Customer service plays a central role in all businesses. Businesses are driven by customers, and when there are customers, there’s a need for customer service.
But with the digitization and the increased usage of social media, the way brands work with customer service is changing. Today, more people than ever are using social media. This means that their way of interacting with brands is changing as well.
More customers see social media as their main source of customer service from brands. But only a few brands are prepared or actively work to help their customers with customer service errands on social media. On the flip side, your customers expect great customer service from you. If you can’t provide them, there’s the risk to lose them forever.
In this article, you’ll learn how to use social media for customer service, and what it needs to succeed.
Why customer service is the key for any successful business
It’s no secret that great customer service is the key for all successful businesses. You can probably recall a bad customer experience you’ve had with a brand, and most likely, this experience has stopped you from buying from them. At the same time, you’ve probably had an amazing customer service and become a loyal fan. In that sense, customer service can make or break your business.
The reason why customer service matters so much is that customers buy things based on how they are treated. In fact, 70% of customers buy based on how they have been treated.
And as customers, we don’t care if we get service on social media, on phone, through email, or any other means of communication. The only thing that matters is: was the customer service good? Because after just one mere negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again.
With the increased usage of social media, there has been an increased demand for customer service. Social media is not just a place where people can interact and engage with their peers, and stay up-to-date with what their friends are doing. Now, it has evolved into a place where customers can reach out to brands – both to complain, but also to ask questions and get guidance in the purchase and customer process. Today, customers expect to get guidance from brands on social media by reaching out to them. Just because you’re on social media doesn’t mean the principles of customer interaction changes. Because customers will reach out to companies in the most effective and convenient ways they can. And right now, this is social media. But if you don’t have a plan or strategy for how you’re going to deal with these customer service errands, and don’t have a solid social media customer service strategy in place, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities, because a whopping 33% of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service.
Why social media is increasing in popularity as a customer service tool
The way how customers communicate and interact with companies is changing. Today, we spend more time than ever on social media. As such, this has made social media the natural choice for customers to reach out to companies In other words, customer care service habit is changing.
The number of people who turn to social media for customer service has exploded in the last couple of years, and it continues to grow every day. The reason is that social media creates less friction between the company and the customer when it comes to customer service.
In fact, 1 in 3 social media user prefers social media customer care services to telephone or email. What’s more, 67% of consumers use social media networks like Twitter and Facebook to get help in solving issues. In addition, a study found out that social media is the first choice for customer service, with 34,5% of respondents describing social media as their preferred choice for customer service.
Most importantly for you is that customers spend 20-40% more with companies that respond to them via social media.
The most obvious reason why there is a demand for social media customer service is that the number of people who use social media has increased. Therefore, social media has become a natural communications channel. Not only for interacting with peers, but for all kinds of issues – including customer service.
But if social media wouldn’t be an effective tool for customer service, people wouldn’t use, it.
Removes wait time
First off, the traditional methods of customer services are slow, ineffective and truly a pain for the customer. Put yourself in the position of calling a customer service phone line and sitting and waiting in line with 29 people ahead of you. It’s a lengthy process and it’s extremely time-consuming.
Social media, on the contrary, allows you to get in touch with the company right at the second your customer service errand comes to mind. Best of all? You don’t have to sit there and wait for the company to respond. Instead, you can go on with your day and then check back once they’ve responded. When you are thinking about customer service, the last thing you want to do is call the company. This is because you know just how ineffective the ”wait in line for 1 hour to get 5 minutes worth of help” is.
As humans, we tend to opt for the thing that’s fastest and has the least friction, and compared to most other means of communication with brands, social media has among the ones creating the least friction for the customer.
Allows for instant communication
One of the most important reasons why more customers than ever are turning to social media for handling issues is it allows for instant communications. No-one wants to sit and wait for a response, but instead, they want it quickly. For customer service, the average response time for a customer service request is 12 hours and 10 minutes. Customers on social media, on the other hand, expect to get a response within 4 hours. The best of all is that social media streamlines the process of handling customer service errands as a company on social media, and not only does it help you give faster responses, but it allows you to have instant, in-the-moment conversations with your customers in a different way that, let’s say email offers.
