As the social channel lead for our customer support team, I’ve read my fair share of studies highlighting the importance of social as a part of a support strategy. I’ve also witnessed the benefits—ticket deflection, low first response times, high customer satisfaction—firsthand when our customer support agents (who we call customer advocates) efficiently resolve customer issues on Twitter and Facebook.
Traditional social customer support—and really, any customer support—is, by its very nature, reactive. Whether it’s a call center or a Twitter handle, most customer support happens when a customer reaches out with a question or problem.
In a traditional call center, you’re limited to purely reactive motions: pick up the phone, resolve your customer’s issue, hang up, and do it again. But the key benefit of social media support is that you’re not limited to one-on-one interactions.
And so, the scope of the support you provide should grow beyond reactively responding to questions. Being proactive is the next phase of providing customer care that will allow you to take the support experience to a whole other level.
What is proactive social customer support?
Providing social customer support doesn’t always need to be as transactional as a question being asked and answered. It can be human nature to avoid asking for help when we need it most, and your customers are no different. So when it comes to social media, you’re not always going to get that direct mention, or “can you help me?” reach out. That’s what makes proactive support so important.
Instead of waiting for people to direct their questions at your brand, proactive social customer support lets you take advantage of the one-to-many nature of social to reach a larger audience, reduce your reactive support efforts, and ultimately delight your customers.
It starts with effective reactive social customer support
In order to offer effective proactive customer care, you first need to actively participate in reactive social customer support. If you have these two expectations of reactive social customer support nailed down, you’ve likely built out a successful reactive support strategy:
1. Be present
A feed filled with unanswered questions is a poor representation of your organization. So be where your customers are, and trust me, they’re on social:
- 59 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 use Twitter for customer support
- It’s not just millennials—43 percent of all online adults used Twitter for customer support, according to research from Forrester
2. Respond as soon as possible
Your customers have high expectations when it comes to response time. Lucky for you, the “modern call center” of social allows you to have quick interactions with your customers without the cost burden of real-time channels such as phone and chat:
- 60 percent of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour
If you’re meeting these two core expectations, you’re fulfilling the basic requirement of social customer support: responding to your customer’s questions. On to the next phase of your social customer care strategy.
Move your social customer support strategy beyond purely reactive messaging
Include proactive content into your overall support strategy
If people who engage with your brand only see a sea of replies on your profile, you’re missing out on the opportunity to provide them with the resources they need to self serve. Interestingly, customers actually prefer to find their own solutions. A recent Forrester study found that 81 percent of U.S. online adults use help or FAQs on a company’s website.
Share these resources on social media and make them discoverable. Doing so will help you build a content strategy for social customer support that goes beyond replies. Through this strategy, you’ll be able to:
Deflect emails, chats, or telephone calls
The one-to-many nature of social lets you share content with thousands (or millions) of customers in just one message. Providing users with help content, FAQs, and tip-filled status updates will empower them to solve their own issues before they reach out to your agents on other channels.
Lower first response time (FiRT)
By proactively providing your customers with solutions to frequently asked questions, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of incoming support related inquiries, and as a result, increase agent productivity and efficiency.
Increase customer satisfaction (CSAT)
Due to quicker first response times, social media customer support is known to have a higher rate of customer satisfaction. Proactively sharing help content allows more of your customers to find their own answers, thus improving the efficiency of your other social media customer care efforts. Better, faster, happier.
Keeping your customers in the know about what’s happening behind the scenes helps to increase customer trust and improve the overall customer experience.
How to start offering proactive customer support
Let people know where to reach you
Having people find and engage with your #SupportParty is a huge part of the equation. Be proactive by reminding customers of the channels of communication they can use to reach you. By redirecting people to the most effective social channel, you’ll ensure that they have the best social customer support experience possible.
You can start by creating a dedicated support handle, like we’ve done with @Hootsuite_Help. This will help give your channel a focused audience, making it easier to identify and provide the type of content that will be useful for your followers.
If you don’t have the resources available to manage more than one handle, don’t worry. You can still offer proactive customer support. Make it clear in your Twitter bio that your main handle is equipped to answer support-related questions.
Whether you have two handles or one, setting up search streams in Hootsuite will make it easy for your team to identify support related questions without all the noise.
Learn how to get even more out of Hootsuite with free social media training from Hootsuite Academy.
How to build a social support content strategy
You’ve already set goals that measure the success of your reactive social customer support (such as first response times and customer satisfaction). When you’re setting goals for your proactive help strategy, you should focus on answering two questions:
- How are you driving users to your help resources? Use URL parameters to track page visits from social to your help center, knowledge base, or online forum.
- How are your users are engaging with your proactive Tweets? Be sure to pay attention to likes, replies, Retweets, clicks, and media engagements such as views.
When we started sharing proactive content to @Hootsuite_Help, we used the engagement metrics for reactive Tweets as a benchmark for measuring the success of our proactive Tweets. Since starting our proactive strategy, these Tweets have consistently gotten over 20x the engagement of our reactive tweets.
Fill your content calendar
Creating a content calendar will help you organize the proactive content you’ve created and help you develop a posting strategy.
The content included in a proactive social customer support content calendar is largely informed by the needs of your audience and figuring out where you can align with other parts of your organization.
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.
Types of proactive social customer support content
Wondering how much proactive support content can there really be? Plenty. Here are a few of the kinds that we share from @Hootsuite_Help:
Let people know that you’re online and ready to take their questions. It’ll help humanize your channel.
