Social Media Customer Service: Are You Listening?

7 Steps to Improve Customer Service Via Social Media

When businesses engage on social media, they often use it as a one-way communication tool to distribute marketing content. This approach fails to take into account how customers will use any and every communications channel to get their customer service inquiries answered.

3 Ways social media customer service supports marketing efforts

Historically, marketers have undervalued the use of social media for customer service. In reality, integrating social media into your customer service function achieves three marketing goals.

  1. Helps close sales. Sometimes a customer’s need for an answer prevent him from purchasing your product. Providing customer service information through social media is one way to address questions.
  2. Builds brand and corporate image. Answering customer service questions shows that you’re listening and responsive to your customer’s concerns.
  3. Develops long-term customer relationships. Using social media to directly respond to customer service inquiries build trust, which is the basis of any long-term relationship.

Recent research by Maritz Research and evolve 24 provides insights for businesses using social media to handle customer service inquiries, especially complaints. While customers use social media platforms to complain about service or product, only half of them expect a company response – a low bar for customer service performance. This is good since only three out of ten companies respond to customer service complaints made via Twitter; of those customers, three quarters were satisfied with the response they received. While this sounds positive, there’s a caveat. Of those who weren’t contacted, 86% would have appreciated a response but only regarding the problem, not about anything else!  

7 Steps to improve your customer service via social media

What are the implications of this research for social media customer service? It means that your business must be prepared to respond to prospects and customers on social media platforms. Here are seven steps to get your social media customer service on track.

  1. Listen to your customers. At a minimum, monitor the social media landscape for mentions of your company name, brands, products, key executives and competitors. If you’re using sophisticated monitoring tools, engage the 2% of mentions that require your response. Also, understand that your competitors’ problem can easily become your problem on social media platforms.
  2. Create special customer service listening posts on social media. Where appropriate, develop a designated social media customer service profile or page. Where you interact depends on your offering and your prospects. For example, Starwood Hotels has had a representative on Flyer Talk for years where he’s known as a straight shooter who the community respects. By contrast, JetBlue uses Twitter to keep passengers abreast of flight and gate changes. Consider what makes sense for your customers.
  3. Train and staff social media customer service to respond inquiries. Social media training is required so representatives have the appropriate skills to communicate on these channels and understand how to use the platforms and related internal systems. Remember that someone who’s personable on the phone may not be able to handle social media inquiries.
  4. Promote social media customer service to your organization and your customers. Let people know what you’re doing via your internal communications and owned media. Create social media content around the types of problems customers have. Just as you include a website or 800 number on products, why not include a Twitter handle? Bear in mind that it’s better to get customer concerns out and address them.
  5. Acknowledge and respond to inquiries as quickly as possible. To put it in perspective, customers can get a representative on the phone immediately or receive an email in twenty-four hours. Ignoring consumer requests on social media platforms doesn’t make them go away, rather it’s more likely to get customers upset on a platform where they can easily let lots of other people know about it.
  6. Follow up where appropriate. Remember that responding is just the first step. It’s important to resolve any issues to make your customers happy and hopefully encourage them to buy from you again.
  7. Track your social media customer service effectiveness. As with any initiative, it’s critical to set up metrics to assess your progress. Set goals for your social media customer service representatives.

The bottom line is that customers will try to contact your firm wherever there’s a communication channel, including social media. They want to know that you’re listening to them and trying to fix their problems.

Do you have any other social media customer service suggestions that you’d add to this list? If so, what are they?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Tip of my hat to Jay Baer for his post 70% of companies ignore customer complaints on Twitter.

Here are some other related articles about social media customer service.

Photo credit: IamTheo via Flickr


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