Social Media Customer Service: Everything You Need to Do it Well

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Social media customer service means using social channels to provide efficient and effective customer service and support. Customers expect to be able to reach out to brands on social channels for help—and get a quick reply.

Let’s make sure you’re ready to help them when they reach out to you.

Bonus: Read the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.

Social media customer service stats

Why should you incorporate social media customer support tools into your business plan? It’s simple: People want brands to offer social customer support.

And keeping customers happy is the whole point of offering customer service.

Here are some stats that prove how important it is to offer social media customer service solutions:

Customers expect social customer service

More than 150 million people message businesses through Instagram Direct every month. 76% of people who message a business do so for customer service or support. Two-thirds of global shoppers messaged a business on social last holiday season. 64% of people would rather message than call a business. Social media is the preferred customer support channel for those under 25, with 32.3% of them saying it’s their top choice.

Customer expect (but don’t always get) a fast response

83% of people expect companies to respond to a social media question or complaint within a day. Nearly half of people expect a response within an hour. But 45% of brands took more than five days to respond to messages through their Facebook Pages! And 49% never get a response to a social media complaint at all.

Social customer support increases customer confidence and loyalty

Half of people globally said that direct messaging a company makes them feel more connected to the brand. 40% of holiday shoppers say they are more likely to consider buying from a brand they can message. 57% of consumers said customer service increases brand loyalty. 81% of Twitter users who don’t get a response from a company will not recommend that company to their friends.

Using social media for customer service and customer support: 11 tips to make it work

1. Set up a dedicated social handle for social media customer support

Brands often use a separate social account to offer social media customer service solutions. For example, Hootsuite uses @Hootsuite_Help, which is run by the support team.

This helps filter out support and service issues from your primary channel. It also ensures you assign the right teams to monitor the right types of incoming public messages.

Your customer service team can likely address client questions faster and in more detail than your social marketing team could do. A fast, effective, and detailed response that resolves issues is a sure way to satisfy and retain frustrated customers.

Thank you, that’s exactly what I needed! Didn’t need a restart – as soon as I changed the setting and went back to the previous note with a Google Docs link, it was displaying as plain text. Thanks again! 👍

— Smiffy (@smiffy) August 18, 2020

If you create a dedicated social channel for customer support, include that handle in your brand’s other social profile bios. This lets people know where to reach out for support-related requests.

People will still use your main social marketing handles to contact you with support and service issues. They might simply use the brand handle they already know, rather than looking at your main profile to check for a support account.

The best social media customer service examples are all about making it easy for the customer. If a service request comes into your main social channel, pass it along to the right team.

Respond from your support account to move the conversation to the right channel. This also makes sure other users can see the request was addressed. For example, when users Tweet customer service issues to the main @BestBuy Twitter account or to @GeekSquad, @BestBuySupport jumps in to take over the conversation.

Good morning! Thanks for connecting with us. Ia m sorry to hear that your recent repair did not reflect the expert service that we strive to provide. Since tweeting, have you received assistance with this? ^Jenni

— Best Buy Support (@BestBuySupport) August 28, 2020

2. Find and monitor conversations relevant to your business

Of course, many people will also post messages about your business online without tagging any of your social accounts. Some of these posts might warrant a customer service response.

That means you can’t wait to be tagged in social media customer support requests. You need to monitor conversations about your brand. Then you can respond to customers who have a service issue—even if they didn’t reach out to you.

Starbucks uses keyword monitoring to catch all mentions of the brand, even when they’re not tagged:

Our Mango Dragonfruit Starbucks Refreshers is a very popular drink during the summer months. Your local Starbucks should be restocked shortly.

— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) August 30, 2020

3. Create social media guidelines

Social customer support has different challenges and opportunities from social marketing. But it’s no less important to have social media guidelines in place. These should align with your company values and with the social marketing team.

Your brand guidelines for social customer support should cover things such as:

Tone of voice Response time for each channel Answers to frequently asked questions Protocol for escalations or other customer issues A message approval procedure and a permission management system

Zappos uses a casual but friendly tone of voice on its social customer support channels. This voice is appropriate to the company’s brand and aligned with its marketing style. You can be sure Zappos has a style guide to maintain that voice consistency.

We'll be here all night Ladies and Gentleman! *SM

— Zappos.com (@Zappos) August 22, 2020

4. Be proactive

If customers regularly reach out with the same questions, that’s a clue you need to provide some self-service information resources.

Your social media customer service channels are great places to share educational content like a how-to video or best practices blog post. It’s all about helping customers learn how to get the most from your products. If you offer an online service, you could also post updates about any known service issues.

