Social Media Customer Service – A Guide to Happy Customers

Customer service on social media is an important medium by which consumers solicit and receive customer support. Learn how to deliver better support.

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CHAPTERS

Social Media Customer Service-A Guide to Happy Customers

The majority of businesses are truly quite lousy at customer service when it comes to complaints/problems.

Did you know that a recovered customer could have 20 times the impact of advertising on sale number 1? It’s high time for businesses to change their approach.

Today’s article on social media customer service is for anyone looking to enhance their social media customer service experience.

Whether you need to create or refine a digital servicing strategy, or simply skill up teams responsible for social media customer service, this article will enable you to evaluate the business benefits and work through the operational challenges of providing excellent customer service in social media.

We’ll review the critical processes for effective social media customer service and consider the advantage of effective risk/reputation management and look at ways to improve customer verification, complaint handling, and escalation.

Why is Social Media Customer Service So Important?

Customer service is rapidly becoming one of the most important factors in your customers’ sales decision process. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2020 customer experience will overtake today’s number one determining factor: price. You need to be taking care of your customers to stay ahead of the curve.

Here are 6 reasons why you should be doing it via social media, along with some social media customer service statistics:

More Money

An awesome study by Bain & Company details how customers spend 20-40% more with companies that respond to customer service inquiries via social media. When you give your customers the support they need, they trust and appreciate your brand and that trust leads to sales.

Need I say, more?

Your Customers Are Already There

If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest on the planet (Socialnomics).

As you well know, social media has become a massive part of many customers’ everyday lives. This is especially true if you’re catering to the younger half of the market (whom have been found to spend around 4 hours per day on social media).

You’re probably already actively promoting your brand on social media. So guess what? Your customers are already there interacting and engaging on a deeper level.

In fact, of 23,000 online consumers recently surveyed by JD Power, 67% said they had reached out via social media for support. Your customers are looking to you for help. Be there to give them a hand.

It’s Easier

Social media makes customer service simple. Think of the added value you can provide your frazzled customer by directing them to a helpful video or web page that solves their issue.

A quick, informative response is often enough to turn things around and spin a customer’s problem into a happy ending for both parties.

It’s Cheaper

You can‘t say the words “customer service” without conjuring up images of call centers. It’s the way customer service has been handled for decades. It’s also rather expensive, with an average cost per interaction of about $8.

Social media customer service brings that cost per interaction down to around $1. Whatever your current customer service approach looks like, social media means increased efficiency and lower costs.

It’s Faster

Imagine waiting in “line” for your call to be answered or entering a bunch of information into a customer service email form. Not exactly making you feel warm and tingly, right? If you’re anything like me, you dread the lag time and waiting around as much as I do.

Social media customer service is fast. Your customers can shoot out a quick tweet or comment while they’re already on social media. You can be there answering questions and solving problems as soon as they come in. Doing things this way shows people that you genuinely care about their issue and that’s half the battle to winning back a dissatisfied customer.

It Keeps Clients Around

Giving unhappy customers an outlet to voice their opinions is one thing. Taking the time to respond and work toward a solution is a whole different ball game. If your customer is put off by something you could easily fix, why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to remedy that situation? A recent Gartner study found that companies not responding to customer requests via social media see a 15% higher churn rate.

I don’t need to tell you about the impact that has on your business. Take control of your social media customer service and you’ll see more clients sticking around.

Now that you know social media customer service is for you, let’s take a look at how it’s done!

Social Media Customer Service Best Practices

Social Media Customer Service Best Practices

Before we get into the details of how to conduct customer service via individual social media channels, let’s cover a few fundamentals.

Rule #1 – Answer Every Complaint, in Every Channel, Every Time.

This first rule comes from Mr. Customer Service himself, Jay Baer. It’s as straightforward as it gets. You want each and every customer with a problem to feel heard.

Social Media Customer Service facebook comment customer service

As Jay says, “Stop trying to be amazing, start being helpful…. If you sell something, you have a customer for a day, when you help someone you have a customer for life.

You need to be meeting each and every customer complaint where they’re complaining. For example, if you have a Twitter account and someone tweets something about your product or service, you need to be there to respond. Nothing is worse than a complaint going unanswered. You can kiss that customer goodbye.

