How to Combine Social Media and Customer Service for Your Business

Parker Davis

Increasingly, companies like yours are doing double duty on social media. You want to use these growing platforms to find new customers and promote your new products and services, while customers are looking to reach out for help in using those products.

In most companies, those two functions are very different. Use this guide to successfully navigate the tricky waters of offering effective customer service over social media.

(Movie Trailer Voice) In a World…

The landscape of customer service is changing. The way customers want to interact with your business is changing.

In fact, one-third of customers now say they prefer interacting with brands on social media rather than over the phone.

In many ways, this can be easier and more convenient for customers, as they can go on with their lives while dealing with their customer service complaint at the same time.

Of course, social media isn’t just a benefit for customers. A study by Bain  indicated that customers who engage with your brand over social media will spend an average of 40% more over their lifetime.

Social media is in a strange place right now because most companies are using the same account for brand marketing, promotions and customer service, all wrapped into one.

So let’s talk about some strategies to help you provide great customers service without sacrificing the marketing value offered by social media.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Most importantly, you need to be where your customers are.

Do you have a well-followed active Twitter audience? Great, you can begin to offer customer service on Twitter.

Are your prospective and current customers on Facebook? Probably, but does the platform make sense for your customer service needs?

Are your customers on Google+ and Instagram? Do you have the bandwidth and ability to help your customers on these platforms?

At first, keep it simple and stick to the basics of Twitter and, if you have a huge following, Facebook. Consider adding CS to other platforms only after your team is up and running smoothly on Twitter and Facebook.

Otherwise, direct your customers’ complaints to your other channels, like phone, web chat or email.

Six Degrees of Separation

If you have an overwhelming amount of customer service inquiries (like a cable company or major airline), you can create a separate account for dealing with customer issues, which will be staffed by your customer service team.

This allows your marketing team to do its thing, and your customer service team to do its thing separately. With this model, organizing tasks and workflows is much simpler. And you can provide customers with great service, even if they do not wish to see regulated updates about your company.

CON: This separation technique can be annoying to customers who want answers immediately, and message the wrong team with a complaint. To the customer, it may feel like your team is pawning off their problem on another department. The way to avoid this is to simply explain why you are referring them to the CS team.

If a customer tweets a complaint to your main account, respond with something like this: “Please contact our customer service team at @AwesomeBrandCS. They will be able to better help you with your problem.”

Side note: In researching this post, I was surprised to find that Delta Airlines is moving its customer service from its separate CS account @DeltaAssist back onto the main @Delta Twitter handle.

This is pure speculation, but I think that Delta wants to position itself as the most customer-friendly airline, and take advantage of the reputation it has gained from the largely positive reviews on the @DeltaAssist handle.

Walk the Line

Different functions on the same social media account means that your teams need to be flexible enough to strike the proper tone for each customer interaction.

Make sure your team understands the difference between fun branding and promotional tweets and responding to customer service issues. The last thing a customer wants to deal with is a silly response or excessive exclamation points when she has a legitimate, frustrating complaint.

How do you actually implement this? Build a comprehensive manual, complete with plenty of examples as part of your social media training packet. Make sure the strategy you outline fits in with your overall brand and customer service principles.

If you would like to avoid the hassle of having to train new junior personnel over and over, consider hiring an experienced virtual receptionist service. These firms employ highly-trained receptionists who can help your customers over phone, web chat, email or social media.

The benefit here is that your costs are reduced versus a full-time employee, and you turn over the training and hiring to a third party, while still enjoying the benefits of having an effective and helpful customer service representative.

The Fast and the Furious

Another major part of providing effective customer service over social media is that you must respond quickly to customer complaints.

We have seen from a previous post by Convince & Convert’s own Jay Baer that around 42 percent of customers complaining on social media expect a response time of less than an hour.

As brands improve, and customers begin to see social media as a real-time option for effective customer service, I would expect that number to decrease quickly over the coming years.

Furthermore, customers don’t need customer service just during regular business hours. According to the same research discussed by Jay, “57% expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.”

So what is a poor company to do? You want to do your best for your customers, but they want fast responses over social media at all times of the day and night. No one said it was going to be easy. It takes an investment of time, effort, and cash to get this stuff right.

Up Close & Personal

Finally, let’s talk about how to make those complaining customers happy and get them to fall in love with your brand all over again.

Obviously, we want to be helpful, friendly, and leave them with an outstanding impression of the company. One great way to help keep them coming back is to personalize the conversation.

By simply marking the end of each tweet (or message) with the CS representative’s name (“How can I help you? -Joy”), you accomplish a few different things.

First, you personalize the interaction. The customer is no longer speaking with some faceless entity. They are speaking to a real human being. This can help to defuse some of their frustration, once they realize that Joy really does want to do her best to help the customer.

This personalization also allows the customer service representative (Joy, in this case) to infuse her own personality into the mix. It creates a more enjoyable experience for the customer and the employee, and can really help to hone your brand’s identity.

As Good As It Gets

By following these Five Easy Pieces (see what I’m doing here?) of advice, you can be on your way to Glory in the customer service space.

If you effectively use social media, you can not only provide customer service more efficiently for you and for your customers, you can also pick up some new customers you would never have found otherwise.

Good Night and Good Luck!

About the Author

Parker Davis

Parker Davis is the CEO of Answer 1, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology enabled answering services industry. He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies. In 2016, Answer 1 will achieve record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership.

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