Customer service in social media: 7 tips for providing effective and professional customer service
What is customer service on social media?
Customer service on social media is the act of managing inquiries, complaints, and interactions from your customers or audiences via social media channels. The goal is to resolve any issues, remove any confusion, and leave your audience feeling positive about your brand and happy to buy from you now or in the future.
Social media support is where your business wins over customers and builds its reputation. As a result, customer service in social media requires a dedicated strategy. That's because there are several social channels, and your customers will use social media in different ways.
Social media for customer service: Why is good customer care on social media critical?
A bad word on social media can spread like wildfire, so it’s important to get ahead of it and address the negativity ASAP. A negative experience with your brand can be incredibly damaging to your reputation and consequently your growth as a business, so it’s important to right any wrongs as quickly and efficiently as you can.
However, jumping on negative comments quickly isn’t just a way to “save face.” Statistics show that a resolved negative X post leads to three times more revenue potential than a positive X post — proving that the quality of social media customer care could do a world of difference, regardless of whether the interaction began positively or negatively. Any social media interaction needs to be treated as an opportunity to work on building your relationship with your customers to turn them into loyal customers and brand advocates.
Providing quality customer care on social media has also been proven to help your business grow in terms of sales. After all, responding to an issue on X has been seen to make people spend 3% to 20% more than they otherwise would while another study shows that 31% of customers turn to social media to make pre-sales inquiries.
7 Key social media customer service best practices
Be where your customers are
Your single biggest weapon is to simply be where your customers are — and they are on social media. X is the most used platform for social media customer service, but don’t forget the likes of Facebook and Instagram too. Any social media platform where your audience has a presence is a place that you also need to be monitoring.
It’s important to remember that your customer has immense power on social media. In fact, your customers have more say over your image on social media platforms than you do. Customers will drive the conversation and push you into the passenger seat, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t navigate their needs.
When it comes to customer service in social media, your responses need to be prompt. Social media users are impatient at best and they need you to respond to them quickly. If it’s something they are upset or angry about, be there to pre-empt what they want next. Long wait times could mean that customers spend more time pulling their hair out, and they could start researching competitors.
Don’t forget that some social media communication comes with an indication of responsiveness. On Facebook, each time you directly respond to direct messages (or don’t), you affect your responsiveness rating which is put on your profile for everyone to see.
Customers expect a fast response, so give it to them. If you’re not sure how to respond to a message straight away, or you don’t have the time, send them a holding message in the meantime.
The best social media interactions are like an in-person conversation. Get it right and it can be immensely powerful.
Don’t sacrifice accuracy for speed
Get something wrong in a bid to move fast, and your error could become viral before you know it (and not the good kind of viral). Yes, respond quickly — but don’t be afraid to say that you need to get back to them. Just make sure that you do.
Many companies buy themselves time by moving the interaction out of the public domain and into direct messages. This way you can take a little more time to come up with the right solution. It can be worth going back to the original post to update it with a resolution message too.
Your customers are talking so you need to sit up and listen. Always make sure you take the time to actively listen to your customers and what they are saying.
This is important partially for a reason that many don’t realize: your customer already thinks you’re listening. That’s right, your customer thinks you have every resource at your fingertips to process everything they have to say, when they have to say it.
Social media is a wonderful illusion of ever-presence, and you’ll need to play to it. Chances are that if your customer wants to be heard by you, social media is where they’ll go. For this reason, it’s vital to analyze what’s going on and what’s being said, as well as which posts work and when they work. Understanding activity helps you to use it as a proactive tool rather than treat it like an irritant.
You’ll want to look at a range of things. For example, how many comments crop up that are about praise, or technical problems, or poor customer experience? How many times does the same question or comment come up? When are your customers active on your social media platforms, and about what are they talking to each other?
This information will help you move forward with a workable plan for staffing and managing resources for your social media responses and profiles. Get tracking and use the information you have to improve your customer service capabilities on social media.
It’s easy to forget that you are a brand when you’re focused on providing quality customer service on social media. But maintaining your brand voice through every interaction is key to maintaining a recognizable brand character. This means that whether you’re responding to a complaint, thanking someone for their praise, or sharing some product or service news, you need to look and sound like one entity: your brand.
Nonetheless, manners matter. Yes, there is such a thing as social media etiquette. Be polite, professional, and on point.
Show that you care
We all want to feel important. This is an important message with social media customer care. You need to show that you care and that you actively value each and every customer.
A sure-fire way to fail at this is to ignore an interaction and let it fester. No matter how awkward or upsetting the interaction can seem, you need to take it on the chin and respond calmly and professionally. This will be the best approach as it puts you back in control.
Remember, you can always direct the customer to direct messaging, or to get information from you elsewhere (to, say, a specific page of your website).
