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Published February 25th 2015

Marketing: How to Provide Great Customer Service Via Social

Best practices for delivering amazing customer service via social media. Find out why customer service is the new marketing.

Today’s consumers are greatly empowered. Billions of consumers worldwide are tapping into vast amount of information on websites, blogs and social networks every day.

Savvy consumers can derive an informed perception of any product, business or idea online well before they commit to it. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they expect a swift response to their questions and issues online.

Research shows that nearly half of all US consumers use social media to ask questions, to complain or to report satisfaction and a third of social media users prefer social media customer service to a phone call.

Technology and social media intelligence services now exist to quickly identify online chatter and address any issues, often faster than a service order or a phone call.

However, a response rate of 4.9% indicates that many leading retail brands are not adequately equipped to handle the incoming chatter.

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Five reasons why social media customer service is not an option anymore

1/ Social media response time expectations

When people are upset, or when they have an urgent request, they want an answer right away. They don’t want to wait 24 hours for their email to be read. Neither do they want to wait on hold for 30 minutes.

And how long are customers willing to wait for a response on social media?

A study by Lithium Technologies found that 53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within 1 hour regardless of when they tweeted, with that percentage rising to 72% if it’s a complaint. Therefore, providing fast customer support through social media is paramount for any retail brand’s social media strategy.


Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. According to our retail study our team conducted this past month, only 11.2% of retail brands respond to questions within an hour.

The majority (65%) respond within 24 hours, indicating that the average response time across all brands was much slower than what is expected these days.

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2/ Avoid unpleasant actions

If companies don’t meet these expectations, 2 out of 5 people feel more negatively towards the brand.

An impressively galvanised 3 in 5 people will take unpleasant actions against the brand using social media to express their dissatisfaction. Unsurprisingly, most customers (74%) believe that if they take to social media to criticize a brand, this leads to better customer service.

3/ Like it or not, people talk about you

Even if your social media profiles weren’t originally created for customer service purposes, it won’t prevent someone from contacting you there.

At best you’ll have one disgruntled customer who won’t buy from you again, at worst an awful, trending Twitter storm that does more damage to a retailer’s reputation than you can imagine.

“If your customers are in a particular space then it makes perfect sense to be there too, and build relationships with them in a way that no other channel can. Because if you don’t build those relationships with them – someone else will.”  – Charlotte Bleasdale, Social Media Manager at JD Williams

4/ Loyal customers spend more

But just as social media gives dissatisfied customers a bigger voice, so too does it give retailers an opportunity to not just diminish problems, but turn a disgruntled customer into an even more loyal one.

Research suggests that the ability to manage customer service through social media can turn complaints into future revenue. If a customer receives great service via social media, they will spend 21% more. 71% of consumers who’ve had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.

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5/ Reduce customer service costs

Many organizations are using social media campaigns and engagement to reduce the costs associated with customer service.

International businesses, including Best Buy, Ford, IBM, Dell and British Telecom credit their communications and social media activity for contributing to a reduction in costs and an increase in customer satisfaction.

More than half (67%) of companies note that social media customer service is gaining more importance. In fact, improving social customer service is the most pressing short-term goal for contact centers in the US and UK, according to a Forrester research.

Five best practices for exceptional social media customer service

1/ Humanize your brand

People tend to favor dealing with other people rather than with companies, so the key to delivering great customer service on social media is to be speedy, personal and empathetic in your response.

Social media gives you the ability to think carefully about your reply and speak in a casual and conversational voice.

You could use signatures for different representatives to sign their tweets and show their human side, such as Virgin Mobile’s account.

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2/ Respond in a timely manner

Even if you can’t answer right away, or you have to take a customer onto a different channel (due to sensitivity of information or length of reply), it’s important to acknowledge the customer and give him/her a timeframe for your full response.

State that you’re looking into it as soon as you can.

3/ Choose the right avenue of communication

When customers are upset, they want to be heard. Posting to social media is the perfect way to be heard. Naturally there are occasions where a conversation should remain private. But in most cases, it’s best to respond to issues publicly on the same channel.

Not only does it help other shoppers with similar issues, it also shows the community how well you handle the situation and that you can be trusted.

Remember, customers hate the funnel. They want assistance through the same communication channel. Sending them through series of hoops will leave them with an impersonal, frustrated feeling.

Ideally, your efforts to solve the customer’s problem will end with the customer returning to the same social media channel on a positive note for everyone to see.

4/ Set up alerts, listen and speak their language

The importance of monitoring social media channels for comments cannot be overstated.

For instance, offering exceptional customer service using Brandwatch Analytics has seen LateRooms.com, UK’s leading hotel booking specialist, win numerous industry awards. They developed a new ‘Concierge’ service to listen, respond and to be alerted to any issue that may arise on social in a matter of seconds, resulting in an impressive 30% sales conversion rate.

They know how to avert a potential crisis before it escalates, as so often happens via social media.

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5/ Make helpful suggestions & point back to your brand

If you can’t provide a 24 hour customer service, make sure your social media profiles state your operating hours clearly.

List your company’s other contact channels and link back to the different social accounts for different regions where possible.

Where possible and relevant, you can also include links to your website, research and other content to provide more detailed information.

No matter how you handle comments on social, you’ll be encouraging more activity, engagement and more brand mentions, which in turn, can help your visibility and your SEO rankings.

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