How to Use Social Media for Customer Service

By Ashley Orndorff, aka Marketing Geek Social Media

We live in a rapid response, ever-evolving, and constantly changing world where we are becoming more and more connected to technology. For businesses, this means your customer is connecting to you on multiple channels. Oftentimes, this requires moving your customer service to multiple channels as well in order to interact with them. Here’s how to use social media for customer service:

1. Determine Whether it’s Right for Your Business

Social media can be an effective customer service tool because it means instant interaction with your customers, and using social media for customer service is consistently one of the social media trends. When handled well, it also has the added benefit of boosting your brand reputation because it’s on a public forum for other customers and potential customers to see. However, it’s not appropriate for every business.

First and foremost, your customers need to be acitvely using social media for you to use it for customer service. If your customers and your potential customers are not using Twitter at all or are not using it to interact with brands, then attempting to use Twitter as a customer service tool is a waste of time and resources. Find out where your customers are active on social media and see how they’re using each platform to decide whether it makes sense for your business to be in that space for customer service.

Once you’re set up on the networks your customers use the most, you have to let your customers know you are there and that you are listening. This is more than just having a page and monitoring for mentions – this is about letting customers know that the networks you’re on are an official customer service channel. This can be done with a blog post, an announcement on your website, and with status updates on those social networks.

2. Be Ready to Be Responsive

If your target audience does actively use social media and they’re engaging with brands, and if you’re going to make the jump into using a social network for customer service, then you have to be ready to be responsive. When your customers communicate with you on social media, they expect quick responses. Quick responses are within a few minutes or within 15-30 minutes or less, or within an hour at most. Some social networks, like Facebook, will event track how responsive you are and then show that rating to visitors who stop by your profile or page.

If you’re not going to make the effort to be responsive, then don’t bother – you’ll be wasting your time, and getting a negative reputation for being a brand that does not care about your customers while you’re at it. This does not mean you can ignore feedback customers give you on social media. Even if you are not actively using social networks as an official customer service channel, you need to be actively listening and responding to customers when they reach out.

3. Use Available Resources

To be effective on social media when using it for customer service, it is a best practice to have a dedicated person or multiple people, if needed, who monitor social media and respond to interactions as quickly as possible. This may mean using social listening tools and having the pages open and ready to be consistently monitored throughout the day.

If multiple people will be responding to customers, it is also a good idea to have them “sign” their responses with their initials. In doing so, customers can clearly see that there are multiple people responding and will know which one is responding to them. This allows other people on the team to see that requests are being handled and who is handling them. It also improves and personalizes the communication process for the customer.

4. Have a Plan

When it comes to responding to customers, you need to have a plan in place on how you’re going to do it. Being active on social media, especially when using it as a customer service tool, opens you up for both positive and negative feedback. You need to have a standardized and established process in place to quickly respond to both types – your brand reputation and your relationship with customers depend on it.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to how to respond to online reviews, but it is imperative that you respond effectively to both negative and positive feedback. A shout-out that thanks people for their positive feedback is a good start. Following up with a reward can easily take their experience from “good” to “amazing”. Negative feedback can be a bit trickier, but is just as valuable. This can highlight issues in your business processes or with your products and gives you a chance to fix them.

Most of the time a simple acknowledgment of the problem and a transparent effort to fix it is sufficient. However, there will be times where there is nothing you can do for a customer that is intent on staying as angry as possible. So, you need to prepare for that situation and have an exit strategy to back out gracefully. It’s so important that your responses remain calm and cool. Responding angrily to a customer rarely works out in your favor and often ends up as a PR nightmare.

When it comes to using social media as a customer service tool, it’s all about the conversations. For other customers or potential customers who see your conversations, they will see your brand as one that listens to its customers and truly cares about their experiences – this is the type of brand you can be when you use social media for customer service. It’s up to you whether you become a social success or a social failure.

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