Customer Engagement

How to Ensure Customer Service Success in Social Media

Earlier this year, I published an article for Executive Street about a study I conducted evaluating the social customer service responsiveness of 14 of the nation’s top brands. After four weeks testing their social savvy, I was surprised to learn that even the world’s biggest brands fall far short of customers’ expectations for a response on social media.

Despite 71 percent of people saying they will recommend a brand if they experience positive social media customer service, none of the companies in my experiment really responded to this opportunity. They answered our tweets less than 15 percent of the time.

I attribute this disconnect to 2 primary factors:

  1. Many companies still view social media as a platform for pushing their message, press releases, blogs and other promotions. While they might listen for mentions, responding is not their priority.
  2. They haven’t developed a clear strategy for managing their responses.

The solution to both of these challenges is not to stick your head in the sand and pretend customers aren’t already trying to reach you on social media. As Fergus Griffin, Senior Vice President of Solutions Marketing for, told me last year at Dreamforce:

How to Ensure Customer Service Success in Social Media

“I don’t think there’s any company out there that doesn’t need to be thinking about [customer service through social]. I guarantee your customers are already using the channel, and they’re probably already talking about your brand.”

Are you wondering how you can get your social customer service strategy in order? Below are 2 steps to follow when listening for your brand on social media to ensure customer service success:

Listen and Filter

The first step is to know what to listen for and leveraging the right tools for automating that process. I’ve reviewed several paid social listening apps here, but smaller businesses can accomplish most of what they need with something like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

How to Ensure Customer Service Success in Social Media

Example of Hootsuite’s management dashboard

Regardless of the tool, you should listen and respond to (at least) the following:

  • @Brand mentions
  • Brand name without your “@” Twitter handle
  • Mentions of your products
  • Trending hashtags, e.g. #brandfail
  • Combinations of @brand (or brand) and “help,” “?”, “need,” “want” and other indicators that an answer is desired.

Respond and Interact

Once you’ve found mentions of your company, you should respond and interact with your consumers. Recently I interviewed Heather Strout, Director of Professional Services at Lithium Technologies, to discover simple best practices for small businesses when responding on social media. Her tips included:

  • Don’t respond mechanically (or automate responses). Be human first and foremost.
  • Personalize your response with your initials or name. Here’s an example from Best Buy:

How to Ensure Customer Service Success in Social Media

  • Always post a response in the stream, but take the interaction off channel afterwards if you need account information, or the customer requests you contact them offline.
  • Use a single Twitter handle for all customer care responses. Either one for both marketing and customer service, or use an @brand_support handle.
  • Post your “hours of operation” on your Twitter profile.
  • Respond within two hours (preferably less) during your hours of operation. If you need more time to find the answer, post a place hold, e.g. “Working on it now! I’ll get back to you ASAP!”
  • Post a “hello, Ashley here at your service” when you have new people signing on. Here’s an example from Zappos: 

How to Ensure Customer Service Success in Social Media

These are just a few best practices companies should follow when responding on Twitter. The video below is a summary of the recommendations for Respond and Interact (start the video at 4:38).

What best practices has your company developed for social customer service? Is this a priority for your marketing and support team? Join the conversation with a comment here.

Category: Customer Engagement Marketing


Avatar About the Author: Ashley Verrill

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