Many businesses moved online in 2020 and are struggling to provide quality social media customer service. Don’t be one of them.

Social media customer service is the practice of using social tools to resolve customer questions or concerns. Social customer support is highly effective because it allows customers to reach your team on the platforms they already use.

How to start Social media customer service 

Why should you incorporate social media customer service solutions into your business plan? It’s simple: People want brands to offer social media customer support.

  • 1 billion messages are exchanged between people and businesses every month on Facebook Messenger.
  • 70% of people expect to message businesses more in the future for customer service questions.
  • 64% of people would rather message than call a business.
  • 18.7% of U.S. social buyers completed their most recent purchase without leaving the social app. When users are buying directly on social, it’s not intuitive to seek customer care anywhere else.
  • Forrester predicts digital customer service interactions will increase by 40% in 2021.
  • Banks that rank highly for social media respond to customer service replies within an hour.
  • 59% of brand replies to user Tweets occur within 15 minutes.
  • However, this number drops to 30% when brands do not have a separate customer service Twitter account.
  • 45% of brands took more than five days to respond to messages through their Facebook Pages
  • 9% of brands don’t reply to comments on Instagram, and 16% don’t respond to comments on Facebook.
  • 69% of U.S. Facebook users who message businesses say it makes them feel more confident about the brand.
  • 40% of holiday shoppers say they are more likely to consider buying from a brand they can message.
  • 60% of Internet users say bad customer service is a concern when making an online purchase.
  • 36% of respondents to a U.S. survey said “great customer service” is a motivation to recommend a brand online.

How to have good customer service on social media: 11 essential tips

1. Set up a dedicated handle for social media customer support

Your customer service team can likely address client questions faster and in more detail than your social marketing team can. The social media and customer service stats above show a customer service Twitter account is more likely to respond within 15 minutes.

That’s why it can be a good idea for brands to use a separate social account to offer social media customer service solutions. For example, Hootsuite uses @Hootsuite_Help, which is run by the support team.

Hootsuite Help Twitter page

Source: @Hootsuite_Help on Twitter

This helps filter out support and service issues from your primary channel. It also ensures you assign the right teams to monitor the right types of incoming public messages.

If you create a dedicated social channel for customer support, include that handle in your brand’s other social profile bios. This lets people know where to reach out for support-related requests.

People will still use your main social marketing handles to contact you with support and service issues. They might simply use the brand handle they already know, rather than looking at your main profile to check for a support account.

If a service request comes into your main social channel, pass it along to the right team and respond from your support account.

2. Find and monitor conversations relevant to your business

Of course, many people will also post messages about your business online without tagging any of your social accounts. Some of these posts might warrant a customer service response.

That means you can’t wait to be tagged in social media customer support requests. You need to monitor conversations about your brand. Then you can respond to customers who have a service issue—even if they didn’t reach out to you.

3. Create social media guidelines

Social customer support has different challenges and opportunities from social marketing. But it’s no less important to have social media guidelines in place.

These should align with your company values and with the social marketing team.

Your brand guidelines for social customer support should cover things such as:

  • Tone of voice
  • Response time for each channel
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
  • Protocol for escalations or other customer issues
  • A message approval procedure and a permission management system

4. Be proactive

If customers regularly have the same questions, that’s a clue you need to provide some self-service information resources.

Your social media customer service channels are great places to share educational content. For example, you could create a how-to video or best practices blog post. It’s all about helping customers learn how to get the most from your products.

If you offer an online service, you could also post updates about any known service issues.

These resources will help reduce the number of support requests that come in. They’re also an easy place to refer people with simple support questions.

Pinned posts and Instagram Stories highlights are great places to provide self-help resources.

5. Expand your idea of what customer service can be

Think broadly about what qualifies as a customer service issue. How companies use social media for customer service varies widely. It doesn’t have to be just about resolving problems and complaints.

Customer service can include anything that makes your customers feel more connected to your brand. It should make them more comfortable buying, using, and recommending your products.

6. Manage customer expectations

Customers don’t expect all companies to offer the same levels of customer service on social media.

recent study found that customers who pay more for their services expect a higher level of social customer care. Another study found that higher-revenue airlines offer more empathetic customer care on Twitter.

Of course, how companies use social media for customer service will vary based on the size of the available team.

The most important thing is to set customer expectations appropriately. Make it clear when your service team is available, and how long it might take you to respond. If there are other resources they can use to get answers faster, let them know.

7. Always respond

This may sound obvious, but it’s a rule not all companies follow. As you saw in the social media customer service stats above, the majority of brands respond to comments on Facebook and Instagram, but not all.

People asking questions of your brand on social media may or may not be your customers (yet). Answering all questions on social channels shows that you have responsive customer service. This proves to potential customers that you care about your clients’ needs.

A potential customer who reaches out for support and doesn’t get it will likely move on to your competition instead.

8. Respond quickly—with templates for common questions

Simply responding is not enough. When customers reach out to brands on social, they expect a fast, friendly response.