Removes the need for jumping between communication sources
Now, if were are to look at the more traditional means of communications for customer service, we have mainly phone and email which are the most common. Now, the thing is, if people need help from you as a brand and need to reach out to you, this would mean that they would have to go to your website, find your phone number, call you and then sit and wait for someone to respond. As for email, they would have to find your email, write the email, and then sit and wait for your response.
But the thing with social media is that they’re already on it! Social media is a natural part of many people’s daily life, and if they’re on social media, it demands minimal effort to just shoot a message to the company they need service from. This enables customers to get help within a matter of seconds, and they can get this help without every moving from the place they’re already spending time at.
Reasons to use social media as a customer service tool
Remember, as a company, you are not the one who decide the market or customer behaviors. But on the flip side, best of all is that using social media for customer service also comes with a number of benefits for you as a company, which gives you plenty of reasons to want to start working with customer service on social media.
So many businesses are reluctant for starting to use social media for customer service. Not only do these businesses not realize the immense potential that lies in social media customer service, but they don’t realize just how much money they’re leaving on the table as well.
Your customers expect you to be on social media, and they expect you to respond to their customer service errands. Remember that great businesses see service not as a cost, but as a sales opportunity. More specifically, an opportunity for you to build and improve your customer relationships.
Never in the history of this earth have companies had such an incredible tool as social media to interact and engage with their customers – no matter in the world they are, and customer service is not just something that ”needs to get dealt with”, but it is an incredible opportunity for you to make things right again, turn them into loyal advocates, and build your relationships with your customers, which, ultimately lead to increased sales.
Now, this is a huge benefit of using social media for customer service which many companies look by. While you shouldn’t look at customer service as a cost, but rather an investment, social media streamlines the effectiveness of your customer service interactions, and this means that you can have better and more effective customer service conversations, in a shorter period of time. As such, this translates into better results in a shorter period of time.
The result? Cheaper customer service that yields better results.
Having a customer service center with people who sit and handle customer complaints on the phone all day is an incredibly ineffective and expensive approach to customer service. With social media, people can reach out to you whenever they feel like it, and while you should respond quickly, you don’t have to respond right on the spot like you do when you’re speaking to them on the phone.
Allows for quicker responses
For you, this means more happy customers – and happy customers translate into increased revenue!
The more traditional ways of customer service are slow and ineffective. If customers have to wait in the line for countless of minutes or even hours just to reach a representative, not only will they become extremely disgruntled once they reach the representative, but they’ll also have a negative overall experience about your brand, which will make it harder to turn them into happy customers again.
Speed is crucial for good customer service. In fact, customers expect brands to respond within 4 hours on social media, but as mentioned, the average response time is actually 10 hours. Now, just because the average response time is 10 hours doesn’t mean that it should be so for you. Customers expect fast responses, and if you can give it to them, they’ll reward you with their wallet.
In fact, a study found that companies which deliver social customer service see an annual financial gain of 7.5 percent, versus only 2.9 percent for brands that don’t. Furthermore, these companies also see a 5.4 percent increase in social exposure and buzz.
Increased customer loyalty
Customer service on social media can have a significant impact on customer loyalty. First of all, you shouldn’t see customer service issues on social media as expenses, but rather, you should see them as opportunities to make things right and to increase customer loyalty. In fact, it has been found that customers who have a positive service experience on social media are nearly three times as likely to recommend the brand. On the contrary, more than 50 percent of consumers stop doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience.
The bottom line is this: if you aren’t using social media for dealing with customer service errands, you’re leaving a ton of money on the table because whether you’re actively working with customer service on social media or not, your customers are probably writing to you expecting a response. And if they don’t write to you yet, they definitely expect you to be available and ready to respond when a situation appears.
