Social media and good customer service go hand in hand today. Brands that know how to leverage social media not just for marketing but also for providing seamless customer service are the ones that succeed at building long-lasting relationships with their customers.
And get this – social media users have grown by over 10% in the past year, taking the total global number of users to nearly four billion.
That means that more than half of the world’s population now actively uses social media, which makes it an indispensable tool for brands to enhance their overall customer experience.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the importance of social media in customer service and some best practices to take your brand’s customer experience on social media to the next level.
What Is Social Media Customer Service?
In essence, social media customer service is the practice of providing customer support through various social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook to engage with customers where they hang out, quickly answer their questions, and resolve their difficulties – or even to celebrate together.
For example, a customer who has questions about available colors or sizes for a dress may use Facebook Messenger to instantly get a definitive answer from the brand.
Importance of Social Media Customer Service
Here are four core reasons why social media should be an integral part of your company’s customer service strategy:
Connect better with your audience on their terms
By leveraging social media as a customer service channel, you can better connect with your customers, show them that you’re there for them, and show that their opinions matter.
By responding to inquiries, feedback, praise, and complaints in a timely and courteous manner, you cultivate a caring brand image and, in turn, generate more positive and sustainable social engagement – better than mere one-sided promotional posts.
Social media enables customers to easily contact businesses without going out of their way.
By tagging you in a status/tweet or sending you a DM, customers can get in touch with you in a matter of seconds, instead of scouring your website for contact information, or spending several minutes filling out a survey or drafting an email.
The modern customer expects it
Modern customers, young and old, not only expect brands to be active and available for support, but nearly half of global respondents said they expect a response within an hour.
The numbers don’t lie. Here are just a few statistics that show the expectations of modern customers:
87% of shoppers begin product searches online.
59% of consumers used multiple channels to get questions answered.
67% of consumers who follow a brand on social media said they were more likely to increase their spending with that brand.
Clearly, social media is now an inherent component of your customer service process.
Encourage social engagement and win new fans
When you resolve customer queries on social media promptly and interact with customers as a “human” brand (i.e. in a personalized way) instead of a profit-hungry corporate, it shows that customer satisfaction is indeed your top priority.
You form a positive impression on your followers and social media users who chance upon your meaningful interaction with existing customers. Everyone takes note of how attentive your brand is, and encourages them to further engage with you and do business with you.
Improve customer experience and loyalty
You may be delivering an impressive user experience (UX) with regards to your brand’s website and product (be it a fitness tracking mobile app, a task management software, or what have you).
But customer experience is something that goes beyond UX and quality of your products/services – it is the overall notion customers form of your brand as they progress through the buyer's journey.
While you have your conventional customer support channels of email and phone, with social media customer service, you meet your audience where they’re most comfortable, and you can provide quicker resolutions to their troubles.
In this way, you dramatically improve the overall customer experience, and with great customer experience comes great customer loyalty. In fact, 69% of U.S. shoppers said that they return more often to retailers with consistent customer service both online and offline, which makes investing in social media customer service a key component of a successful UX plan.
6 Best Practices to Go Social With Your Customer Service
With the importance of providing superior customer service on social media crystal clear, let’s take a look at six social media customer service best practices to swear by regardless of what your business is about:
Pick and focus on the right platforms
First of all, you need to determine which social platforms your customers are most active on. For that, you can either send a simple one-question questionnaire to your customers (post-purchase at the confirmation page or via email) or analyze your competitors’ social strategy.
Based on your research, prioritize two or three platforms instead of being active on every platform.
For example, if you run a local hardware store, regularly posting useful content like how-to infographics and DIY videos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may suffice for social media marketing and help your customer service efforts.
Conversely, for a B2B SaaS startup, focusing efforts on LinkedIn and Twitter will likely make more sense. But never guess. Use customer and/or competitor data analytics to decide which platforms you should direct your customer service efforts on.
Be quick to respond
Modern consumers lack patience to wait for answers to their questions. If they have a query or problem, they want it resolved pronto.
And so, rendering near-instant customer service is a pressing priority for brands big and small. While speed may not be the most critical factor for great service over email or phone, social media is a fast-paced, instant-gratification environment where speed trumps everything.
In fact, according to a survey, 46% of global consumers expect a social media response to a question or complaint within one hour.
Thus, the sooner you can get back to a customer reaching out on social media, the better. Even if you can’t resolve their problem right away, try to respond to them, so they know you're working on a resolution.
In the customer's mind, social media is a gray zone between live chat and email support. So, realistically speaking, as long as you’re responding within the same day, most customers will be understanding.
Know when to take the matter offline
As mentioned above, listening and responding to every customer on social media is crucial, but not every issue can be resolved right there and then.
