How to Deliver Exceptional Social Media Customer Service

By Dara Fontein

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We have all seen the posts on social media from disgruntled customers ranting about a product or service that didn’t quite meet their expectations. Some luggage got lost as they made their way to a Hawaiian vacation, their food had a hair in it, or the latte they ordered had a temperature of 148 degrees rather than their desired 150.

Small businesses and large corporations alike are now available online through social media, making it easier than ever to communicate. Everything from responding to vocal, irritated customers to answering common questions consumers have about your product or service can be streamlined through some best practices, as we explain below.

Why is Social Media Customer Service Important?

While providing great customer service should obviously be a key goal of your business, there are more reasons for this than just the principle. Delivering great social media customer service can obviously help your business grow and flourish, but sometimes it’s hard to understand exactly why. Help Scout provides a great infographic outlining the main reasons a company should make stellar customer service a business priority. Some of the more significant numbers include:

  • 86 percent of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad experience.

  • 51 percent of consumers said they would give up on a purchase after trying to reach customer service only once.

  • On average, consumers tell 9 people about a good experience, where they tell 16 about a negative one.

  • 8 out of 10 U.S consumers said they would pay more for better customer service.

  • 78 percent of online customers recommend a brand to friends and other contacts after a great customer experience.

  • 80 percent of companies think they are delivering superior customer service, where only 8 percent of customers think these same companies are doing so.

While these stats reference general customer service experiences, your social media customer service strategy is a large part of contributing to these overall sentiments. When specifically discussing social media customer service, the term “social care” is widely used. As Soul of Brands shares, “More than half of social media users under the age of 45 engage in social care,” which is probably why you can remember seeing a post from your angry uncle on Facebook about his phone company overcharging him for his data usage.

Social care is not only being used by young digital natives, but is consistently utilized across all ages, languages, genders, and income levels. The following social media customer service examples and tips can help guide you along towards maximizing your social care efforts.

Listen to your customers

It seems obvious, but the act of listening to online conversations is neglected by many companies and brands. It almost goes without saying, but through monitoring what customers are saying about your brand on social media, you are able to jump in when necessary to remedy situations that require it, or just engage with your customers. If you’re wondering what kinds of things you may be listening for, according to an American Express study these are the top reasons U.S customers use social media for customer service purposes:

1)

Seeking an actual response from a company about a service issue (50 percent)

2)

Praising a company for a great service experience  (48 percent)

3)

Sharing information about your service experience with a wider audience (47 percent)

4)

Venting frustration about a poor service experience (46 percent)

5)

Asking other users how to have better service experiences (43 percent)

If you don’t know where to find these conversations besides monitoring your own brand Facebook page or direct mentions on Twitter, you have a number of options. Since only 3 percent of conversations about a brand on Twitter are actually sent to the correct Twitter handle, it’s important to pay attention to more than just direct mentions. As Liel Leibovitz, Assistant Professor of Communications at New York University explains “there is an immense amount of conversation surrounding retailers on Twitter, and much of it consists of consumers voicing concern or requesting assistance with a variety of issues.”

To remedy this on platforms like Twitter, set up search streams through your Hootsuite and account for misspelled variations of your business name, or for keywords that might have relevance to your business. This way you have the best chance of catching mentions and discussions of your brand, and can therefore address them as necessary.

A company who has taken the concept of social listening above and beyond is pet food provider Purina. With their “Always On” initiative, Purina said they have “used research and social listening to create an operation that allows us to discover the topics pet lovers care about most, evaluate conversations to make sure Purina could add value, then craft expert content with the help of our unique Moment Studio to quickly respond with one of four different content production values adjusted to the importance of the conversation.”

Purina then would tweet directly, when appropriate, to those discussing the brand, allowing a real-time, one-on-one connection with customers and their audience. With this social care focus, Purina have seen a 100 times greater use of their @Purina Twitter handle, a response rate of 86 percent, over 5,5000 personalized Tweets sent in response to users, 6.5MM personalized quality impressions, and equity measurements which have skyrocketed.

Add value when appropriate

In order to deliver the best social media customer service like Purina, it’s important to know how and where you can add value. Appropriateness is key, and businesses need to recognize the ways in which their consumers are using social media with a customer service purpose, and then build a strategy around these findings. Are your customers using Twitter to seek help, or do you have a dedicated Facebook group for them to do this? Furthermore, if it is help that they are seeking, position yourself as easily reachable and keen to build relationships and engage.

However, if they’re just merely discussing your brand or business, it might be best to not try and insert yourself awkwardly like a “cool mom” who’s trying to hang out with her teenaged daughter’s friends. As Jacqueline Anderson, Director of Social Media and Text Analytics at J.D Power and Associates explains, “If your customers want service and you’re pushing discount coupons out to them while ignoring their attempts to connect with you, you’re going to end up with dissatisfied customers.”

Instead, you can offer value to your customers through your social care efforts in many different ways, including but not limited to:

  • Using social media as a means of enhancing their real-life experiences (Like Jetblue did here)

  • Solving their problems and saving them time (like Whole Foods did here)

  • Opening yourself up to customer feedback and product/service ideas (like Starbucks does here)

Respond in a timely manner

With the real-time nature of social media, customers are expecting responses aligned with this timeliness. While this differs slightly from one social media network to the next, it’s always a good idea to respond as quickly as you can to a customer’s request. We all know how annoying it is to have to wait on hold for customer service phone support, and online experiences are not too different. Social media customer support expectations are even different from email, where a 24 hour wait period is standard.

According to a consumer research study by Oracle, “more than half of consumers on Facebook expect a same-day response to questions and posts, where 52 percent of consumers using Twitter expect a company to respond within two hours.” Furthermore, the study found that 30 percent of Twitter users expect a response within half an hour—meaning that in order just to meet many of your consumers’ expectations you should be listening and participating in social media consistently.

A company who goes above and beyond, both literally and figuratively, is Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM). They have a very active Twitter account where they respond to customer inquiries, but what truly sets them apart is that they put their estimated response time in their Twitter header. This is updated every five minutes without fail, enabling a sense of transparency and setting the expectation for their customers.

Including their Twitter account, KLM’s customer service page states that the company has 24/7 service via social media channels such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Here, they encourage customers to book or change flights, check-in, choose a seat, order a meal, arrange for extra baggage, or post any other question whether or not they have booked a flight with KLM. This dedication to social care is significant from not only a customer sentiment standpoint, but a financial aspect.

 KLM social media customer service twitter

As VentureBeat explains, “Social business leader KLM, the airline that kickstarted the modern customer-support-via-social-media revolution, has 150 people dedicated to serving clients via social. And each of them represents almost $170,000 in annual revenue.” KLM’s social media manager Gert-Wim ter Haar emphasized this point to VentureBeat, saying “Social is more and more becoming a profit center. It’s first about service, then brand and reputation, but also about commerce. We have to make money.” Seems like social media customer service makes both dollars and sense.

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