Know when to take things offline
Although your issue has been raised via social media, it’s also key that you know when it’s appropriate to move communication into a more private forum such as DMs, email, or phone. Not only might you need to ask for sensitive information, but preventing a long back-and-forth from taking up space on your social media post will stop the content that you’ve put time and energy into creating from being hijacked by a customer service interaction.
Good customer service examples on social media
Nike customer service
Nike’s branding isn’t just about selling shoes and sports gear. They’re selling a concept and a lifestyle, and they do it well. Look at Nike Service on X They run outstanding social media support in three languages, seven days a week.
It’s actually quite simple. A customer heads to X, uses the Nike handle, and a team of Team Nike customer support reps are ready to pull out the X posts that need their attention.
What’s particularly impressive about Nike on X is that they are posted about an insane amount each day. A brief look at their feed and it’s immediately apparent they deal with every single post with professional, brand-centered language and a genuine intent to help. They do it quickly too.
What can we learn from Nike? Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t be personal. Whether you’re a large company or a small business, responding to customers quickly is a tool for engagement and brand loyalty that stops those small problems snowballing.
Urban Decay customer service
What Urban Decay does is to take every opportunity to engage with their audience.
They don’t just respond when a customer has a problem. They also respond in a way that’s true to their brand whenever their audience touches base with them. With every interaction, essential or non-essential, Urban Decay as a brand is saying, “You’re valued, we’re glad you’re taking the time to show us support, and we’ll do the same for you.”
That’s pretty powerful.
What can we learn from Urban Decay? Supporting your customers on social media isn’t just about responding to a complaint or thanking a customer for some praise. It’s about engaging with them and showing them that they’re valued, just because. What’s more, that level of basic engagement is totally on brand in terms of tone of voice, which strengthens the relationship customers have with the company.
Amazon customer service
Similarly to Nike, Amazon have cleverly separated out their support and marketing personas, providing their users with AmazonHelp exclusively for support inquiries. They also have different X accounts for each of their individual services, such as Amazon News, Amazon Music, etc.
As the world's largest online retailer and a prominent cloud service provider, it would all get a bit messy if they didn’t do something to break down these personas. Tackling their social media approach as one giant beast wouldn’t be a smart approach.
By creating a profile that is purely focused on providing support, Amazon can handle complaints and problems without irritating their customers with upbeat promotional stuff when goodwill is running low.
What can we learn from Amazon? Break things down into handy chunks which give you a chance to be more personal. It’s important to meet the needs of one specific audience at a time.
Spotify customer service
What’s not to like about Spotify? It basically stopped the music industry from disappearing into a pit of despair by shifting us from downloading to streaming.
But Spotify is also great when it comes to social media support, having won a Webby Award for it back in 2015.
Hop on to their X and the first thing you see is an impactful statement directing you over to @SpotifyCares, where you’ll find support. Straight away Spotify is telling you what to do and where to go with your query, depending on what it is.
Another great thing about Spotify is that they announce that there are issues with the platform before they get queries. It’s easy to ignore issues — users usually think that issues just affect them — but by owning the issues, Spotify is winning trust. Unsurprisingly, lots of users respond to these types of post with a fair amount of angst. However, SpotifyCares stays on point with its responses, staying true to its brand.
There are literally dozens of personalized replies, all unique and clearly showing each customer that they are valued and heard.
This is no accident. It’s clear that the people handling the SpotifyCares account are pros (this podcast gives us some clues). Basically, way before someone gets close to typing out social media replies and posts for Spotify, they learn the rules in the slower-paced arena of email. Here they can deal with issues which are less urgent and where customers expect a longer reply time.
These customer service agents aren’t just let loose on the all-important social media platforms until they’ve earned their stripes — and it shows.
What can we learn from Spotify? Spotify teaches us one big lesson: nurture your team and they will nurture your customers. Well-trained social media responders are clearly skilled and capable of delivering unique, individualized, and consistent messages.
Virgin customer service
Virginis just one of many companies who use tools to monitor their social media mentions in order to provide the best experience of customer service through social media. Not everyone who heads to a social media platform will use the correct handle or hashtag. Yet, have a browse through their X and you’ll see that Virgin succeeds in picking up on social media mentions with success.
At Virgin, being able to pick up all social media mentions regardless of mistakes is really important for their branding. They need to pick up on mentions across social media to ensure a consistent approach across all their brands, e.g. Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Music, Virgin Trains, etc.
What can we learn from Virgin? It’s worth using the tools available to us which make social media customer support an easier game. With so many channels, it can be easy to let your social accounts spiral out of control. Having one inbox to handle all messages brings clarity.
When you manage it well, social media as a tool for customer service is invaluable.
However, when you don’t bother, things go wrong. Something can go wrong if you ignore customers, if you forget your brand voice, or if you leave your manners at the door.
Make customer service via social media your best friend, not your enemy, and realize that social media support is a skill, and to master it you need to be organized, available, and patient.