It’s time for more businesses to step up and utilize communication channel to speak directly with their customers to meet their building expectations.

Customer service via social media – reserved for cat memes and rants from distant friends and family. Now it plays a crucial role in the marketing, customer service, branding and reputation management of a business. Online reviews and posts are the internet’s version of word-of-mouth marketing. Well monitored social media presence can help your business keep a keen eye out for what your customers like, dislike and what troubles them.

Creating a strong customer service aspect on social media can take your team’s efforts from average to awesome. Click To Tweet

According to a report by Sprout Social, almost 90% of consumers have used social media to reach out to a brand. But what’s scary is only 11% brands reply to these messages with an even scarier 10 hour average response time. The social media landscape is changing while it’s come a long way from the early days. It’s no longer enough to use social media solely as a marketing tool.

Your Customers Are Waiting, Don’t Ignore Them

An infographic by Provide Support has shed light on how people prefer to receive help. They found that 34.5% of people prefer customer service via social media comparing to 24.7% who prefer live chat. Also 19.4% would rather email and lastly, 16.1% of people prefer calling in.

Multi-channel support is where it’s at, so don’t make any plans to remove the support channels already in place. Instead, it’s time to integrate social media into your customer support team’s repertoire. Depending on the size of your business that could mean dedicating one person to learning the ins and outs of implementing customer service via social media or slowly building a seperate social media team over time.

You might be thinking about how you don’t have the time or resources for all of that, but don’t be surprised if taking a lax approach to social media support comes back to bite you. Unanswered messages piling up in your Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn account not only make your brand look bad. It’s also a red flag for current and future buyers alike.
In fact, Conversocial reported that 88% of customers seeking support on social media are less likely to purchase from a company that leaves questions unanswered and 83% have stopped purchasing all together after seeing poor (or non-existent) customer service via social media. That means you can kiss brand loyalty goodbye and your competitors will be thanking you for sending business their way.

Step Up Your Social Media Game

So, just how do you go about implementing customer service via social media? The first step is finding out where your customers are hanging out. Do they spend their time tweeting on Twitter or are they more of a LinkedIn kind of crowd? Or perhaps is a combination of a few platforms. Regardless the first step is to seek them out either looking at your current social media platforms you have set up and sleuthing around to see where else they may be talking about your brand. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer are great for monitoring multiple social media channels, brand mentions or special hashtags.

Once that’s figured out it’s time to start doing some damage repair. If you already have a strong social media presence are there messages and comments that you still ignore? And that’s not just referring to negative ones but the positive ones too! If there are customers expressing their love for your product or service it’s only polite to acknowledge and thank them. Again, this is why it’s so important to have someone dedicated to your company’s social media channels.

Implementing Customer Service Via Social Media

Whether you choose to integrate a customer service platform into your social media or are utilizing direct messages, no one person is super human. Priorities need to be set at to which comments or messages are priority. It probably comes as no surprise but technical and account related should hold the highest priority. Others that aren’t as urgent but still very important include general comments, questions or concerns and positive feedback from customers.

Setting clear boundaries about your support hours are also crucial especially for those with a worldwide customer base. (Because there will always be that night hour urgently needing their issue solved at 11PM.) Simply stating them on your social media accounts should do the trick.

The social media landscape is changing quickly and while it’s come a long way from the early days, it’s no longer enough to use social media solely as a marketing tool. Click To Tweet

Set The Tone and Handle With Care

Please, I beg of you, ditch the canned responses. Nobody wants a robotic response that vaguely addresses their concern. Opt for matching your tone with your customers just as you would on any of channel. Are they casual and fun, using emojis , exclamation points and slang or are they a bit more serious? There’s nothing worse than a miscommunication because both you and the customer interpreted eachothers tone wrong.

Know when it’s time to take things offline and either hop on a call or a live session to address a customer’s issue. Instances where personal customer information is needed like passwords, phone numbers and credit card information is an obvious one. When the response will be long winded and require lots of back and forth is another great example.  No need to clutter your feed or make things confusing. And if the customer was initially angry or frustrated, don’t forget to politely ask them to report back to social media about their experience after you’ve solved their problem.

Creating a strong customer service aspect on social media can take your team’s efforts from average to awesome. Loyal customers are the keys to success and when a customer knows they will be taken care of quickly and efficiently in a manner that’s convenient to them, they learn that they can count on you and your team. Which will keep them coming back for more. And what brand doesn’t want to show their customers how much they care?

PS: Looking for some great examples of this in action? Check out these 14 Amazing Social Media Customer Service Examples from Buffer.

Mariana Ruiz is a copywriter + blogger with a background in customer support and digital marketing. She uses her experience and storytelling superpowers to create content for brands + businesses she loves. Connect with Mariana on LinkedIn!

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