How customer service and social media go hand-in-handBy Solange Messier
The customer service landscape has changed immensely in recent years, with social-media-based customer service quickly becoming the norm. Today, customer service and social media go hand-in-hand, with more than 20 billion messages sent every month between businesses and consumers on Facebook Messenger alone (Facebook).
Social media is an important communication channel. Ensure you create content that connects with your audience by downloading our free “White-label social media checklist” now.
Instead of providing canned responses via email or hiring a large in-house customer service team to man phone lines, many businesses are purchasing white-label social media management services that include social media customer service. In this article, we'll discuss the relationship between social media and customer service, as well as how agencies can help clients manage customer service requests on social media channels.
Table of Contents
- Understanding the role of social media in customer service
- Common challenges of social media customer service
- Best practices for delivering social media customer service
- Tips for creating an effective social media customer service strategy
- Integrating social media customer service into your marketing strategy
- Frequently asked questions
Understanding the role of social media in customer service
Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so it stands to reason that customers expect their favorite brands to maintain a social media presence. It also stands to reason that the average consumer expects the businesses they follow to respond to direct messages and customer queries posted to comments.
For agencies that provide social media management for brands, understanding the customer service process and how to act as a support team for clients is a crucial part of selling social media packages.
Engagement with customers
Engaging with customers is a critical component of providing high quality service on your clients' social media accounts. Responding to customer service questions asked in the comment section of posts and through private messages builds trust and loyalty with their customers.
Social channels give businesses the opportunity to engage with their customers and leads in real-time and without providing automated responses. Instead, they can provide personalized customer service and direct customers to the right products or services while the urge to buy is still strong, enhancing both customer satisfaction and potential revenue.
Social media managers should also take a proactive approach to customer engagement. That means using comments, likes, shares, and direct messages to connect with customers regularly, sharing promotions and discounts, or simply reaching out to build long-term brand loyalty.
Social media users can spread word about a brand's reputation fast—especially when something goes wrong. The role of social media in reputation management can't be downplayed, which is why providing great social customer service is a key part of maintaining a brand's image online and off.
Utilizing social media monitoring tools, maintaining quick response times, and offering a dedicated support channel can help enhance brand image and give your clients the positive reputation they need to succeed. It's also useful to address customer complaints, questions, and comments publicly to maintain transparency and trust with consumers.
Common challenges of social media customer service
While social media has undoubtedly transformed the way businesses interact with consumers, it's also brought about a unique set of customer service challenges brands must learn to overcome. As businesses increasingly rely on their social channels to communicate with customers, they also need to explore new ways to deal with various unprecedented challenges.
1. High volume of inquiries
More than 70 percent of businesses are using social media to engage with their customers (Forbes), meaning those who don't risk being left behind. However, with multiple social channels to tend to it can be challenging to monitor posts, comments, and direct messages for customer issues—and that's especially true for brands that receive an influx of messages on multiple social media platforms.
It's essential to have a well-trained customer support team to handle social media inquiries. Businesses receiving numerous messages should consider expanding their customer service team or creating a dedicated customer support channel to manage inquiries effectively.
2. Response time
To provide effective customer service, it's important for brands to meet customer expectations when it comes to response times. An astounding 76 percent of U.S. consumers expect brands to respond to Tweets, direct messages, and comments within 24 hours (Sprout Social), which means customer service reps should be online and available to answer customer inquiries daily.
3. Negative comments
Customer complaints and negative feedback are never easy to read, but they do give businesses an opportunity to boost their brand image and build a better rapport with their followers.
Respond to negative comments and messages quickly. If a customer complaint is posted publicly, respond to it publicly and follow up with a direct message to ensure the customer's satisfaction. Not only does this method showcase the brand's excellent customer service to the customer in question, it also showcases it for any other users who read its social media posts.
4. Brand consistency
Brand consistency is pivotal in your digital marketing campaigns. In fact, maintaining a consistent brand identity across all social media platforms can increase a company's revenue by as much as 23 percent (Forbes).
Building brand identity into your social customer service strategy can help your customer service team ensure a consistent voice and customer experience. Make sure every person who will be engaging with a particular brand's customers understands the brand's personality and what's expected when engaging with followers on social media posts.
