5 Tips for Effective Customer Service Using Social Media

By Jenna Lebel Customer service is a large part of any business. It seems to play a larger role now that (thanks to social media) consumers have a quick outlet to share their complaints, criticism and other negative feedback with the world. We’ve highlighted companies like Best Buy, Bank of America and Whole Foods who are setting the standard in customer service in social media. Unfortunately, while there are several companies that do it well, there seem to be a lot who don’t. For the most part, customer service online is the same as customer service offline. Think of your social media sites as virtual stores and treat customers accordingly.

Here we are going to explore tips for effectively using social media for customer service, but before we get into the specifics you need to first identify which platforms will allow you to better serve those customers. This all comes down to determining where your customers are and where they are talking about your brand. It makes no sense to have a Twitter account specifically for customer service if your customers aren’t on Twitter. Once you’re in the right place you can now employ these tactics.

Listen

This sounds like customer service 101, but you’d be surprised how many companies do not listen. We know it’s important to hear what customers are saying about the brand and the company. It’s often times more important to hear the issues, problems and concerns customers are having. Sometimes your customers are voicing those concerns directly to you and sometimes they are just voicing them to the world. By monitoring the conversation taking place with your brand (direct messages, posts on your Facebook wall, @replies) and conversation taking place publicly you can address both. While you’re listening, consider compiling a database of recurring problems to uncover any trends.  A simple solution can usually be reached if brands listen to customers.

Be Timely

Even if it’s just an acknowledgement of their complaint, it’s important to respond in a timely manner. If someone publicly voices a customer service complaint they expect an answer and they expect it in a timely manner. If someone called your customer service call center you wouldn’t leave them waiting on the line for 2 hours, so why would you do that in social spaces?

Be Personal

If someone calls your customer service number they get a person. If they are expressing dissatisfaction on Facebook or Twitter, they should also feel as though a person is addressing their concerns. This may mean including the names of the employees behind social media in your Twitter bio or Facebook info box or signing posts with the name of the person who is helping. Effective customer service in this area is all about relationships and humanness beyond the social media platform.

Provide value

When a brand is being criticized we often think we can make everything right by giving the person something. It’s important to make sure you are not just constantly giving away stuff, but instead trying to listen and get to the bottom of the problem. Once you identify the issue, resolve it appropriately: give relevant links, information, or further contact information and follow up.  Other people can see your responses so it is important that the answers are well thought-out and meaningful.

Pick your battles

The reality is that sometimes you just can’t fix everything. Some people will never be satisfied and just need to vent and intervening may just add fuel to the fire. In these cases, enhancing your brand image IS fixing everything. Listen, be timely, be personal, offer solutions and call it a day.

These 5 tips should start you off on the road to offering good customer service through social channels. Do you have other tips? What are some of your best practices?