If you don’t have a Twitter account, you get one to provide your customers with the outlet. Most businesses never hear about their customers’ complaints because they don’t want to take the time to call or email. Social media is an easy way for your customers to provide you with valuable feedback without investing too much time or energy.

There is no picking and choosing which complaints seem easiest to resolve. You need to provide a response to each and every issue with your brand. High-quality social media customer service requires serious dedication.

Don’t, however, look at this as an unending cycle of complaints. Instead, see it as the opportunity to rally behind the complainers and turn them into appreciative returning customers. You’ll be reducing your churn rate and boosting your ROI with every situation you flip.

Now for a great example of how a quick reply by JetBlue turned a disappointed customer into a raving fan:

When a regular passenger tweeted a complaint about his seatback TV
not working while everyone else’s was, JetBlue responded quickly.

We always hate it when that happens. Send us a DM with your confirmation code to get you a credit for the non-working TV.

They handled the situation immediately and turned the situation around for their customer. He showed his appreciation by tweeting this message 23 minutes after his initial complaint:

One of the fastest and better Customer Service: @JetBlue! Thanks
and Happy Thanksgiving

By paying attention, JetBlue was able to turn an unhappy passenger into a return customer and cheerleader for their brand. Talk about an easy way to save the day!

NOTE: The exception to this rule—In the event of mass issues, there is no need to try to reply to every complaint. Post widespread alerts and give regular updates that reach the masses more effectively.

 

Rule #2 – Use Complaints to Identify Weak Points

There are a number of social media marketing tools that will help you search for mentions of your brand. Try the free one at socialmention.com, or the paid tools by mention.com and HubSpot. While using these social listening aids to hone your marketing is a great idea, you should be using it to improve your social media customer service as well.

Plenty of these brand mentions will come in the form of questions, comments, and complaints. You need to be responding to them quickly and professionally. You also need to be recording each and every one in order to help identify your company’s weak points.

What sort of comments are you recording most? If you receive the same questions over and over, create a way for that information to be more apparent to your customers.

Are you receiving negative feedback about a particular part of your customer interface or checkout process? What can you do to streamline things and smooth out the process so your customers aren’t getting frustrated every time they buy from you.

If your customers are frustrated and commenting about it, imagine how many gave up before they checked out and never took the time to let you know. Social media customer service translating to boosted profits? Who would have guessed!

If you have a problem that comes up again and again, address it. After all, solving an internal problem that eliminates customer complaints is better than continually running around putting out fires.

Automated DVD rental company, Redbox, uses Facebook complaints (like the one below) to determine a new location for one of their kiosks.

When a customer’s Facebook post complained about her being 20 miles from the nearest Redbox, they responded.

Hey Kaley, thanks for the location suggestion. We’ll make sure this
gets shared with the right people here at Redbox.”

Kaley was pleased just to have been heard (and thanked them publicly).

Redbox ended up placing a kiosk nearby, as they were able to determine a gap in their coverage area.

Redbox uses complaints like this to judge which areas they may not be serving properly. They fill the need and continue to expand their business in areas where they know they will be successfully received.

Rule #3 – Sense the Tone

Social media customer service gives you the opportunity to react quickly and compassionately, with an opportunity for informal interactions once a rapport has been established. Your ability to determine the severity of a complaint and the individual tone of your customers will help you judge how to best interact with them. Do they use emoticons and slang? Do they seem like they’re having trouble just getting their message in front of you? Do your best to read the individual and respond accordingly.

A less formal approach is often preferred in social media interactions, but know your audience before you get too friendly. There are times for high professionalism and times where a smiley face included in your response may lighten the mood and shift the scenario completely.

Rule #4 – Don’t Change the Communication Channel

If your customer is airing their complaint via a Facebook comment, they’re doing it there for a reason. Don’t start your response by asking them to communicate via phone or email. Don’t even ask them to communicate through private message until you’ve begun to address their needs publicly. Changing communication channels for a complaint can be seen as a lack of respect for your customers.

Rather, meet them where they are and reply in public if that’s how they prefer to hash out their issue. The ensuing dialogue could generate support for your brand thanks to your professionalism and willingness to help your customer, no matter the outcome.