Consumers often expect round-the-clock support from the brands they interact with and unfortunately, that's not always possible. While a real-time customer support team can prevent minor customer queries from growing into larger customer complaints, the cost and effort that goes into maintaining a 24/7 social media customer service team is too much for many SMBs.
Thankfully, social media customer service reduces the cost of customer interaction by as much as 60 percent for most SMBs (Freshworks). There are several tools brands and their marketing agencies can implement to maintain good social media customer support without hiring a round-the-clock customer service team.
- Chatbots: A chatbot is an AI tool that can provide simple canned responses to common customer queries. Countless social media channels, including Facebook and LinkedIn, have the functionality needed to used chatbots to respond to private messages.
- Self service tools: Giving customers the power to find answers to their questions independently or request their own returns or service cancellations can improve the brand's reputation. 69 percent of customers prefer to find the answers to their questions on their own (Cloudfront), so provide them with what they need to get that done.
- Automated responses: A classic automated reply to customer messages can assure customers that their questions and support requests have been received. In automated replies, provide a reasonable window of time in which they'll receive a response and be sure to comply with it, as well as additional ways to contact the company and its regular business hours.
6. Staff training
As mentioned earlier, any person interacting with consumers on behalf of a brand needs to provide customer service that's aligned with the brand image and identity. That means all members of the social media customer service team need adequate training prior to being allowed to interact with customers.
An effective way to train staff on a company's voice is to develop a brand style guide that outlines the brand's tone, messaging, and identity. This guide should include guidelines and examples of how to apply the brand's voice across different social media platforms. Additionally, ongoing training and regular evaluations should be provided to ensure that all staff members are engaging with customers consistently.
7. Managing multiple accounts
Brand agencies typically manage multiple social media accounts for various different businesses. That means you're not just learning to provide customer support for one business but multiple businesses.
Juggling the accounts of different brands in different industries can be challenging. Keeping simplified notes on hand about each business you represent and engaging with each brand's customers regularly can help marketers ensure that consistency is maintained.
8. Managing multiple channels
In addition to managing the social media accounts of several SMBs, agencies typically work across multiple channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google My Business.
Develop a social media customer care system that incorporates monitoring for brand mentions, checking private messages on each platform, and proactively engaging with followers in comments.
9. Metrics and reporting
Certain data points provided on social media platforms can help you understand whether your social customer service team is making a difference. According to data from 2022, 84 percent of customer service and support leaders say that customer analytics are an extremely important part of building their social customer service strategy (Gartner).
Metrics you can use to measure the efficacy of your customer service team include:
- Average response time
- Response rate
- Total received messages
- Rate of resolved customer service requests
Best practices for delivering social media customer service
Delivering good customer service via social media relies on following various best practices. These practices can be applied across all industries to ensure a good customer experience for anyone who interacts with your client’s social channels.
Respond promptly to customer inquiries
Customers might send inquiries on any social media channel at any time, and it's important to have a plan in place to monitor for and respond to social media comments, messages, and brand mentions. Depending on availability and budget, that may mean setting up a chatbot to respond automatically when customers send a private message, or hiring customer service reps who can monitor social media channels for comments and mentions.
Be empathetic and understanding
Empathy is the key to building trust with a customer—especially one who's been disappointed by the brand already. Good customer service can have a substantial impact on the customer experience and reps who can respond to customer issues with empathy and understanding go a long way in creating a positive experience.
There are several ways to portray empathy when dealing with customer queries or concerns:
- Acknowledge the customer's concerns without judgment, anger, or frustration.
- Use active listening to show the customer that you're paying attention and understand what they're saying.
- Put yourself in the customer's shoes and picture how you might feel if you were in a similar situation.
- Avoid negative language in your responses. Thank the customer for bringing their concerns to your attention and offer to assist them to the best of your abilities.
- Do your best to connect with the customer on a personal level and build a rapport.
Be proactive in addressing customer concerns
Selling social media management packages and social customer care services means you're promising to protect your client's online reputation. Part of that is taking a proactive approach to customer care.
What does that mean, exactly? It means having the foresight to recognize problems before they occur and taking measures to mitigate blowback from potential customer complaints.
Personalize the customer experience
Most customers expect some degree of personalization when dealing with companies on social media, and it's your job to make sure they get it. Personalization can happen several ways:
- Retargeting: This advertising method enables customization of ads based on user data. Simply put, it means social media users see ads based on their other online behavior.