It is possible that the platform doesn’t allow you to write super-lengthy replies, such as Twitter. Or, the issue is such that there are many back and forth replies, or sensitive personal data is required, such as an email address, phone number, or password, which can’t be shared publicly.
In these situations, invite customers to resolve the problem offline (DM, phone, email, or in-person) in the response by saying something like:
“Please feel free to reach me personally via email or phone, and I would be more than happy to discuss and resolve the issue at your earliest convenience.”
Make sure to provide your full name, designation, and contact information (or that of a superior who takes care of customer relations).
And once the issue is resolved offline, return to the social channel and thank the customer for reaching out. It reminds them to show their gratitude for great customer experience and closes the interaction in a positive light, visible to everyone.
Also, note the friendly and helpful tone used in the example from Southwest Airlines. The right tone makes the customer feel cared for by emphasizing that you’re not just handing them off, but that you’re here to make things right.
While on the subject of tone...
Tailor your tone of voice
Regardless of the medium, using the right tone of voice is pivotal in customer service.
Besides the basic best practices like keeping the tone positive, conversational, and transparent, matching your tone to each individual customer and situation can go a long way in becoming an appealing brand that everyone wants to follow, engage with, and even buy from.
While having your unique brand tone and personality in every conversation is key, listen to the way your customers voice their concerns:
Do they use emojis, slang, and exclamations? If so, you may do the same to make for a more engaging conversation.
Do they seem less-than fluent in your language? If so, be extra careful with nuances like slang.
Do they sound flustered, annoyed, or sleep-deprived? If so, be super empathetic and use a tone that’s understanding, apologetic, and reassuring.
JetBlue is a great example, and you can learn a lot about tone by going through their Twitter feed. Note how they tailor their tone to each customer.
When the customer is frustrated, they’re empathetic and reassuring:
When the customer is cheerful and casual, they reciprocate:
And when the customer is super casual, the airline doesn’t hold back either:
Long story short, learn to pick up on your customers’ subtle cues, and tailor your tone of voice for a better social media customer service.
Monitor your brand mentions using a social listening tool
Suppose you’re already invested in social media marketing, running viral Instagram contests, and whatnot. In that case, you’re also aware of the importance of monitoring your brand mentions and what people are saying about your brand on social media.
Because like it or not, people are always talking about businesses across the social web, whether it be on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Q&A forums like Quora and Reddit, or review platforms like Yelp and Trustpilot.
Earning mentions, preferably in a favorable light, is an important branding goal for any modern business. What’s more, not all social mentions are created equal – scoring a shoutout from an industry influencer or a customer review praising you with social media advocacy – serves as a powerful piece of social proof for your brand.
By actively monitoring what people are saying, you can capitalize on those conversations to create positive brand engagement and encourage further brand mentions from others.
Your ability to track, measure, and respond to brand mentions and customer reviews/feedback on social media near real-time shows you’re an active participant in your industry and not a bystander with little-to-no control.
Of course, you can’t stare at your social media feed all day to know when your customers are talking about you or need your help. You need a social listening and customer care tool that enables you to keep track of your brand mentions across the social web and uncover actionable insights to improve your social media customer service strategy.
Encourage self service using a knowledge base
As already mentioned, customers want answers in the blink of an eye. The fastest possible way for customers to get help is by allowing them to help themselves. And for that, you need to build a knowledge base.
In essence, a knowledge base is a self-service centralized repository of readily available information about your company, its products or services, and industry-relevant topics.
A public knowledge base is a go-to resource for customers to learn everything they want to know about your company. It can include FAQs, getting-started guides, how-to articles, feature updates, etc., all meant for instant self-help.
A user-friendly and searchable knowledge base empowers customers to get answers and solve issues on their terms, rather than on the company’s. According to a HubSpot Research survey, 90% of consumers prioritized getting an immediate response to a customer service question, and building a solid online knowledge base helps meet that desire.
A knowledge base also reduces the number of tickets your support team has to tackle, which means you can get by with a smaller support team that has the bandwidth to take care of more complex customer issues.
Furthermore, a knowledge base helps your SEO efforts. With relevant, keyword-optimized content published on your knowledge base, search engine crawlers can better crawl, index, and rank your website, making it easy to rank for search phrases directly related to your product or company.
But that’s not it. A good knowledge base helps you deliver better social media customer service as well. By linking to knowledge base articles, you can save time for yourself and make life easier for your customers.
Instead of having to explain comprehensive processes over social media, you can guide them to an easy-to-follow, step-by-step article that’s meant just for them.
Social media customer service is not just nice to have anymore. It’s required.Being there for your customers on their preferred channel is vital to build stronger relationships and turn them into brand advocates who’d happily spread positive sentiment about your company.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.