Your Essential Guide to Social Media Customer Service

Social media customer service user laptopWith the introduction of social media into the world of customer service, it’s no surprise that businesses are having to shake up the way that they communicate with their customers. With 1 in 3 social media users preferring to contact customer services over social media rather than by telephone or email, and 60% of customers who complain on social media expecting a response within one hour, having a strategy in place to deal with these comments is vital.

In this guide, we’ll explore in detail the following helpful questions, and offer assistance in developing your approach to social media customer service:

  • Why is social media customer service so important?
  • What are your customers’ expectations on social media?
  • Creating a social media customer service strategy
  • Social media customer service best practices
  • How to deal with negative social media comments
  • Predictions for the future of social media customer service

Why is social media customer service so important?

Social media customer service agentIf you want to calculate the effect of great social media customer service, you only need to look at this study by Bain & Company, which identified that customers will spend, on average, 20-40% more with companies that respond to customer service enquiries via social media.

There is also the added benefit of open access to your audience and customers. They’re likely to already have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn account, and so all you need to do is make sure that your organisation is online too. If you’re not making sure that you have someone to offer a helping hand to your consumers, you’ll likely lose them to a competitor.

It’s also the cheaper and faster alternative to conventional customer service. Rather than have someone call you and be dealt with one at a time, one single staff member can interact with multiple customer queries at once. You can also send them resources that they need immediately, resolving the issue quickly. This potentially leads to a sale or enquiry, but will also help to increase brand affinity.

If you value your customers (which you should), then you ought to be finding new ways to interact with them. And if they’re taking the time to find you online and asking questions to you via your social media profiles, then it makes sense to respond, Otherwise, you’ll notice a drop in customer retention, which can have a seriously damaging ongoing effect on your business.

What are your customers’ expectations on social media?

We’ve previously spoken about meeting social media customer expectations in 2019, but what are your customers’ expectations? Well, customers looking for assistance on social media tend to expect a response, given within a short time period, providing them with helpful information while maintaining that personal touch.

While this may seem like a simple task, this would require you to have staff, or multiple members of staff, at the ready to respond to any query that comes up. They need to be equipped not only physically with the power to respond at any time (or just within working hours), but also have the resources they need to give the correct answer at the drop of a hat.

Any point missing from above could lead to a negative customer experience, and may mean them leaning towards your competitor or looking for answers elsewhere, on platforms and websites you don’t have control over. If you want to ensure the most from your social customer service, ensure your team has everything they would need.

Creating a social media customer service strategy

Social media customer service strategy teamBefore starting your social media customer service journey, you need to create a strategy that will help guide your mission. But where do you start?

1. Establish what you want to achieve

At the very beginning, you need to establish what exactly you want to achieve. We recommend looking at organisations that you consider to have great social media customer service and see what they’re doing. It will start to give you an idea of what you want to achieve, and from that you can begin to work backwards on a plan of action of how to get there.

2. Find out where you are

Now that you know what you want to achieve, you need to compare that to where you are right now. Only by discovering where you are now and setting that boundary, you should be able to guide yourself to further progression. If you can clearly identify where your company is now in regards to social media customer service, it should now be easier to figure out exactly what you need to do to improve and achieve.

3. Map your users’ pathway

Once you’ve looked at how your company is compared to others, and exactly what you want to achieve, you can then start to look at your customers. Map out the path that they take to get to your social media accounts and how you can help prevent them from experiencing a certain problem again in the future. Maybe they can’t find the information needed easily, or something is underperforming. By knocking a lot of these points out gradually, you will help predict and prevent future issues.

4. Monitor those talking about you but not at you

Not every social media user is going to @ you, and so you need to devise methods for picking up on brand mentions outside of the traditional tagging systems employed on most platforms. Try using social media listening tools to see who is mentioning you without tagging. This also applies to those users who aren’t speaking to you for a question, but rather providing their own feedback through a status update or a tweet. Maybe someone is venting about how the delivery of their package from you has been delayed. Use this opportunity to connect with them and offer assistance before they ask for it.