- Personalized direct messaging: When a new social media user follows or engages with your clients' content, use a bot to send a personalized message that includes their name and a quick thank you for the like, follow, comment, or mention. This encourages the customer to respond, at which point a real person can take over the conversation, and to further engage with the brand.
- Consistency and personalization in support related requests: When a customer uses social media messaging to ask a question or share a concern, it's important to remember that this is one of the best opportunities to personalize the customer experience. Using their name and speaking to them in a professional but informal tone helps customers feel a stronger relationship with customer service reps and builds a stronger image for the brand.
Turn negative feedback into positive outcomes
Negative feedback hurts, but it's also a great opportunity to turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one. It's worth noting that 73 percent of customers say they become loyal to a brand after dealing with friendly customer service reps (Slideshare)—that alone indicates how critical it is to provide great customer assistance, especially on social media networks.
Tips for creating an effective social media customer service strategy
The array of social media sites that your clients might use and the different types of consumers you'll reach on each one can make it difficult to create an effective social media customer service strategy. But with clearly defined goals and metrics, training, and efforts put into the right social media channels, social media success is far from impossible.
1. Define goals and metrics for success
Any social media management packages you're selling to clients should automatically include goal-setting, metrics, and periodic reviews to ensure your services are helping the client achieve their goals.
The best way to do this is to meet with the client and gather information about their business objectives and target audience, as well as what they want to achieve with social media.
2. Create a system for managing and responding to inquiries
Work with the client to develop a system to manage and respond to inquiries. For some SMB clients, it may be as easy as monitoring for comments, messages, or mentions and notifying the client to handle engagement themselves. Others might expect you to represent the band and handle all social media engagement on their behalf.
3. Train customer service representatives to handle social media interactions
Instead of taking on every feature of your social media marketing packages on your own, hire customer service teams for social media monitoring. Having dedicated reps to watch over each social media platform can make it easier to keep up with customer demand and ensure that your clients' average response time isn't negatively affected.
Make sure each customer service rep understands their role in representing the client's brand. Train them on:
- Providing customer support that's empathetic and effective
- Offering friendly customer services
- Social media messaging systems, particularly Facebook Messenger and other major social media platforms
4. Monitor customer feedback and sentiment
Be proactive about monitoring social media channels and tools for customer feedback. Always respond to comments and other engagements on all social media platforms as quickly as possible. Train your support team to focus on customer satisfaction by responding to comments with positive or negative words appropriately.
5. Stay up-to-date on social media platform features and changes
Keeping up with the latest trends and changes on each social media platform is crucial to provide top-notch social media customer service for your clients. Make sure you and your team stays informed about every update on the platforms you use and that anyone managing your clients' social media presence understands how these updates can impact customers' perception of the businesses you represent and manage.
Integrating social media customer service into your marketing strategy
Social media customer service and marketing go hand-in-hand, so it's important to integrate these strategies together. Ensure your clients' customer service channels offer quick access to social media customer support and vice versa while putting focus into brand advocacy and customer feedback.
Leverage customer service interactions for brand advocacy
When providing social customer support or interacting with customers on behalf of your clients on their customer service channels, the focus should be providing a positive experience that goes beyond simply solving the immediate issue. Instead, inspire customers to share their positive experience with others through world-of-mouth or social media to increase brand advocacy and loyalty.
Use customer feedback to improve products and services
Monitor customer satisfaction and find new ways to meet or exceed customer expectations by regularly asking for feedback. This can be done by sending customer satisfaction surveys sent out after each interaction or purchase.
How to track and measure customer service success
Make frequent use of social media analytics tools, taking special note of how long it takes your representatives to provide social media customer support when consumers engage with the brand via a private channel or public comment.
Frequently asked questions
What are some benefits of providing customer service on social media?
Social media customer service is one of the most affordable ways a brand can stay front-of-mind with consumers and handle support requests in real-time. Whether through the use of a dedicated social channel for social customer service or through standard social media channels and Facebook Messenger, social customer care is quickly becoming the standard in customer service.
What should I include in my social media customer service strategy?
An effective customer service strategy should include goals and metrics to analyze that can determine customer satisfaction. It should also include a plan for who is meant to provide social customer service, how customer support requests should be handled, and a plan for social listening to monitor how and when the brand is mentioned online.