With one-third of Americans using social media to share complaints with brands, it’s no longer about whether you should provide proactive customer service via social media. Instead, it’s more so about how you can provide responsive and helpful social media customer service.
Bear in mind that this stat is only limited to US citizens. And, it dates back to pre-pandemic times (2017). This means it’s safe to assume that well over one-third of people take to social channels for voicing their concerns, questions, and complaints.
So it’s about time you ask yourself: do we have a well-thought-out social media customer service strategy in place? Or if you’re actively providing support through social media, reflect on how you can improve your social customer service.
In this post, we share the best practices of social media customer support to help you not just set up a customer service plan for social media, but also improve it. We’ll also revisit what social media customer service is and its importance.
Ready to win customers with social media? Dig in.
What is social media customer service?
Social media customer service is responding (and resolving) customer complaints and queries in a timely fashion via your social channel(s). But, when we say ‘timely,’ we really just mean ‘respond quickly.’ Why? Because that’s what your customers expect from you. They’re always in need of having the answer as soon as possible in both synchronous and asynchronous communication.
To further elaborate, 42% of social users who share their query with a brand on their social profile expect a response within 60 minutes. That’s nearly half of the users expecting a response within an hour! 32% even go on to share that they expect companies to respond within 30 minutes.
Note that responding fast doesn’t mean you share an incomplete response. What is a good response?
A good response to queries on social media is TCT:
- Timely: try not to keep your customers waiting for a reply. A delayed response often causes customers to reach you via another channel – adding more work to your plate.
- Complete: always answer the question fully so the response is useful to your customer. For example, if you have to transfer the customer to another team member then inform them. And, if applicable, share an estimated time you’d be able to get back to them on that matter. Another way to do this is by assigning the customer query to another support rep in your shared team inbox – eliminating Ccs and forwards.
- Transparent: there’s no point concealing the truth from your customers. If there’s something that’ll take time to resolve, be honest about it and share it upfront.
If it’s a negative query/complaint, consider beginning by acknowledging the matter at hand. Look at how Notion responds to a complaint their customer makes:
It’s also important to understand that everyone defines customer service on social media subjectively. Some consider responding to customer appreciation posts part of their customer service plan on social. Others may, however, define it as getting a response on only complaints and questions.
So a good starting point here is pulling out a doc to define (or redefine) customer service on social media for your brand. Ask yourself:
- Do we want to respond to customer comments including appreciation notes? Or
- Do we want to focus only on answer questions or complaints that customers have?
At this point, it’s also important to answer the following:
- Who should we respond to? Customers or potential customers?
Ideally, it’s good to respond to everyone as it shows potential customers that your brand prioritizes customer care, therefore, helping you win them over.
That being said, it’s best to answer these questions with relevant stakeholders, the social media team as well as the customer service team. This way, everyone can share their view and you can develop a cohesive social media customer service strategy.
Importance of social media customer service
Here’s a brief look at why you need to invest in providing customer service via social media:
- Customer complaints via social media. 67% of the respondents in a survey of 23,000 online consumers reported having contacted a company via social media channel for support.
- Companies that don’t get back to customer queries via social have increased churn rates. A Gartner study suggests companies who aren’t responsive to customer messages on social see an average churn rate (a measure of the number of individuals or items moving out of a collective group over a specific period) that’s 15% higher than businesses that get back to customer messages on social.
- Companies that are responsive in providing support via social media get their customers to spend more. On average, customers spend 20%-40% more with a responsive company. Another study also goes on to say that quickly responding and resolving complaints can result in 3%-20% greater customer spending.
Social media customer service best practices
Now that it is uber-clear that you can’t compromise with the role of social media in customer service, let’s dive into tips and eBay practices for offering customer-winning customer service on social media:
1. Audit social channels to find out which ones customers use to reach out to you the most
This is critical for prioritizing social channels based on where customers commonly get in touch with you.
In your audit, you’ll not only want to identify target social channels, but also the context of these conversations. Chances are people send in more complaints via Twitter, but tag your brand to give it a shout-out on Facebook. Having this context helps you go in to respond to customers with the right mindset. It also means you can get relevant team members with the right information to respond on channels based on the context.
Generally speaking, people are likely to complain about social platforms they use most, with 84% leveraging Facebook and 26% on Twitter to complain. But don’t let anybody tell you that. Conduct an audit to find out which channels your customers are using the most.
2. Set (or refine) your customer service goals and strategies
While there are several key performance metrics you can track and optimize, focus on response and resolution rates the most, paired with customer satisfaction.
Let’s break these down:
- Response time is the time it takes you to respond to someone’s query or brand mention.