5. Have your resources readily available

You can easily predict the kind of questions that your customers are going to ask after a while, and so once you start to see a pattern of questions, you can devise easy solutions. Have a bank of canned responses and other resources at the ready for your most frequently asked questions, such as contact information or links to your terms and conditions.

6. Evaluate your strategy on an ongoing basis

Once you’ve been proactively running on your social media customer service for a while, you can begin to monitor and evaluate your results. Have you achieved your monthly or weekly goal, are you surpassing it or are you still falling a bit short? Maybe it’s time to “move the goalposts” and reach for even more. It’s recommended that you re-evaluate your goals at least every six months, to make sure they’re still right for your team or organisation.

In order to evaluate your performance against hard data, we recommend the following social media metrics to track in order to measure your customer service success:

  • “First Response” time – How long is it taking for your team to make first contact with your customers? Users are expecting faster and faster response times, and so you should be prepared – even if it’s simply to acknowledge that you have seen their query and assure them that it will be handled.
  • Time to resolution – How long has this complaint or query taken to resolve? Did you get the answer right first time, or did you have a few back-and-forths before a resolution was found?
  • Leads and purchases made after interactions on social media – With platforms like Google Analytics or using social media management software, it’s very easy to track your social media sales. UTM tracking any links that you provide to your customers will add that extra layer of detail to your reporting.
  • Response rate – This should be as high as possible but not necessarily 100%, as some inbound messages simply don’t require a response. This can take time depending on the size of your team or organisation.
  • Question topics – If your organisation gets lots of similar questions, you can start to build up a collection of prepared answers or canned responses that need simple tailoring (adding their name, for example). It can also help with further development of a FAQ section of your website.
  • Average cost per query – When someone calls into a customer service phone line, the query is going to cost the company from several elements (phone rental, a person’s time, etc.). The same can be applied to social customer support. Work out your daily costs and see how you can best drive the average cost per query down.
  • “Right First Time” requests – Naturally you want to provide the right answer first time whenever possible, so when answering queries ensure you fully understand what the customer is looking for and have access to the resources and information you’re likely to need to help find the answer. This will naturally improve over time as you and your team build up knowledge and experience.

Social media customer care best practices

Blending these best practices into your social media customer service strategy will ensure that you and your team provide the best customer experience. We’ve broken it down to the following six key areas, but feel free to add your own to your strategy:

1. Find the right social media platforms

If you’re going to be responding via social media, you need to make sure you’re on the right platforms. For this, you’ll need to look into your audience and figure out which platforms they use most often, and therefore most likely to contact you on. This isn’t something you can pick at random, or something you can ask someone else. It takes in-depth audience research to decide where you’re going to tackle the most of your communications. Everyone naturally assumes Facebook as the platform of choice, but you need to take into account lots of variables, including age, location, gender and occupation.

2. Monitor social media mentions

Ideally, you should check your notifications every single day, if not multiple times per day, to find any mentions of your organisation, and to keep on top of your response times. Social media listening software helps you track who’s talking about you or your product/service and where they are talking about you. This can help you determine where to focus your time and efforts.

However, not every social media user will tag you or @mention you in a post or comment, so it’s best to also try other methods of social media monitoring. The aforementioned tools will help you find those un-tagged mentions, keep track of relevant keywords, as well as find mentions of your brand name where someone may have spelt your company name wrong (it does happen!).

3. Respond as quickly as possible

Research published on SocialMediaToday suggests that 60% of customers who complain on social media expect a response from businesses on social media within an hour of them posting. Customer expectations around response times are only going to increase, so you need to make sure you keep on top of your communication.

4. Find the right tone of voice

It’s worth having your social media tone of voice documented to help maintain consistency. Overall you’ll need to be helpful and quick with offering help. It’s worth understanding that social media conversations are often more informal than telephone or email communications, so clearly setting out the tone of voice guidelines and sharing across all social media users is extremely beneficial.

