media platforms on a periodic basis. For example, you might determine that you are going to have the person in charge of your support accounts search your brand three times each day. The point of these searches is to find mentions where your brand accounts weren’t actually tagged – this will allow you to respond to someone even if they didn’t message you directly. This is a great way to be proactive about customer service and to reach out to people to offer a resolution to their problems. Or, even if they didn’t have a problem and were mentioning your brand positively, you can simply thank them for their support. 

Like anything else in your business, being organized with how you manage customer support on social media will help you get the best possible results. It will take some upfront time and effort to get everyone on the same page and follow the same protocols, but it will quickly get easier with a bit of practice. 

Develop a Public-Facing Service Style

Some of the best brands offering customer service on social media have developed a specific tone and style for how they relate to their customers. Some of them are direct and professional, while others are casual and borderline silly. You might even find some brands that are a bit sarcastic in their tone – which can be dangerous, but might also help you connect to the audience, depending on what type of crowd you serve. 

There isn’t a right or wrong on this point, but it is important to find consistency. No matter who within your organization is replying to messages, make sure they are sticking with the style you have selected. It can help to create a brand guidelines document specific to this task so there is always a point of reference available when in doubt. 

Use These Tips to Streamline the Process

If you follow the steps provided above, you should be able to put a service system in place on social media pretty quickly. But that doesn’t mean the system will be working as well as you would like, so that’s the point we are going to address in this last section. The points below are intended to help you get the best possible outcomes in the least amount of time. 

  • Build a collection of canned responses. It’s almost certain that you are going to get plenty of repetitive questions and issues coming through your social channels. It just stands to reason that if one customer has a certain problem, others are going to run into the same issue, as well. So, make it a point to build a list of canned responses that you can just copy and paste for replies to common queries. This will save you significant time when managing the account and will allow you to get people the answers they need as fast as possible. 
  • Make changes. It’s great to be able to respond to questions and problems quickly so your customers are happy. It’s even better, however, to not have to get those questions in the first place. So, as you notice patterns in the issues that are coming up, make systemic changes so those problems are less likely to arise. This benefits everyone involved, as you’ll save time and your customers will be even happier with their experience. 
  • Plan the next steps. You don’t want to wind up going back and forth with people on social media while trying to work out customer service issues. Instead, you want to use social media as an intake platform, and from there you can funnel people to a private system where the problem can be solved. That might mean shifting it over to email, or maybe to a system that you have integrated into your website. You only want to be on social media long enough to get the service process started before moving it to something more organized, structured, and private. 
  • Avoid an argument. If there is one key rule that you can never break when providing customer service on social media, it’s avoiding arguments at all costs. Some people simply aren’t going to be nice on social media – that applies to customer service issues and just general discussions. Always remember that your interactions are representing your brand and getting into an argument is only going to reflect poorly, even if the other party was being unreasonable. 

It’s true that offering great customer service on social media is going to take some time and effort, but it will be worth it when you start to see the benefits of that work. We hope the advice provided above will help you get the results you desire, and offering this type of service should only get easier in time as your team gains experience. Good luck!

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David Loughney
About David Loughney:

David Loughney is passionate about helping brands find and express their voice in the world of social media. He helps to strategize and facilitate social media content to gain brand awareness, increase engagement and generate leads for your business.

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