6 Best Practices for Social Media Customer Service

Social media is an indispensable marketing tool for modern businesses to provide customer service around the clock. Using Facebook or Twitter is a highly effective method of resolving or engaging with customer issues, complaints, and questions because both parties are likely already using the platform.

There are numerous stats that speak to the need to support customers via social media:

  • 64 percent of customers would rather message than call a business.
  • Almost 80 percent of U.S. adults engage with companies on social networks.
  • 36 percent of survey respondents said that great customer service is a motivation to recommend a brand online.

Customers expect service personnel to monitor your social pages, and they expect quick responses. Taking advantage of social media is cost-effective and convenient, but it needs to be done right. Here’s our 6 recommendations and best practices to make the most of your social media channels for customer engagement.

Table of Contents

1. Develop a social media customer service policy

Like other facets within the business, developing a policy for responding to dissatisfied customers via social channels will eliminate inconsistencies and mitigate rash responses. This policy doesn’t have to be complex, but it should outline how your organization will conduct itself on the web. It also serves as a point of reference when either employees or customers act out of line and need correction.

Creating a social media customer service policy will look different for each company, but here’s a general idea for laying the groundwork:

  1. Learn more about customer needs. Do this by conducting surveys or asking your customer service team about common complaints and issues.
  2. Develop a policy. Using the data from your customer surveys and research, develop a clear statement that outlines how to address those common complaints and issues. Take time to write the statement, have it approved by necessary stakeholders, and publish it somewhere accessible to employees.
  3. Train employees on the policy. This is especially important, as this step dictates how your customers will be serviced. Sufficient training ensures all employees are on the same page on how to implement and follow the policy.
  4. Reevaluate often. As social media changes often, so should your social customer service policy. Revisit it annually or any time you think your efforts need improvements.

Dell’s social media policy is straightforward and simple:

dell's social media principles

Creating a clear policy is important to success. It can lead to great social responses, such as this one from Southwest Airlines:

southwest social media

Or poor responses that communicate to the customer that they are not the first priority: 

old spice bad social media customer service

2. Dedicate a handle to customer support 

The chances are high that your customer support team can answer questions with more depth and speed than your social marketing team counterparts. For that reason, having a dedicated support page for your customer service team will help filter out service issues from the primary channel.

The average brand reply to a user is 15 minutes—that’s a rapid response time. Using a separate support handle will ensure customer issues are organized and flagged more easily, decreasing response times.

To increase your support account’s reach, include that handle in your brand’s other social profile bios. If a service request comes in through your main account, pass it along within your team and respond via your service account.

Twitter itself has a dedicated support account.

twitter support acct

3. Be responsive and timely 

Your customers want to feel heard. You don’t want your response to seem canned or prewritten (even if it is). A lack of attentiveness opens the door to a poor customer response, which in turn negatively affects your brand. Being responsive and friendly on your social platforms indicates you care about the customer.

If you have the bandwidth, consider tailoring your tone to each customer. If they are frustrated, respond with empathy and apology. If they are happy and casual, respond in the same vein. JetBlue is a great example.

jetblue-social-media

In most cases, no response is a poor response on your company’s part. However, if you suspect someone is “trolling” your company with overly inflammatory remarks about pop culture, politics, or things unrelated to your brand, we recommend that you avoid responding (and making that clear in your social media customer service policy.)

Here’s a couple tips for responding to customers:

Stay positive

Keep an upbeat, optimistic tone when responding to customers. Unless it’s clear they’re joking, avoid sarcasm to avoid it being taken in the wrong way. Show your personality (in line with your brand) by using emojis and gifs when appropriate to do so.

Be transparent

No one appreciates dishonesty when it comes to a timeline for fixing a problem. While some customer issues will be quick fixes, some may require you to file a ticket to get it solved. Be upfront and honest with the customer about how long the issue may take to resolve. And if you don’t know how long it will be, say as much.

Your customers will appreciate an honest response instead of asking when the issue will be solved for the thousandth time.

Know when to take it from public to private

It’s not always necessary to handle an entire encounter publicly. If a customer is angry or frustrated, send an initial response publicly and request to continue the conversation privately.

For example, if a customer tweets that their product arrived damaged, send a public tweet to apologize, and then have a customer support agent reach out to them in their direct messages. This shows customers you value their concerns and aren’t just looking for public praise.

4. Create templates for common questions 

While customers expect a quick response, they should also understand that your support team may not be available 24/7. Set customer expectations accordingly, and let them know when you’re going offline. Facebook allows you to set statuses such as Away or Active.

To respond to customers as quickly as possible, outline templates to commonly asked questions or issues (and include this in your policy). When someone is experiencing an issue, your customer service team can quickly paste a response in and add some personalization based on the issue at hand.

When your service team isn’t online, provide links to your FAQ pages. Not only is this helpful for customers, it decreases the total interactions your team has to handle. Having FAQ pages are also great for SEO purposes. Take a look at Spotify’s response:

spotify social media customer service

5. Monitor mentions

Yes, your social media platforms are for self-promotion, but they should also be seen as a way to build real relationships with customers by engaging in conversation. You can do this by monitoring mentions of your brand and engaging with them.

Monitoring what people are saying about your brand gives you valuable insight into how your business is perceived by the public.

Many times, users won’t tag your account when mentioning your brand. So set up a monitoring stream that includes a mention of your brand and positive or negative words to see what your customers love and hate. There’s a lot of social media monitoring tools out there to help you do this such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social.

Whichever tool you use, use it to your full advantage. Check out this reply from Starbucks:

starbucks social media customer service

6. Measure and report on your efforts

Keep track of important customer service metrics to evaluate what you’re doing well and how you could improve. Important metrics include:

  • Inbound volume
  • Response volume
  • Volume by category
  • Case resolution volume

Some of these metrics you can’t control, such as inbound volume or volume by category. But they’re still important for providing a baseline for understanding your other metrics.

In addition to these metrics, a customer satisfaction survey is always a great idea. You can send this via email, asking if the customer was happy with the service they received over social media. Provide a text box to allow the customer to input what your company could’ve done better if it’s applicable.

Making the most of social media customer service

When they need to ask a question or solve a problem, consumers prefer to get help online. With the right preparations and tools, your social media channels can have a big impact on brand awareness and customer engagement. Through it, your business can form relationships with customers by responding to their requests with positivity, transparency, and attentiveness.

Read next: Small Business Marketers Prioritize Social Media

Abby Braden
Abby Braden is an award-winning writer and editor for websites such as TechnologyAdvice.com, Webopedia.com, and Project-Management.com, where she covers technology trends and enterprise and SMB project management platforms. When she’s not writing about technology, she enjoys giving too many treats to her dog and coaching part-time at her local gym.

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