5. Know when to turn the exchange private

Not every question can be answered in the public social media feeds. Maybe there’s personal information that needs to be shared or captured, or the customer has a sensitive issue and so engaging privately might be the best option. It’s at this point that you need to migrate the conversation to either a private message or even redirect them to your customer service phone line.

When this is the case, capturing all the information about the enquiry is paramount. This allows the most relevant person to respond to the customer as quickly as possible, either via private message or telephone. It can be a tricky process however without a tool to help and could result in customers being passed around departments and slowing the response time. Social media management tools like CrowdControlHQ can help by providing you the option of assigning inbound queries to certain colleagues or teams, maintaining a full audit trail of activity and customer notes so there’s no need to repeat questions or hunt around for the detail!

6. Have someone knowledgeable at the end of the keyboard

Your team are the frontline support for customers, so make sure they have the best resources available to them. They should have a database of information available that contains contact information, product or service information, comprehensive social media training, and anything else you think they would need to perform their social customer service duties – alongside regular customer service training. They should also be encouraged to share best practices and learn from other members of the team to help improve the overall customer experience.

How to deal with negative social media comments

As you can imagine, not every interaction with your social media customer service team is going to be positive, so you need to understand how to deal with negative social media comments. Before social media, when customers wanted to complain, they would write a strongly-worded letter – away from prying eyes! But with the boom of smartphones, 4G and mobile apps, it’s now even easier for customers to express their opinions online.

But how do you deal with negative social media comments? There are a few methods to help counteract them, which should help devise a firm process:

1. Create community guidelines

If you want to nip any major negative comments in the bud before they’ve had a chance to flourish, then you need to set community guidelines. There will still be customers who miss them, and so you can gently show it to them should they break the rules, but it’s also a great opportunity to share relevant and helpful information before they even type their first word.

2. Ask open questions

If you do receive a negative comment or message, it’s always good to ask open-ended questions. By approaching the conversation in this way, you force the user to explore what happened, and see if the issue is as serious as they are saying. It also gives you the opportunity to find the root cause of the negative comment and offer the best assistance for them.

3. Distinguish between a complaint and an attack

Some users will have genuine complaints, possibly after a poor experience with your brand. But then there will be those that are just out there to provoke a reaction, and they can have an impact on your brand reputation if left unchecked. These are more likely a fundamental disagreement and you might not be so quick to take responsibility although will need to acknowledge them. Learn the difference between a genuine complaint an attack to help avoid getting caught up in an inflammatory situation.

4. Speak with clarity

Unlike conversations we have in person, on social media we can’t rely on body language like a comforting touch, facial expressions, or eye contact to show empathy and concern. When messages are all you have, your tone of voice has to do the heavy lifting. It’s key to write in such a way that it’s clear you are sorry, and you can empathise with the customer, being as human as possible by using your name and focussing on emotion. No one wants to talk to a robot, they just want their concern dealt with by an organisation that truly cares.

Predictions for the future of social media customer service

So what does the future of social media customer service look like? Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, industry experts have theorised that social media will not only change the customer service industry, but the marketing industry as well.

Some customer service experts have suggested that social media customer care could replace social media marketing. Highlighting that “actions speak louder than words”, could this be the way forward?

There’s also been a rise in instant messaging as a form of social media customer support. This can help build a much more personal relationship with a customer, which means that they’ll stay loyal to you for longer and lead to either an enquiry or conversion. Lots of businesses are also now investing in “bots” to respond to customers quickly, although that isn’t necessarily the most productive way of helping customers (yet!).

Although there is a place for bots to help organisations to manage some enquiries on social media faster, it’s unlikely that they will ever fully replace the need for people in social media customer service. Speed of response is only one factor that consumers are concerned with, they also want to have a great experience and in many cases feel like they’re talking to a human brand that’s relatable. So don’t underestimate the power of the human touch to keep customers engaged on social.

Social media customer service can be a minefield, and so any way of making the process simpler for you and your team should be an essential for your organisation. CrowdControlHQ’s social customer service software is the perfect aid to all of your customer service needs, including real-time messaging, team collaboration and optimising performance. Request a demo and see the software in action today.