Social Media Customer Service: Everything You Need to Do it Well

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Social media customer service is exactly what it sounds like. You use social media tools to provide online customer service and support.

In today’s digital world, people use social to channels to connect with businesses. And they expect businesses to be available on social to provide help when they need it.

You likely already have a solid strategy for social media marketing and a great customer service team. But do you have a strategy for how your brand will use social media customer service solutions?

Using social media for customer support is different from using the same tools for social marketing. Social media customer service can help improve relationships and protect your brand’s reputation.

Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.

Social media customer service stats

Why should you incorporate social media customer service tools into your business plan? The numbers don’t lie. People want the brands they interact with to offer social customer support. And keeping customers happy is the whole point of offering customer service.

Here are some social media customer service stats that show how important it is to offer social media customer service solutions:

Customers expect social service

  • 67% of customers have used live chat, social media or texting to contact customer service.
  • 20.8% of U.S. Internet users say social media is the best channel for customer service.
  • More than 150 million people message businesses through Instagram Direct every month.
  • 61% of daily messaging app user in the U.S. have messaged a business in the last three months.
  • In Brazil, that number increases to 81%.

Social customer support increases customer confidence and loyalty

  • 69% of U.S. residents said that directly messaging a company makes them feel more confident about the brand.
  • Customers who receive a brand response to their tweets are willing to spend three to 30% more on a future purchase from that business.

Social media customer service protects your brand reputation

  • Nearly half of consumers will discuss a bad customer service experience with friends. 24% will do do on social media.
  • 81% of Twitter users who don’t get a response from a company will not recommend that company to their friends.

Using social media for customer service and support: 11 tips to make it work

1. Make social customer service a priority

You have to view social media customer service as a business priority, not an afterthought.

At Bumble, customer service is the “backbone of the entire business.”

“Every tweet, they respond,” said Louise Troen, Bumble’s VP of International Marketing. “They’re the most important part of the company. They’re the people who listen to your users and help you innovate your product online and offline,” she said at the recent TNW Conference in Amsterdam.

Bumble’s social customer support team will even take action in the real world if warranted. That might mean sending a congratulations hamper to newly engaged Bumble users. Or it could be offering to pay for a makeup date after the original was sidetracked by—wait for it—a swarm of bees.

2. Set up a dedicated social handle for customer service and support

Brands often use a separate handle to manage social customer support. This helps filter out support and service issues from your primary channel.

For example, Hootsuite uses @Hootsuite_Help, which is run by the support team.

If you  create a dedicated social channel for customer support,  include that handle in your brand’s other social profile bios. This lets people know where to reach out for support-related requests.

People will still use your main social marketing handles to contact you with support and service issues. They might simply use the brand handle they already know, rather than looking at your main profile to check for a support account.

Make it easy for the customer. If a service request comes into your main social channel, forward it along to the right team.

Respond from your support account to move the conversation to the right channel. This also makes sure other users can see the request was addressed.

3. Create social media guidelines

Social customer support has different challenges and opportunities than social marketing. It’s important that to have social media guidelines in place for customer support. These should align with your company values and with the social marketing team.

Your social media guidelines for social customer support should cover things such as:

  • Tone of voice
  • Response time for each channel
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
  • Protocol on escalations or other customer issues
  • A message approval procedure and a permission management system

Zappos uses a casual but friendly tone of voice on its social customer support channels. This voice is appropriate to the company’s brand and aligned with its marketing style. You can be sure Zappos has a style guide to maintain that voice consistency.

4. Find and monitor conversations relevant to your business

When consumers mention brands online, they tend to use hashtags rather than brand handles. DigiMind found that hashtags were used 91% of the time in tweets that mentioned global brands. Compare that to only 9% for brand handles.

That means you can’t wait to be tagged in social media customer support requests. You need to monitor conversations about your brand. Then you can respond to customers who have a service issue—even if they didn’t reach out to you.

Best Buy does a great job of this. They use social listening to find brand mentions that merit a customer service response, even when no handle or hashtag is used.

Lush UK recently took the unusual approach of essentially shutting down its social media accounts. The brand is directing customers to use a hashtag to get their attention instead.

Customers had mixed reactions to this announcement. Will it work out for Lush? That remains to be seen. The company has been mainly silent on its UK Twitter account since announcing the signoff on April 15. However, a customer service rep posted 10 responses to tweets on May 11. Maybe they’ve reconsidered. We’ll be keeping an eye on the @LushLtd account to see how this plays out.

5. Be proactive

Anticipate questions or potential support issues that people might have. Use those to create educational content that you can share on your social channels.

For instance, you could create a how-to video or a best practices blog post.

Your social media customer service channels are great places to share educational content. Help customers learn how to get the most from your products. If you offer an online service, you could also post updates about any known service issues.

Adobe uses its customer care Twitter account to share how-to information. This helps customers use its products more effectively.

These resources will help reduce the number of support requests that come in. They’re also an easy place to refer people with simple support questions.

6. Expand your idea of what customer service can be

Think broadly about what qualifies as a customer service issue.

For example, a Warby Parker customer tweeted three different glasses looks he was considering. He used the #warbyhometryon hashtag but didn’t include the brand’s social handles.

This might not be considered a typical customer service issue. Still, Warby’s customer service team popped in to let him know which frames they thought were the best pick.

That kind of above-and-beyond service delights customers. It’s no surprise Warby Parker gets rave reviews for customer service.

7. Always respond

This may sound obvious, but it’s a rule not all companies follow.

People asking questions of your brand on social media may or may not be your customers (yet). Answering all questions on social channels shows that you have responsive customer service. This proves to potential customers that you care about your clients’ needs.