Social media customer service comes with plenty of benefits for you as a brand, that traditional customer has a hard time beating, but most importantly, you’re leaving your customers disappointed, because if you want to stay relevant in this competitive digital world, social media customer service is a crucial part.
But with all of this in mind, how do you actually execute a successful strategy on social media? How should you respond to customers on social media, and how should you meet customer errands and issues?
Let’s dig right in.
How to use social media for customer service
The steps to great customer service are actually very basic. What do you expect from companies when you reach out to them for customer service?
The thing that many brands struggle with, is applying this principle to social media, and learning how they can, rather than using social media as a promotional tool, start using it as a customer service tool. Another thing that many brands struggle with is knowing where their service requests are, and how they can identify them in an effective matter.
Respond to all messages
Okay, so this one is very straightforward, but it is crucial for any good customer service – not just on social media. For social media, though, a whopping 89% of social messages go ignored.
That’s quite substantial. Remember that each ignored customer service message is a missed opportunity for you to build relationships with your customers but most importantly solve the problem. When messages go unanswered, you miss out on customers and revenue every single day. Because the fact, is, if you do nothing about a disgruntled customer, they’ll never willingly do business with you again 91% of the time. On the flip side, if you solve the problem in the customer’s favor, they’ll do business with you 70% of the time!
This just shows the importance of customer service. By actually responding to customers, you can substantially grow your revenue instead of actively decrease it, and this is what I referred to when saying that great customer service is a sales opportunity, because loyal customers will almost always come back. Because even worse, 30% of people will go to a competitor if you don’t respond.
Never leave a message that needs response on social media unanswered. Heck, if you don’t know which you should respond to and which you shouldn’t, respond to all!
Now, responding is crucial, but for great customer service, responding is simply not enough. You also have to respond quickly if you want to provide your customers with a great customer service.
As mentioned, people expect brands to respond within 4 hours on social media, but in reality, this number is actually an average of 10 hours.
Social media is a quickly moving landscape. People expect things to go quick, and this includes your customer service. If you take too long to respond, there’s a risk that your customers will go to your competitors. Or even worse, if they don’t just have a question, but are genuinely disgruntled about a bad experience, not having you respond will add to their bad experience, and ultimately, it might cause them to bash you on social media, giving you bad exposure and negative publicity.
Create a separate customer service account
Now, to begin with, this isn’t absolutely crucial in order to work with customer service on social media, but once you’ve got a grasp of it, it’s definitely the next step to take.
If you use just one social media account, chances are, you’ve received a ton of inquiries regarding different customer service issues. In other words, your customers will reach out to whichever channel and account the can find you on.
Now, the reason why this step isn’t vital is that as long as your customers have somewhere to reach you on, you’ll be fine (as long as you respond, of course), but the reason that you might want to create a separate customer service account is that it allows you to keep better track of your customer service errands, and can manage them in a better way.
Brands like Coca-Cola and Zara have created specific customer service accounts on Twitter in order to separate customer engagement and their regular content page with customer service. By doing so, you also make it easier for you to measure and evaluate any results.
Never go into defense mode or be aggressive
This is a huge no-no as a customer.
The biggest problem is not that you’ll lose your customer, but it is that you’ll make the customer angry. If you go into defense mode, start accusing your customer, or in any way arguing against them, you’ll lose all opportunities of making things right again.
Always have the mindset that the customer is right. It’s always better to apologize even if you think that you are in the right because if you go against them, the already disgruntled customer will only get more disgruntled.
Remember: the world is watching
This point is key when it comes to social media customer service. When you respond to customer service errand, they’re out for the world to see, and the whole world is watching. If you provide a customer with a bad customer service, people will take note, and if you deal with your customers in a bad way, they’ll believe that that’s exactly what will happen to them if they reach out to you for service. In fact, 95.6 percent of consumers are affected by other comments on a brand’s social pages
So just like providing bad customer service can harm you substantially, providing excellent customer service to your customers on social media is a tremendous exposure opportunity for you, because when people see that you provide excellent customer service, they’ll view you more positively, and they’ll be more likely to buy from you.