Rule #5 – Saying “Sorry” Doesn’t Make You Instantly Culpable

If you’re responding to a disgruntled customer to help them, don’t avoid starting the conversation with a genuine apology. Saying you’re “sorry” doesn’t always mean you’re at fault.

Approach the situation with an empathetic tone. Engage your customer politely and with professionalism. If your company is at fault, take responsibility and do your best to regain the customer’s trust. It may take less than you expect.

If your company isn’t at fault, rather than passing the blame, see what you can do to spin the situation anyway. Even if their complaint is about something out of your control, a special offer and a few kind words may go a long way. You never know what could turn an unhappy tweeter into a repeat customer and cheerleader for your brand.

Rule #6 – Handling Difficult Customers is a Good Thing

This rule ties into the last one quite a bit. In any form of customer service you’ll be met with angry customers. Sometimes they have a genuine reason, other times you may just have the misfortune of being the vent for their frustration.

Take this opportunity to create spectator advocates. Keep your cool. Handle yourself with the utmost professionalism in the face of whatever they may throw at you. Use your best logic and reason to appeal to their better judgment. If that doesn’t work, treat them like a child throwing a tantrum and offer them something wonderful to make all of their huffing and puffing worthwhile.

No matter what the outcome, the situation will likely have attracted a few spectators. The level of service provided during the interaction is likely to impress the people watching from the sidelines. These people will come away with a new appreciation for the way your business is conducted without having ever purchased anything from you. How cool is that!

Rule #7 – Follow Up

This one is super simple. If the situation allows for it, try to follow up with a customer after you’ve helped them. A simple “How are things going?” will let your customer know that their problem means a great deal to you and that you’re there to support them with any further issues.

Rule #8 – Share Service Tips

Share a weekly “do-it-yourself” customer service tip with your followers. Let them know you’re listening. After all, most customer frustrations go unreported. Just because people aren’t sharing them doesn’t mean they should be left ignored. Promote your customer service and get people sharing!

Rule #9 – Don’t Let Automation Go Unchecked

Large brands often have trouble responding to all of the tweets coming their way. Automation is not at all uncommon, but don’t let yours run unchecked. American Airlines was caught automating in quite a funny scenario:

Social Media Customer Service tweet example

 

Social Media Customer Service Is Twitter the most effective customer service platform ever

Is Twitter the most effective customer service platform ever?

Facebook is the most used social media platform, but Twitter still may be the easiest way to conduct social media customer servicing. With its 140-character limit, Twitter’s inherent simplicity gives unhappy customers a few short lines of text to let you know how they feel. You can use the same short bursts to solve your customer’s problems.

It’s a low time-and-energy investment that countless brands are using to conduct their customer service, many with amazing results.

Let me be the first to tell you that the Twittersphere is full of comments directed at brands of all shapes and sizes. Your job is to find and respond appropriately to those aimed at yours.

How to rock social media customer service on Twitter

  • Look for misspellings and comments addressed to the wrong handles.

Sometimes customers will tweet at your brand with what they assume would be your handle. (If your company is @RaybanEyewear people might just tweet @Rayban)

They also may unintentionally be misspelling your brand name. (@Collumbia vs @Columbia)

In either case, you need to be looking for these mistakes so your customers don’t feel left out (even though it’s their mistake).

  • Respond even when tweets aren’t directed at your brand.

Someone may just be complaining to complain, but that doesn’t make their problem any less real. You still have the opportunity to spin things.

For example: When a Delta Hotels guest tweeted to his followers (without using their handle in the tweet) about having a nice room with a lousy view, they made it known that they were listening.

They responded within an hour with an offer to move him to a room with a better view. To top it off, they left plate of sweet treats and a handwritten card from the staff thanking him for his feedback.

He was so blown away by their amazing customer service that he wrote this blog post about it.

  • Start using direct messaging

While your customer service conversation will likely begin in a tweet, sometimes it makes more sense to move to direct messages rather than tweeting back and forth in 140 character bursts.

After your initial response, if further clarification or help to the customer is needed that requires lengthy dialogue, you have a valid need to change communication channels. But make it clear that doing so is in their best interests and the only way to resolve the issue.