These resources will help reduce the number of support requests that come in. They’re also an easy place to refer people with simple support questions.

Instagram Stories highlights are a great option to provide customer service self-help resources like how-tos and answers to frequently asked questions.

For example, Lush created an Instagram Stories highlight to show how online ordering works with in-store pickup.

Lush Instagram Stories highlight
Source: Lush on Instagram

They’ve also created a Stories highlight answering some questions about their packaging. Both of these highlights help customers resolve some of their own questions before deciding whether to order Lush products online.

5. Expand your idea of what customer service can be

Think broadly about what qualifies as a customer service issue. How companies use social media for customer service varies widely. It doesn’t have to be just about resolving problems and complaints.

Customer service can include anything that makes your customers feel more connected to your brand and more comfortable buying, using, and recommending your products.

For example, when a customer Tweeted Glossier asking which shade of product to buy, they asked her to DM a selfie so they could offer the best advice.

DM us a selfie and we'd be happy to help recommend a shade ✨

— Glossier (@glossier) July 7, 2020

6. Manage customer expectations

Customers don’t expect all companies to offer the same levels of customer service on social media.

A recent study found that customers who pay more for their services expect a higher level of social customer care. Another study found that higher-revenue airlines offer more empathetic customer care on Twitter.

Of course, how companies use social media for customer service will vary based on the size of the available team.

The most important thing is to set customer expectations appropriately. Make it clear when your service team is available, and how long it might take you to respond. If there are other resources they can use to get answers faster, let them know.

TELUS Support service team
Source: TELUSsupport on Twitter

7. Always respond

This may sound obvious, but it’s a rule not all companies follow.

People asking questions of your brand on social media may or may not be your customers (yet). Answering all questions on social channels shows that you have responsive customer service. This proves to potential customers that you care about your clients’ needs.

I won’t call the brand out here, but I recently had an experience that shook my confidence in a company, all because they ignored my comment on a social post.

I bought a newly launched product and had an issue that for me raised product safety concerns. I returned the product and got a refund—so I should be satisfied, right? Well, I was. Until they ignored my friendly comment on a social post noting the issue. (I’d also advised them by email.)

To reiterate: I got a refund. The real-world customer service was just fine. But the lack of response to my comment made me feel like my concerns weren’t taken seriously. This slip-up in social customer service undermined the efforts of the offline customer service team.

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8. Respond quickly

Simply responding is not enough. When customers reach out to brands on social, they expect a fast, friendly response.

As you saw in the stats at the top of this post, those expectations are not always being met. But when they are, the results can be very positive.

When GlobeAir used WhatsApp messaging to respond to customer queries, response times were 33% faster. They also saw a 20% increase in the number of issues resolved during the first contact with the customer.

GlobeAir WhatsApp messaging
Source: Facebook

Your Facebook Page reveals right upfront whether you respond quickly to customer messages. If you respond to 90% of messages and have a response time of 15 minutes or less, you’ll get a Very Responsive to Messages badge.

Your social customer service may not be available 24/7, and that’s okay. As we said above, just make sure to set customer expectations appropriately.

Make your social customer service hours of availability clear. Let customers know when you’re going offline. Provide links to where they can find self-help solutions. Direct them how to reach other customer service channels (like your call center) in the meantime.

We've made it to the end of another week! The Twitter desk is closing down for the night and we are off to get some shut-eye. Hope everyone had a good Friday and has an even better weekend. We'll see you all again tomorrow morning at 6:30 am. Good night! :) ^tm

— TransLink BC | Masks Mandatory (@TransLink) August 29, 2020

On Facebook, you can use social media customer support tools like Away Messaging to provide an automated response when your social customer support team is offline. Messages received during your Away times don’t count towards your Very Responsive status.

Use Away Messaging to let customers know when you’ll be back online and when they should expect a response. You could also provide links to self-service customer information, like FAQs.

You can also use Instant Replies on Facebook to send a canned response to all initial messages. This is especially useful during busier-than-normal times, so you can set customer expectations in terms of when you’ll be able to reply personally.

You can even use Facebook’s customization options to include the person’s first name and/or last name to make the reply more personal.

Facebook Away Messaging
Source: Facebook

Get step-by-step instructions on how to set up both Away Messaging and Instant Replies in our Facebook Messenger guide.

On Instagram, set up Quick Replies for answers to common questions so you can reply quickly with just a couple of taps.

Instagram Quick Replies
Source: Instagram

9. Try a chatbot for common service requests

Chatbots are a great way to offer basic social customer service 24/7. They can give customers the information they want immediately, without involving your customer service team. They tend to work best for simple questions that you get often.