Create social media guidelines
Before you begin, it is important that you have created guidelines for how you’re going to deal with your customer service messages. The reason you want to do this is it allows you to be prepared, no matter what type of customer service message you receive. With clearly defined social media guidelines, you can be prepared no matter what situation may appear, and this can save you from harmful social media storms and bad publicity.
Another reason that you want to develop social media guidelines is it allows you to be consistent in your voice and tone and the way you interact with your customers.
Just like it can create a disconnect if you all of a sudden change style and personality when meeting your friends if you deal with your customer service errands inconsistently as a brand, there’s a risk that you’ll create a disconnect with your audience.
Essentially, they allow you to be prepared with any situation that can appear and ensure that every person in the team is onboard and aligned with how you’re going to deal with customer service on social.
When creating social media guidelines, you want to begin by defining these things:
- What voice and tone will you use?
- Which social channels will you focus on?
- How are you going to deal with disgruntled customers?
- How are you going to handle a social media storm if it appears?
- How are you going to respond to commonly asked questions?
- How are you going to follow-up and keep a record of the messages?
Actively listen to the conversations about your brand
Many of the messages from your customers that need customer service aren’t mentioning you directly.
Some customers talk about your brand indirectly, others mention your brand, but misspell it, or in any other way make it harder for you to detect messages that are coming from your customers.
This is why you actively need to listen to conversations about your brand and identify messages that need responding. Remember that your customers won’t know if they have made a misspelling or not. What matters to them is if you respond.
Make sure you clearly define all the places where your customers may write to you on when they need customer service. Every time you leave messages unanswered, you miss out on opportunities to engage with your audience, but most importantly, you may lose them forever to your competitors.
The most common places where your customers write to you on social media
Most social media platforms have some sort of built-in messaging tool. Many customers reach out to brands using these messaging tools for customer service, so make sure you actively monitor them and any new messages.
Regular post means that they share a post about their experience or with their customer service question and mention you. This is most common on Twitter due to the fact that it is text-based, but this doesn’t mean that customers will reach out to you through other platforms as well. As such, make sure you actively monitor the mentions you receive, and also, try to identify customers who have made misspellings and other errors that may cause you to not get the message.
The Comment section of your posts
This is the most common way that customers with an issue reach out to companies on social media. If you go to any large corporate social media page, such as Pepsi or Adidas, you’ll find that many of the comments on their posts are customer service errands which need responding immediately. Unfortunately, though, most of these messages got unanswered.
Make sure you go through the comment sections of your posts on a regular basis and don’t just look at the most recent post, because it might be the case that they leave comments on several weeks old posts as you, and if you aren’t looking, you’ll be missing out.
Never delete angry complaints
You know that the whole world is watching when it comes to customer service complaints on social media. This is a double-edged sword which can both drive tremendous exposure to your brand, but at the same time, ti can substantially hurt your brand if you manage your messages in the wrong matter.
It’s not uncommon that companies make the mistake of deleting angry customer complaints in pure fear when the customer is complaining and going to attack.
Why do they delete the messages?
Because they are afraid that other customers will see it and that it will, therefore, harm their reputation.
Now, this might not seem like a bad idea, but it really is, because just because you delete the message doesn’t mean the issue and anger that the customer had isn’t still there. As such, deleting their message while just cause them to go somewhere else to vent. That’s the thing with customer service complaints. You can either solve them, or let them be, but they’ll always get to the surface in one way or another, and the latter will be much more damaging to your brand.
Angry customer service message can be damaging to your brand’s reputation, but believe it or not, at the same time, it can also benefit your brand if you deal with them in the right way.
If you go above and beyond in solving a customer’s complaint, not only will the rest of your audience see it since your messages are out for the world to see on social media, but your customer will also most likely go out of their way to tell their peers about their amazing experience.