“A business can now add a deep link to their Tweets that automatically displays a call to action button, which allows the customer to send the business a Direct Message, quickly and easily.” —Twitter

  • Share other customer service channels in your profile

Let your customers know how to get a hold of you in the way that suits them best. Give them the option to Live Chat or call a customer service rep directly.

  • Create a designated support handle

Start a handle that deals directly with customer service. If a customer has an issue, they can be confident it will be heard by tweeting to that handle.

Nike has famously adopted this technique (@NikeSupport) and continually receives praise for their outstanding social media customer support.

  • Keep it short

By using link-shortening services like bitly, Ow.ly, TinyURL, or the Google URL Shortener, you can share helpful links and keep tweets under 140 characters.

Social media Customer Service with Facebook

Social Customer Service with Facebook

FACT: Facebook has 1.65 Billion Customers and Counting

Did you know that three of four online consumers expect a reply to negative feedback on Facebook? (Source: Forrester Research)

Or that 47% of those surveyed by Edison Research said that Facebook, of all the social networks, had the greatest impact on their purchase behavior?

Taken together, these numbers give customer service agents the formidable task of spinning Facebook complaints into branding gold.

Make the most of your Facebook customer service:

  • Use Facebook Messenger

Recently Facebook has taken major steps in the social media service world by constantly improving its Messenger platform. Facebook Messenger is currently the best way to offer customer service through Facebook. Messenger is available as an app on mobile devices or through Facebook and messenger.com.

Messages received can now be tagged with specific keywords, the admin can add notes to the conversation, and they can instantly find out some basic info about the sender/customer.

Facebook has also launched features, such as automatic replies and saved answers, to improve the user experience and let the admins of a Facebook page lower their response time (noted on the page with an icon that shows the average response time).

This video shares recommendations and best practices on using Messenger for your Facebook page most effectively.

  • Read through comments

Valuable suggestions and meaningful questions may be buried deep in the comments of posts. Looking only at posts on your timeline is barely scratching the surface. Look deeper…you never know what you’ll find.

  • Use Pages Manager app

The Page Manager app gives you useful insights into the mentions of your brand. Plus you’ll have access to it on your mobile device so you can respond quickly to customer issues and requests. Pages manager app also gives you the option to read and reply to the messages received in the page.

  • Add a Support tab to your page

Adding a designated Support tab to your company’s page makes it easier for your customers to reach you with their problems. The easier you make it, the more likely people will share their issues with you.

5 Social Media Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid

5 Social Media Customer Service Mistakes to AVOID!

No matter which platform we’re talking about, there are a few social media customer service “no-nos” that we need to cover before we wrap up.

Don’t Delete

Avoid deleting or hiding any comments or posts. Social media is all about being authentic. It’s easy for your customers to feel like there is something shady going on when posts start vanishing. Plus it will make the original poster even more upset and further damage your relationship.

Don’t Get Defensive

Even if the customer is experiencing a problem that they’ve brought on themselves, be helpful. Avoid passing the blame. After all, this is customer service, and that’s hardly providing them with a service. Instead, apologize for their frustrations and do anything you can to help them work through their issue.

Don’t Ignore

I figure you’ve got this one down by now, but I’ll include it just for good measure. The worst thing a customer can experience when filing a complaint or reporting a problem is silence. Be there to do anything and everything you can to restore their happiness and trust in your brand.

Don’t Argue

There will be customers who complain just to defame your brand. Their arguments are typically irrational and over the top and there will be very little you can do to appease these people. This is the only situation where silence is appropriate. If you’ve offered a sincere apology and made an attempt to help, you’ve done your part.

Don’t Overwhelm

There is such a thing as being too helpful. You may have a wealth of information on how to help your customer, but let it trickle out to avoid overwhelm. Give them just enough to help solve the problem. Too much info and too many options can cause more trouble for your customer.

In Conclusion

Now you’re ready to build yourself a powerful social media customer service strategy. Take what you’ve learned and start your search. Your customers are out there, waiting for you to help them with their questions, comments, and complaints. You have the opportunity to turn each of their negatives into positives and, in doing so, turn would be deserters into loyal followers.

Be sure to hit me with your social media customer service questions and comments as you get started by commenting below!

Here’s to happy customers!
– Fabrizio

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