Vancouver nail salon Classy Claws has built a loyal following in real life by being highly responsive to her followers on Instagram. In particular, she has built client relationships by responding to direct messages.

Clients may have questions about her service, or about how to book an appointment. Answering questions from existing and potential customers has helped Classy Claws become a destination nail studio with more than 56,000 Instagram followers.

8. Respond quickly

Simply responding is not enough. When customers reach out to brands on social, they expect a fast, friendly response.

A study by Twitter showed that 71% of  users expect a brand to respond within one hour. A Facebook study showed that people expect a faster response through social messaging than through other kinds of communication (including phone).

Your Facebook Page reveals right upfront whether you respond quickly to customer messages. If you respond to 90% of messages and have a response time of 15 minutes or less, you’ll get a Very Responsive to Messages badge.

That doesn’t mean your social customer service team needs to be available 24/7. But it does mean it’s a good idea to set expectations about when people can expect you to respond.

On Facebook, you can use Away Messaging and Instant Replies to provide an automated response. This lets customers know when you can respond. Get step-by-step instructions on how to do this in our Facebook Messenger guide.

On Twitter, make sure your social customer service hours of availability are clear. Let customers know when you’re going offline. Provide links to where they can find self-help solutions. Direct them how to reach other customer service channels (like your call center) in the meantime.

9. Try a chatbot for common service requests

If millennials are your target market, consider this. Sixty-three percent of them are comfortable with “nonhuman customer service interactions.” That means chatbots.

Chart showing responses to poll asking if people are comfortable with nonhuman customer service interactions.

Chatbots are a great way to offer basic social customer service 24/7. They give customers the information they want immediately, without involving your customer service team. They tend to work best for simple questions that you get often.

For example, Domino’s Australia created a Facebook chatbot to address one of the most common questions the pizza company received through its Facebook page. “What deal can I get on my pizza today?”

Dominos' Facebook Messenger bot

10. Use the right channels

For your social customer care to be effective, you’ve got to use the channels where your audience spends their time.

KLM first started offering social customer service using Facebook Messenger.

Once it mastered Facebook social customer care with the help of a chatbot, the airline expanded its care efforts to WhatsApp. KLM’s reps are also available on Twitter, WeChat and Kakao Talk, giving them extensive reach into existing communities of users.

Monitor mentions of your brand and products to see where people are already talking about your company online. This will give you a good sense of what channels to prioritize for your social media customer service.

11. Take public conversations private

Customers may contact you on your social pages for questions or requests that would be better addressed through a private channel. For instance, you might need confidential information like a booking number or account name.

Rather than asking customers to take the extra step of launching a private conversation through a direct message, you can use built-in tools to take the conversation private yourself.

On Twitter, you can include a “Send a Private Message” call-to-action button in a tweet. This allows a customer to contact you through a DM simply by tapping the button.

Spotify’s Twitter customer service account, @SpotifyCares, uses this feature when they ask customers to provide personal information.

To add the private message button, just add the following link to a tweet:

https://twitter.com/messages/compose?recipient_id=[your numeric user ID]

Note that you need to use your account’s numeric user ID, not your handle. To find your number ID, go to your Twitter profile and click Settings and Privacy, then click Your Twitter data. Your numeric ID appears just below your account name.

On Facebook, you can respond to a public comment with a private message. This takes the conversation to Facebook Messenger, where you can interact more confidentially. Below the customer’s comment, just click Message to respond privately.

Once you send your message, a note will appear under the comment that says “Page responded privately.” This shows other users that you addressed the request, even though your response is not visible.

“Page responded privately" notification on Facebook

Social media customer service solutions and tools

Hootsuite

Hootsuite can help you with social media customer service in 4 key ways.

1. Identify conversations that require a service response

Use tabs and streams in Hootsuite to monitor multiple networks for conversations happening around your brand. Then, you can quickly respond to support requests, even when you’re not tagged. Here’s how to do it:

2. Store and share reusable support content

Use the Content Library to store, organize, and share pre-approved social customer support content. This helps improve response times while keeping things accurate and consistent.

3. Assign social messages to customer support team members

Assign incoming support requests directly to customer service team members. This makes sure nothing falls between the cracks. It’s a great way to connect customer support team members with messages that come in without tagging your customer support handle.

4. Track, measure, and improve your support performance

Hootsuite Analytics lets you measure and share the impact of your social customer support efforts. This lets you see what’s working and improve on what’s not.

You’ll see how long it takes your team to respond to and resolve incoming tweets, Facebook comments, and private messages on Twitter or Facebook.

Zendesk

The Zendesk app for Hootsuite allows you to create tickets in Zendesk from social messages found on Twitter and Facebook. You can route tickets to other team members and respond directly to social posts from Zendesk.

You can access ticket details such as the issue’s status, requester, subject, description, comments, groups, and assigned team members. You’ll be able to add internal notes and update and edit tickets directly from your Hootsuite dashboard.

Freshdesk

With the Freshdesk Hootsuite app, you can convert social conversations into support tickets. You can then manage those tickets as they work their way to resolution.

You can add notes to the ticket within the Hootsuite dashboard. Then you can search and filter tickets based on name, date created, keywords, and ticket number.

Chatkit

Chatkit uses artificial intelligence to automatically handle common customer support questions on Facebook Messenger. It also identifies questions and comments that require a human response.

Save time building an efficient customer support system on social media with Hootsuite. Respond to questions and complaints, create tickets from social conversations, and work with chatbots all from one dashboard. Try it free today.

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