Social Media and Customer Service: Two Sides of One Strategy

The lines between social media and customer service have become increasingly blurred. According to research from Sprout Social, 46 percent of consumers use social media to “call out” companies, and a majority (55 percent) expect to actually get results from brands based on the complaints they lodge on social channels.

That means social media is a vital tool for companies in order to have a two-way conversation with their customers. If you aren’t using Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to connect with customers, here’s why you need to combine your social media and customer service efforts to better engage them.

Customer care through relationships

Companies often use social media to tout their own products and services, but if you only use these platforms for pure promotion, you’re missing an opportunity to build a relationship with your customers. Some companies have seized this opportunity with social media.

For example, the yogurt company Chobani doesn’t interact with customers as a nameless, faceless entity. The brand replies to nearly all customer tweets it receives. When one customer tweeted a complaint about the amount of sugar in its kids’ yogurt, Chobani took the time to give a thoughtful response. Interactions like this are common on its Twitter page.

Starbucks also uses social media to deliver customer service. Aside from its main Twitter handle, the company also launched a separate Twitter account, My Starbucks Idea, to gather customer feedback. T-Mobile is also winning at social media customer service — the brand takes 51 minutes on average to respond to customer posts.

Here are some best practices from these companies:

1. Be proactive, not reactive

The My Starbucks Idea Twitter handle is a great example of a proactive customer service strategy, one that tries to engage customers before a problem happens. By giving customers an outlet to leave their feedback, Starbucks makes customers feel like their ideas are truly valued.

2. Be responsive

As T-Mobile has shown, it’s important to acknowledge customer comments. The brand responds to 70 percent of posts on its page — even though it has about 5.6 million followers. Companies that want to deliver great social media customer service should make a habit of responding to customers ideally within 24 hours (the average brand responds within 10 hours on social media, Sprout Social reports). Even if you don’t have an answer to a customer’s question, reply to their comment letting them know you’ve seen it and that you plan to respond within a specific time frame.

3. Respond to the good and the bad alike

We all love praise, but if you only respond to positive comments on social media while ignoring negative comments, you can’t really say you provide customer service on these platforms. You can humanize your company and build goodwill online if you make an honest effort to make your customers feel heard, regardless of whether what they have to say is positive or negative.

4. Use direct messaging

Some exchanges with customers shouldn’t be for public consumption. You may be able to better serve someone if you make the conversation private. Use direct messages to provide one-on-one customer service, which may help you resolve the customer’s issue faster.

Improve your customer service strategy

Today, businesses need to have a multi-faceted, multi-channel customer service strategy. Even if you have a customer service phone number or email, don’t ignore social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are powerful platforms to have real-time interactions — and meaningful conversations — with your customers.

Social media and customer service are now part of the same strategy. If you want to build a loyal customer base, dedicate some time every day to engage your customers in conversations.

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