Your Facebook Page reveals right upfront whether you respond quickly to customer messages. If you respond to 90% of messages and have a response time of 15 minutes or less, you’ll get a Very Responsive to Messages badge.

Your social customer service may not be available 24/7, and that’s okay. You just need to set customer expectations appropriately.

Make your social customer service hours of availability clear. Let customers know when you’re going offline. Provide links to self-help solutions. Direct them how to reach other customer service channels (like your call center) in the meantime.

On Facebook, use Away Messaging to provide an automated response when your social customer support team is offline. Messages received during your Away times don’t count towards your Very Responsive status.

You can also use Instant Replies on Facebook to send a canned response to all initial messages. This is especially useful during busier-than-normal times. You can set customer expectations in terms of when you’ll be able to reply personally.

So Facebook’s provides with customization options to include the person’s first name and/or last name to make the reply more personal.

You can find step-by-step instructions on how to set up both Away Messaging and Instant Replies in our Facebook Messenger guide.

Instagram has a similar feature called Quick Replies. You can pre-write answers to common questions so you can reply quickly with just a couple of taps.

9. Try a chatbot for common service requests

Chatbots are a great way to offer basic social customer service 24/7. Always-on capability was the top benefit of AI-powered chatbots in a survey of global banking and insurance customers.

benefits of using AI interactions for global banking and insurance customers

Source: eMarketer

Chatbots can give customers the information they want immediately. That’s an important resource when your team is offline. Bots tend to work best for simple questions that you get often.

10. Use the right channels—most likely Facebook and Twitter

For your social customer care to be effective, you’ve got to use the channels where your audience already spends their time.

Monitor social platforms to see where people are already talking about your company online. So this will give you a good sense of what channels to prioritize for your social media customer service.

Consumer Reports found people are most likely to complain on the platforms. So where they are most active of consumers who posted complaints on social media, 84% used Facebook and 26% used Twitter.

11. Take public conversations private

Customers may contact you on social with questions or requests that would be better addressed through a private channel. So for instance, you might need confidential information like a booking number or account name.

On Facebook, you can respond to a public comment with a private message. So this takes the conversation to Facebook Messenger, where you can interact more confidentially.

Once you send your message, a note will appear under the comment that says “Page responded privately.” As the result this shows other users that you addressed the request, even though your response is not visible.

If you respond by DM on Instagram or Twitter, make sure to add a comment so the customer knows to check their DMs. Others can then also see you reached out privately to resolve the issue.

Examples of Social media customer service

Let’s take a look at how companies use social media for customer service with some real-world examples.

Starbucks: Social listening for customer service opportunities

Starbucks knows that not all social posts that mention a brand will tag the brand account. So that’s why they use social listening to monitor relevant brand keywords. However, they reach out with a customer service response when warranted.

In this case, a customer Tweeted into the void wondering if Starbucks delivers. So the social team promptly responded with details on how to order from Uber Eats.

Zappos: Legendary customer service for happy customers

Social media is often a place where people come to complain about brands or share negative experiences. But not Zappos. A surprising number of Twitter users call Zappos out for their unexpected levels of customer service.

Firstly, their secret is a fast and effective response to all customer queries. Secondly, a tone that strikes the right balance between friendliness and practicality.

Lush: Online shopping FAQ in Instagram Stories Highlights

As we mentioned above, self-service social media customer service options can be a good way to address common questions. However, they can also help support your customers even when your support team is not available.

Lush created an Instagram Stories Highlight called “Ways to Shop.”  So it answers common questions about things like:

  • packaging
  • how to access product consultations when stores are closed
  • the process for curbside pickup.

Some of the highlighted Stories link to additional support resources. This one, for instance, links to an FAQ page.

Lush Instagram stories highlight

Source: @LushCosmetics on Instagram

Bollé Brands: Instagram virtual try-on

With customers unable to try on frames in a store. As the result Bollé Brands created a social customer support experience on Instagram.

Potential customers can see what frames look like on their face using Instagram’s augmented reality filters. So they can also get a sense of what it’s like to look through the product’s polarized lenses.

Instagram virtual try-on Bolle Brands

Source: @bolle_eyewear on Instagram

For ski season, they’ve created a new AR filter that allows users to virtually try ski goggles. However, these social customer support experiences replace interactions that would normally happen in-store.

Solutions and Tools for Social media customer service 

Sparkcentral by Hootsuite

Sparkcentral by Hootsuite helps manage incoming social media customer support queries through:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook Messenger
  • WeChat
  • WhatsApp
  • your own digital channels like your website or app

So you can manage all these conversations through automated message distribution. Moreover, this integrates with existing ticket distribution functions in your customer service contact center. So It works with CRM systems like Zendesk, Microsoft Dynamics, and Salesforce.

Sparkcentral uses AI-powered chatbots to address simple support queries. However, Live agents can step in when needed. So this division of labor between humans and bots increases productivity and customer satisfaction.

Save time building an efficient customer support system on social media with EasySocialPost. Respond to questions and complaints, create tickets from social conversations, and work with chatbots all from one dashboard. Try it free today.

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