- Resolution time is the time it takes to solve the matter from responding to the first to solving their problem successfully.
- Customer satisfaction is how content your customers are with your team’s customer service speed, responses, and query resolution.
If you are just starting, you’ll want to work on slowly reducing your response time. Aim to set an actionable goal. For example: let’s say it takes you 8 hours on average to respond to complaints. In that case, set a goal of reducing it to 6 hours.
Peek at the timestamps on Slack’s response in the image below and you can tell they have a goal of getting back to customers within 2-3 hours:
Similarly, work on your resolution rate. As for customer satisfaction, we’ll discuss it in detail below as we talk about analyzing your performance regularly.
3. Monitor and manage complaints in a shared inbox
Jumping from one social channel to another to get back to customers in time is the recipe for slow (and, possibly, poor) responses. What helps, however, is a central inbox for all customer messages. Such an inbox brings together brand queries and mentions in one space so you can respond efficiently and quickly.
With ContentStudio’s Social Inbox, for example, you can engage with customers on different social platforms: respond to messages and post comments on Facebook, get back at replies on your tweets and private messages on Twitter, reply to comments on your Instagram posts.
From there, filter customer messages and comments based on those resolved, assigned to a teammate, unassigned, and archived. Assigned messages give you a snapshot of unanswered queries in progress while unassigned messages are displayed in a manner where you can engage with them instantly.
There’s also a ‘Marked as done’ filter that features customer queries that you’ve resolved across social channels. If you prefer, you can also filter messages based on each channel. For instance, you can opt to view Dm’s from only Instagram to declutter your inbox.
Messages from Instagram separate from customer messages on Facebook
A shared inbox also allows you to organize customer queries by topic. How? Adding tags. Once you’ve added specific tags, you can ask relevant team members to tackle the messages under specified tags.
Remember: getting the relevant person to respond to a customer complaint is critical for reducing response time or giving incomplete/unhelpful answers to customers. Plus, it also impresses your customers as 37% of them pointed out there’s nothing that annoyed them more than “getting passed around” for getting their query solved.
Keeping this in mind, it’s hard not to use a shared inbox to streamline, organize, and respond to customer messages efficiently.
4. Develop (or polish) your response guidelines
It’s here that you get everyone in the team on one page regarding how they should and shouldn’t respond to queries. Having guidelines offers guardrails for your team and ensures you’re able to maintain a consistent brand voice.
These guidelines should include:
- Response times for each social channel.
- An action plan for times when matters escalate.
- Response tactics including how to respond to negative comments and how to identify trolls and not engage with them.
It’s also helpful to outline a plan to respond to positive comments to turn customers into brand loyalists.
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At the same time, you need brand voice guidelines here as they can help your brand stand out. Look at how Grammarly’s brand voice reflects in each of their responses to their customers.
Don’t forget to explain what sort of customer comments need to be addressed on priority. For instance, it’s a healthy idea to respond to negative reviews first.
5. Know when to take matters privately
As you create the guideline above, make sure you highlight pointers on when to resolve customer issues privately. For example, if it’s a query related to a customer’s account, you’ll want to discuss things privately to protect their account details.
However, keep in mind: if you’re choosing to respond privately, make sure you tell the customer (and any lurkers) you’ve responded in their inbox. While some social media channels save you from having to do so yourself, others might require you to leave a comment informing so.
For example, you can choose to respond to comment privately on Facebook by clicking Message. Once done, a note automatically appears under the comment, saying “Page responded privately.”
With Instagram and Twitter though, if you choose to solve the issue via DM, make sure you leave a comment.
Hey @asana I’m literally trying to upgrade and give you my money, but the app keeps sending me in circles and the upgrade button is greyed out. AMA. pic.twitter.com/PXewpsOir9
— papi (@shmula) June 2, 2021
6. Always set Active hours or expected time on response
Sure, your team can’t be active round the clock. But, your customer might not know when you are active. The solution? Set clear indications and customer expectations by sharing when your customer service team tends to be active.
With Facebook, you need not be as proactive in sharing your hours of availability. Instead, enable the Away Messaging option to provide automated responses to your customers when the support team is offline.
7. Use a bot to answers FAQs and reduce response times and workloads
Just as useful social media management tools can be for you, An automated chatbot can help you reduce response time, even your resolution time, for commonly asked questions. Bots are great companions for busier times when managing customer questions is a handful.
They can help set customer expectations of when you can personally get back to them
Similarly, for an FAQ, the bot can link your customer to a helpful resource. However, always remember to give customers the option to talk to a support agent. In case you’re wondering how customers would react to self-help resources, know that they prefer self-help over talking to customer support teams.