It's Dan here, and I'm available for any questions you have on this fantastic Friday! pic.twitter.com/uGC2Ha2MJz
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) May 27, 2016
Links to resources like help articles
Send your followers to help articles so that they can get to know your product and self serve.
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) August 11, 2016
Give your followers insight about product updates or upcoming changes. It’s a great way to keep them in the loop.
✨ NEW ✨ see the number of views your Instagram video has gotten directly in your dashboard! ????
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) August 17, 2016
Get to know your audience and gather nearly-instant feedback by sharing polls.
Each week, we share tips about a specific topic. Which part of Hootsuite would you most like to see tips about?
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) May 5, 2016
Images, GIFs, and video
Engage your audience by sharing some eye-catching visuals. GIFs, in particular, can be a wonderful way to easily demonstrate a how-to, show off a new feature, or share a quick tip.
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) August 18, 2016
Let your followers know who’s answering their questions by profiling some of your customer support agents.
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) May 17, 2016
6 best practices for offering proactive social customer support
These are a few of the things that the team here at Hootsuite has found most effective in implementing our proactive social customer support strategy.
1. Assess the needs of your audience
The content you’re sharing should, above all, be relevant, useful, and engaging for your audience. You wouldn’t make a Drake playlist for your dad’s retirement party would you? (Me neither…) Customer support has the advantage of holding a lot of central data. Using top contact category data will help inform your content strategy. For example, if you find that an increasing number of customers are asking about where to find details about their billing charges, you can share a tip on that topic.
Billing Tip #1: To locate details about your next charge, follow these steps in your dashboard. pic.twitter.com/E8MAWTScfB
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) July 18, 2016
2. Ask for feedback
Use Twitter polls to get direct feedback on what your followers want to see tips about, and then provide tips based on those results. Once you start posting content consistently, you’ll be able to use your engagement metrics to see which content works and which doesn’t. And be sure to share the results of the poll with your followers! Below, see three Tweets we sent when we ran a poll asking for feedback: the poll itself, the results, and a tip based on the feedback we received.
Help choose upcoming Hootsuite tips! Which would you like to see tips about? Choose one or Tweet us your suggestion!
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) May 27, 2016
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) June 13, 2016
Scheduling Tip #4: Export current scheduled messages & up to 3 months of past scheduled messages from the Publisher. pic.twitter.com/cy6GY4b9Hv
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) June 16, 2016
3. Sync up with other departments
Align with internal departments across your organization on launches, campaigns, or new products. When big stuff is happening in your company, odds are there will be support-related queries about it. Be sure to remember that your channel focus is different, and that the role of a support channel is to anticipate possible user questions and share appropriate resources rather than promote a new product or service.
Get started with our new integration by installing your preferred content source from the App Directory! pic.twitter.com/pdl0bxiHnI
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) July 19, 2016
4. Make it fun (where appropriate)
With any social content strategy, it’s important to have original content and include visuals. Whether it’s an infographic that adds value and helps educate your customer, or just a fun GIF, these help drive more engagement for your content.
Our latest mobile update lets you preview what your post will look like on each social network???? ???? pic.twitter.com/r674WKM8Zv
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) July 27, 2016
5. Share live updates
Your users should be able to come to your social support channel to find answers when things go wrong. Is your product or service experiencing slowness or technical difficulties? Share live updates. Your followers will appreciate it, and it will help reduce the number of email or chat tickets during these peak times:
We are currently experiencing dashboard slowness and scheduling is affected. We are aware and investigating: https://t.co/pbsKbnfTCD
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) December 2, 2015
6. Be human
It’s always refreshing to see that there are real people working behind those screens to resolve your problem. Humanize your social customer support channel with messages that lighten up the channel’s otherwise technical focus. Our customer advocates send fantastic “Welcome Tweets” at the beginning of their social shifts.
Have a Hootsuite question? Monika here from our Vancouver nest ready to help! pic.twitter.com/Sqs4V2aXQE
— Hootsuite Helpers (@Hootsuite_Help) June 27, 2016
Remember to be responsive to what your customers need and be flexible enough to adapt your content calendar when it makes sense.
You’ve developed your proactive social customer support strategy, now it’s time to implement!
You’ve completed the hard parts—getting the content together, selecting the best posting times, and adding it all to your content calendar—now for the scheduling. Each Friday, I grab an afternoon snack, sit down and use Hootsuite to schedule Tweets from my content calendar. Doing this on a weekly basis helps me stay on top of new product updates and launches so that our support channel is always sharing the most relevant content possible.
Learn how to get even more out of Hootsuite with free social media training from Hootsuite Academy.
Engage with people
Always be prepared to engage with your users around whatever messaging you send out. If people thank you for your help, send them back a quick shout-out! #ShareTheLove
On a weekly basis, the Hootsuite support team tracks engagement on proactive Tweets. We pay attention to things such as likes, Retweets, quotes, and replies. This helps us find ways to improve the content we’re sending, and prepare ourselves for the week ahead. We also track things like link clicks to help us calculate how many of our users are using the self help resources that we’ve shared.
Revise and adapt goals and strategy as needed
The best part about working in social? Things are always changing—fast. Your strategy should follow this pace. Don’t be afraid to add and remove elements along the way to help you succeed!
Here at Hootsuite, we’ve seen a lot of success with the proactive system of providing social customer support. We’ve learned that harnessing the power of social is about far more than just being reactive, and we hope that you can find success in this too!
In true owl spirit, our customer support team is available 24/7 to help you—reach out to us @Hootsuite_Help for any Hootsuite questions you might have!
Planning to integrate social customer service into your social media strategy? Hootsuite can help.