- Richard Wardrop
Social media customer service strategy best practice guide
Complaining to a company on social media is no longer a faux pas. In fact, 67% of consumers have engaged a brand’s social media for customer service needs. This number is even more impressive when considering that only 33% of the same group engaged with brands on social media for marketing purposes.
This shows the opportunity available to brands who can harness the power of social customer service. With an effective strategy in place, you can support your consumer base, retain customers, protect your brand online and build advocacy.
Using our best practice guide, we can help you create quality two-way conversation between your brand and its customers via inclusive, friendly and helpful social customer service. Without further ado, here’s the Hydrogen checklist for creating an effective customer service strategy for your social media channels.
Your brand voice on social media is how you address your target audience. It’s an opportunity to consider your values and how this translates into your brand’s online personality.
A relaxed, fun and potentially cheeky tone of voice works well for brands like Paddy Power, Innocent Drinks and KFC on social media. But how transferable is this when dealing with customer service queries? Your tone of voice needs to work regardless of if you’re promoting a new product or replying to a nasty complaint.
An easy way to determine the approach for your brand voice is to look at overall sentiment. If you consistently have more positive than negative online sentiment, then adopting a cheeky and fun tone could work well for you. You can be disruptive and have banter with customers, safely knowing you have brand advocates waiting in the wings to defend you should you push it too far. However, if you consistently have mostly negative online sentiment, then this approach will be a much tougher sell as less consumers will want to engage with your brand in a playful way. Case in point; any ‘conversational’ update from ScotRail on Twitter. Valiant attempts to drive light-hearted, positive engagement met consistently with scathing criticism.
Consider what your brand stands for, are you cheeky and disruptive? Are you professional and informative? Do emojis work for you? 🤔 Or are they too informal? 🚫
By nature, social media is far more relaxed than traditional customer service. This is why a casual and friendly tone is a great starting point for most brands.
This is a no brainer. Scripted responses to public comments may be more efficient, or more cost effective, but they can often feel robotic and won’t reflect your brand in a positive light. This is especially true for businesses dealing with large volumes of consumer enquiries on social media. There’s nothing more off-putting for customers than an entire feed peppered with generic replies.
A personalised reply that takes accountability and addresses specific issues can go a long way to mending your reputation or improving a complaining customer’s perception of your brand. Whereas a scripted reply can feel impersonal and often exacerbates the issue.
Every public conversation is an opportunity to highlight your brand’s ability to handle things when they go wrong - the care taken over your reply shows how much you value your customers. Ultimately, you wouldn’t run an ad with generic copy, so why should a public customer reply be any different?
The public element is what makes social customer service so challenging, but also so rewarding. While there are benefits to publicly resolving a customer’s complaint, there are certain conversations where discretion is beneficial.
Handling a messy complaint in the public eye could be damaging to your brand’s reputation so taking these types of customers offline, by directing them to a private DM, helps allow you to have more frank, honest conversations without worrying about the impact of your company’s shortcomings being displayed for all to see. After you’ve resolved an issue over DM, it can be helpful to publicly reply to the customer; thank them for their feedback and tell them you’re glad you were able to resolve their issue. This approach helps you reap all the benefits with none of the mess!
As a rule of thumb, don’t feed the trolls. Engaging with your customers is a positive thing but striving for a 100% response rate isn’t always the best plan. It may look good on paper but there are some customers who don’t want a resolution, they just want to vent or argue with you. Brands typically come off worse in these types of interactions so when you spot a troll, tread carefully. Although there are some great examples of brands snapping back and winning social kudos, it’s a delicate balance and can be risky if you don’t already have the reputation and tone of voice for being disruptive or cheeky.
You should always prioritise quality conversations, but response time is an important factor. Dealing with queries and complaints as quickly as possible is paramount for an effective customer service strategy. This is true for all forms of customer service, but especially so in the social media world of instant gratification. Most customer support channels have set opening hours and are not expected to be available 24/7.
However, social media has an ‘always-on’ expectation, with almost half of users expecting a reply within 60 minutes. On channels like Twitter, where reactive content fills your newsfeed with a constant stream of information, this number jumps as high as 72%.
Very few social customer service teams will work Monday to Friday, 9-5 these days. The need for out of hours support is only increasing, with brands like RBS and KLM opting for 24-hour social customer care, 7 days a week. The introduction of programmable messages and chat bots when out of office could help expand resources for a smaller team.
This is a subject we’ve touched upon in more depth in our blog on how to handle a social media crisis. But to recap, the tl:dr version is that crisis prevention is as important as how you react. Avoid common pitfalls by changing passwords regularly, carrying out audits on social access and by creating clear internal social media guidelines for employees.
Things can turn sour very quickly when it comes to social media, so you need to have a plan in place to spot a crisis early, a contact list of key stakeholders in advance and the resource to handle a potential influx of comments, queries or complaints. Once you’ve acknowledged the issue and your comms plan is well under way, you must keep monitoring the situation, assess the damage and learn from the experience.
You can learn a lot from what your customers say to you. There’s a potentially untapped resource full of insightful feedback ranging from processes and policies to product development. Acknowledging this feedback and promoting positive change can build customer advocacy, there are also huge benefits to sharing this insight with the wider business.
It’s important to consider those talking about you, not just the ones talking to you. Online conversations can and will happen anywhere on the internet, social listening tools can help track real-time sentiment from current and potential customers.
Social customer management tools like Conversocial and Falcon allow you to tag and categorise all inbound queries from customers. This allows the wider business look at customer data trends and can help your brand improve their service.
Checklist for social media community management
So, in summary, there are six key things you need to do to make sure you follow social media customer service best practice.
1. Find your brand tone of voice
2. Avoid using scripted responses
3. Take customer complaints offline
4. Respond in real-time
5. Create a crisis management strategy
6. Utilise social listening and feedback
That’s our best practice guide for approaching your social media customer service strategy! If you’d like to learn more about social media community management, check out our other blogs on the subject or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.