For example, WestJet uses a Facebook Messenger chatbot to answer common questions about baggage and flight details. They trained the bot using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI, and eventually it was able to answer half of all Messenger enquiries.

WestJet Facebook Messenger chatbot
Source: Facebook

10. Use the right channels

For your social customer care to be effective, you’ve got to use the channels where your audience already spends their time.

Monitor social platforms to see where people are already talking about your company online. This will give you a good sense of what channels to prioritize for your social media customer service.

Consumer Reports found people are most likely to complain on the platforms where they are most active: 84 percent of consumers who posted complaints on social media used Facebook and 26 percent used Twitter.

11. Take public conversations private

Customers may contact you on your social pages for questions or requests that would be better addressed through a private channel. For instance, you might need confidential information like a booking number or account name.

Rather than asking customers to take the extra step of launching a private conversation through a direct message, you can use built-in tools to take the conversation private yourself.

On Twitter, you can include a “Send a Private Message” call-to-action button in a tweet, like Shopify does here:

Hey, Kristen! We'd be happy to lend a hand. Feel free to send us a DM and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. – Brie https://t.co/87D6g61YQk

— Shopify Support (@ShopifySupport) August 27, 2020

This allows a customer to contact you through a DM simply by tapping the button.

To add the private message button, just add the following link to a tweet:

https://twitter.com/messages/compose?recipient_id=[your numeric user ID]

Note that you need to use your account’s numeric user ID, not your handle. To find your number ID, go to your Twitter profile and click Account, then click Your Twitter data, then click Account again. Your numeric ID appears next to your handle.

On Facebook, you can respond to a public comment with a private message. This takes the conversation to Facebook Messenger, where you can interact more confidentially. Below the customer’s comment, just click Message to respond privately.

Facebook Message button for private conversation
Source: Facebook

Once you send your message, a note will appear under the comment that says “Page responded privately.” This shows other users that you addressed the request, even though your response is not visible.

Page responded privately note on Facebook
Source: Facebook

If you respond by DM on Instagram, make sure to add a comment so the customer knows to check their DMs, and so that others can see you reached out privately to resolve the issue.

Rocky Mountain Soap Company Instagram DM
Source: Rocky Mountain Soap Company on Instagram

Social media customer service solutions and tools

Hootsuite

Hootsuite can help you with social media customer service in 4 key ways.

1. Identify conversations that require a service response

Use boards and streams in Hootsuite to monitor multiple networks for conversations happening around your brand. Then, you can quickly respond to support requests, even when you’re not tagged. Here’s how to do it:

2. Store and share reusable support content

Use the Hootsuite Content Library to store, organize, and share pre-approved social customer support content. This helps improve response times while keeping things accurate and consistent.

3. Assign social messages to customer support team members

Assign incoming support requests directly to customer service team members. This makes sure nothing falls between the cracks. It’s a great way to connect customer support team members with messages that come in without tagging your customer support handle.

4. Track, measure, and improve your support performance

Hootsuite Analytics lets you measure and share the impact of your social customer support efforts. This lets you see what’s working and improve on what’s not.

You’ll see how long it takes your team to respond to and resolve incoming tweets, Facebook comments, and private messages on Twitter or Facebook.

Zendesk

The Zendesk app for Hootsuite allows you to create tickets in Zendesk from social messages on Twitter and Facebook. You can route tickets to other team members and respond directly to social posts from Zendesk.

You can access ticket details such as the issue’s status, requester, subject, description, comments, groups, and assigned team members. You’ll be able to add internal notes and update and edit tickets directly from your Hootsuite dashboard.

Freshdesk

With the Freshdesk Hootsuite app, you can convert social conversations into support tickets. You can then manage those tickets as they work their way to resolution.

You can add notes to the ticket within the Hootsuite dashboard. Then you can search and filter tickets based on name, date created, keywords, and ticket number.

Automat

Automat uses conversational artificial intelligence to create intelligent bots for social direct messaging. Automat bots understand free-form text and can hand a conversation off to a human customer support agent when needed.

ClickDesk

ClickDesk is a live chat app you can use to connect with people reaching out to your brand on Twitter. Using a private interface, customer service agents can resolve customer support issues in real time.

Reply.ai

Reply.ai is a chatbot solution for Facebook Messenger. It uses conversational artificial intelligence to interact with customers in multiple languages. When human help is needed, your team will be notified through Hootsuite Inbox.

Save time building an efficient customer support system on social media with Hootsuite. Respond to questions and complaints, create tickets from social conversations, and work with chatbots all from one dashboard. Try it free today.

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