According to Microsoft, 66% of folks start with looking for self-service options to sort their issue before talking to an agent (if they don’t find anything or can’t resolve their problem). Only 34% want to immediately engage with a support agent.
Another survey of 3,000 online consumers learned that a staggering 91% of them appreciate an online knowledge base if it’s available and meets their needs.
Speaking of which, here’s another useful tip for you.
8. Create a comprehensive knowledge base
Judging from the research shared above, it’s clear: businesses need knowledge hubs that answer commonly asked questions and share product-use tutorials. However, not many have an in-depth and updated knowledge base.
Meaning: you can stand out simply by creating an updated resource. It can help you in two more ways:
- Give customers the resources they need to solve issues they come across themselves
- Give the support and social team content to refer to as they solve customers’ queries
Here’s Dropbox’s knowledge base for your inspiration:
Pro tip: If there’s a query that comes in regularly, look into it to resolve it. If it’s a problem for too many of your customers, you need to solve it, not nurture it.
9. Use customizable templates for responding to queries
This is another way to cut back response time. Create templates, pre-approved by the customer service team, for the following:
- Thank you templates for appreciating customers who take the time to leave positive words or reviews (variety is important so it doesn’t sound like you’re sharing the same template for all customers. If you can, frequently update these templates or, at the very least, share ways your team can thank customers without sounding boring)
- Templates for we-are-working-on-this-query. It’s best to start such a template by thanking the customer, then tie in a line or two on which department is working on the query.
- Templates for customers sharing suggestions. Several customers also typically have suggestions for improving your product. Be sure to take the time to acknowledge the suggestion and appreciate the customer so they feel valued for sharing their meaningful feedback with you.
- Negative review templates. You’ll need a couple of templates here too depending on what sort of negative review it is. For example, a template for a problem that you can solve or compensate your customer with.
10. Create a separate support channel
If your customers mostly rely on your social channels to contact you (reminder: your audit will tell you), consider creating a support channel that the support team manages – not the social media team.
This comes with the benefit of reduced response time and having the right people to get back to customer queries (again, this chops the response time). Take Twitter, for example, they have a separate support channel:
Spaces are making their way to Twitter for web!
Now you can join a Space to listen in, test out the new transcription design, and set reminders to join a scheduled Space. https://t.co/xFTEeAgM4x
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) May 26, 2021
Twitter shares product updates here too. That being said, as you create a separate support profile, make sure you mention it in your main social account so customers can know you’ve created a separate support channel.
On Thursday last week, we started distribution of an update to @Evernote that includes early access to our new Tasks feature. Over the next 7 days or so, customers using our modern apps should see Tasks show up as the ramp completes. /1
— Ian Small (@iansmall) June 8, 2021
But, remember, you need a separate channel to optimize your response time as a specialized team works on getting back to queries.
If your social media team has to respond and you don’t have additional resources for a separate team, stick with your main social media profiles. In this case, leverage the shared inbox for a streamlined view of all the queries and brand mentions. From here, assign queries to relevant teammates so there’s less internal routing and quicker, more accurate responses.
Pro tip: If specific team members reply to customer messages or posts, ask them to end the message with their initials or name. This helps to humanize the process and make it easy for the customer to follow up with the right person.
11. Measure your customer service
Keeping track of how well you’re hitting your social media customer service goals is only part of the plan here. The rest of it involves learning how satisfied your customers are. After all, your ultimate goal is to please customers, isn’t it?
To this end, you can send out customer satisfaction surveys via email. Ask customers about how happy they were with your customer service on social media – you can also ask open-ended questions as well as get ratings for a general idea of your performance.
What’s more, you can ask customers how likely they are to recommend your social media customer service to their friends to learn their thoughts. Want suggestions or ways to improve it? Again, ask your customers. They’d be more than willing to help if you’re doing your best in the social media support department.
Ready to level up your social media customer service?
Summing up, be proactive in solving customer problems on social media. Kick things off by setting goals for your social media customer service plan, then create guidelines to reach those goals. Outline what’s a helpful response, what to say, and what not to say, create dedicated support channels.
To improve your customer service you should know what is technical support outsourcing and why do you need it.
Along the way, create templates, knowledge base, and FAQs in collaboration with your customer support team while also using bots to reduce response time. Don’t forget to monitor all customer messages, complaints, and comments in one space so you and relevant team members can get back to them in a timely fashion (with a complete answer). Observe how the big leagues work it out and learn from their experiences.
Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. She crafts research-backed blog posts and articles for small businesses and app companies who aim to employ quality content to educate and engage with their audience.