Using Social for Customer Service: 3 Steps to Get It Right

customer_serviceWe all know that social media is rife with rants and pans directed at brands. Today’s numbers about how often people are using social to complain are just staggering. However, the truly amazing stat is actually the number of companies not listening, not responding, or making the whole experience even worse for the customer. When customers decide to share their experience with the world, there are a few things companies should consider when shelling out customer service via social media:


1. Keep It Simple

I get it – your company is huge and the marketing team for one line of products never speaks to the PR side and you couldn’t even pretend to know who is on the customer service team for another line of products. The thing is this: your customers don’t care. To them, you are one entity and when they want to speak to you they will speak to the whole company.

To be clear, companies owning and managing multiple Facebook or Twitter handles for different purposes is completely acceptable. However, the key is to make it simple and clear to your customer which handle or page is used for what. As customers use the wrong handle for the wrong inquiry, don’t just correct them. Instead, provide a link to the proper handle and let them know that someone will contact them about their inquiry shortly. For example, instead of:

“Sorry Bob, this account is for @Brand. What you want is @BrandHelp”

Try: “Bob, Sorry to hear! @BrandHelp will get back to you soon!”  


2. Only 140 characters? Public chat?

Communicating on public sites about a particular customer’s issue is just a privacy debacle waiting to happen. In addition, using Twitter to go back and forth with only 140 characters is a challenge to communicate complex questions and answers. No one knows this risk more than financial services companies. While many have resorted to immediately providing a call in number, I love watching companies break the mold, the way that Citi is doing.  Their support process on Twitter sends users a link to a private closed chat with the same agent they were communicating with earlier. Understandably, not every company is going to be able to implement such a process, but I submit them as an example simply to encourage you to push the boundaries of your social media support channels.


3. The Untagged Post

You know that they are talking about you. You know that they are saying mean things about you behind your back. Why aren’t they saying it to your face?

The untagged post is one that causes great anxiety to our clients. In our social listening, you can see clients responding to untagged posts and getting multiple responses: the user ignores the brand’s response, the user comments on how creepy it is that the brand was listening to them when they weren’t talking directly at them, or the user is elated that they took the time. Individuals are going to react in unique ways to brands and you have to understand your customers’ motivations and behaviors (online and off) in order to understand how to properly communicate with them and avoid the creepy factor. If you don’t have the research, more often than not, the best way to react is to take note of a dissatisfied customer but don’t reply. “Big Brother” practices tend to leave the customer feeling unsettled.


Customer service is changing rapidly. If you are going to put your brand out on certain social networks, you have to be prepared to communicate with your customers. Understanding who your users are, why they communicate on social media and the way they want you to communicate with them is the best way to make the biggest impact on your customer service efforts. This information will drive consistency across your organization and provide rules of engagement for your social media customer support strategy. Once you have these base line understandings and research, social media support is one of the best ways to show your customers the brand is there for them. Plus, since so many brands are ignoring these conversations or not responding correctly, there is a great opportunity for your company to really crush your competition!