Customer Experience News & Trends

12 best practices in social media customer service

social media customer service

If your business isn’t offering some kind of customer service via social media, you’re missing the boat. Research now proves the benefits are lasting and profitable — and who wouldn’t want in on that?

Some organizations are so savvy at social media customer service they’re using it to drive sales higher than they’ve ever been, engage customers in new ways and build brand recognition that might rival retail stalwarts.

Even better, we’ve uncovered some of the best practices in social media customer service from the people living and working it every day.

But first, you’ll want to fully understand the impact social media has had on customers, the face of customer service and future sales.

What do customers want from social media?

If you’re a marketing professional reading this, brace yourself. According to findings from J.D. Power and Associates research, only 34% of social media users go on a company site for marketing reasons. The rest are there for customer service reasons.

Meanwhile, this is news every marketer, customer service and sales pro can applaud: People who use social media to get help are likely to spend more money with a company than those who don’t use social media, said Jacqueline Anderson, director of product development for social media and text analytics at J.D. Power and Associates, while speaking at the ICSA Annual Conference.

One caveat: Social customers — like all the others — will buy more if their experience is good.

That means if you’re going to provide some kind of help via social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, you’ll want to make sure everything you do conforms to the same high standards that exist in your other channels. The biggest reason: “Social media users will talk,” said Anderson.

Forty-two percent of social media customers will tell others about a positive experience, while just 15% of the general population will tell others. Plus, 53% of social media users talk about bad experiences, while just 24% of the general population spread the negative word, J.D. Power researchers found.

With such a high probability that customers will share bad experiences, it might be tempting to avoid the whole social media scene and stick to the phones — especially since the majority of customer service inquiries still come in via phone (still about 70%, according to most studies).

But social media’s not much of a choice any more. Customers demand it — and companies are increasingly responding: 33% of contact centers support social media, a Deloitte Consulting survey found. So make the best of a social media customer service approach with these best practices:

1. Stick to the right channel

Talking Points | Customer ExperienceOnly 44% of customers say they get a response to their customer service inquiries on the same channel in which they were made, Anderson said. That’s a big no-no.

You must respond to customers via the same channel they used to contact you. If it’s an angry social media contact, make the first response via social media and suggest you take it offline (to email or phone) to get the situation resolved.

Assuming all goes well throughout the resolution, go back to the social media channel as a follow-up with customers (and the public who might see it) to confirm that they’re happy with the results, suggests Jason Levesque, CEO and founder of Argo Marketing.

2. Respond faster

159141779Today, customers expect almost immediate responses in social media. Yet, just 61% of customers said they got a response within 24 hours of a social media inquiry, J.D. Power researchers found.

For Levesque and his social media team at Argo, “immediate” means 15 minutes. “Really, you want to respond to every customer engagement request within 15 minutes. You’d never make a customer wait that amount of time on the phone. So why would you do it for an email or a social media request. Fifteen minutes is an acceptable, reasonable response time as long as you give customers that expectation.”

If you can’t do that, consider posting hours when someone is available for immediate response and what customers should do for fast answers when that option isn’t available.

3. Be consistent

460900313You don’t want to script every social media response, but you certainly can create a template for your most common inquiries and issues. That helps create consistency from one response to the next, regardless of who responds to customers.

From there, personalize it, Levesque suggested. Reps can always add customers’ names to the correspondence or a personal message that pertains to the individual situation.

4. Maintain consistency

178716575On equal footing with message consistency is consistency across channels. Social media is an extension of all other existing channels (and likely another step into the next era of service, whatever that may be).

So customers should experience the same level of professionalism, quality and accuracy in social media messages as they do in phone conversations and email exchanges, Levesque and Anderson agreed.

5. Connect and empathize

122423955Social media can seem impersonal at first glance. After all, on the surface, it appears to be a couple of computers interacting. But employees who handle social media interactions can connect personally with customers through clear empathy, especially in potentially emotional situations.

“Always use ‘feel,’ ‘felt,’ found,'” suggested Levesque. It’s a proven model for conveying understanding and empathy to customers.

As an example, reps might respond like this: “I understand why you feel that way. I helped another customer who faced a similar situation and felt the same. When it happened, we found that this worked best …”

6. Repeat the right language

178978552Social media is a fast, convenient, casual way to communicate. But it’s no excuse for forgetting manners.

Companies need to ensure that front-line pros who post and respond via social media use words that reflect concern and courtesy — just like you would if you were having a conversation.

Anderson suggested a policy that requires every interaction include formalities such as “please,” “thank you” and “I understand …”

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