If customers are reaching out to your company and not getting the answers they want, you can be sure they’re taking their business elsewhere. Thankfully, social media has revolutionized the world of customer support—making it more efficient than ever.
Using social media, support teams can listen for complaints and grievances, connect with customers, and provide personalized solutions.
To find out how we excel at customer support here at Hootsuite and how your brand can too, we spoke to our own Gabrielle Maheux, social channel lead, and Corina Santema, customer advocate (Hootsuite’s customer support agents).
Expert social customer support tips from Hootsuite’s team
Know your audience
When developing your social media customer support strategy, you’ll first need to consider which platform you’ll be using to connect with your audience. At Hootsuite, we mainly use Facebook and Twitter. Gabrielle Maheux explains: “We focus on these channels because that’s where most of our follower base is.”
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your brand should be on Facebook and Twitter. Conduct some basic demographic research about your audience and find out where they are most active—then build your social strategy from there.
It takes special people to turn negative experiences into positive ones. When you’re dealing with unhappy customers, it can be easy to get caught up and have things affect your mood—a feeling which can impact interactions with your customers.
For support agent Corina Santema, showing empathy is always the number one priority.
“You have to recognize that any negativity is not being directed towards you as a person, but is due to normal frustration,” she explains. “As long as you can put yourself in the customer’s’ shoes, you can use action-oriented language to help transition a negative into a positive.”
Santema advises: “If you’re positive and supportive in your replies, you’re usually able to create a positive and supportive conversation. Even if it doesn’t start out positive, we consistently look for opportunities to turn it around. That comes from the user being heard, being seen, and knowing there is someone who wants to fix their issue “
Many companies find that a frequently asked questions document is helpful for addressing common questions from customers. But it’s a good idea to question whether this kind of document is helping or hindering your social media support efforts.
FAQ docs, while helpful in many situations, could make interactions sound robotic by restricting language and the natural flow of conversation that could take place without them.
Gabrielle Maheux explains that instead of an FAQ doc, her team empowers advocates to answer questions in the best way possible. They shadow one another and are always learning new tools and features, product changes, and best practices, so that answers sound natural, rather than scripted.
Address the most common inquiries
Social media customer support teams will often see the same questions asked on a regular basis. The key is to notice these patterns, and to be prepared to answer in the best way possible.
Corina Santema explains: “No matter what the question is, it’s always important to think about how we can get the customer the most accurate information, in the quickest time possible. You need to ask yourself if you’re the best person to tackle the topic, or if there is somebody else in the organization who can answer it more thoroughly.”
Keeping lines of communication open between different departments in an organization is the key to success here. You need to be able to recognize when a problem could be solved better by another expert.
For example, Hootsuite’s social customer support team is fully equipped to troubleshoot product questions and technical issues, but they also receive social media strategy questions. In these cases they’ll reach out to our social media marketing team or the social media coaches for their expertise. This not only gets the customer the best solution possible, but provides it to them as fast as possible.
Respond in a timely manner
A few minutes can make all the difference when dealing with a disgruntled customer. For Hootsuite’s team, this means making efficiency a priority.
To run such a well-oiled machine, the team relies on advanced social media listening and monitoring. Gabrielle Maheux shares: “It’s important to set up proper search streams in the Hootsuite dashboards to surface support related questions and ensure that all customer advocates are seeing the same messages and discussions.”
Any business can make sure they’re getting back to customers in a timely manner by setting up keyword search streams and support related search streams, containing terms such as:
- “Didn’t work”
- Company name (and common misspellings)
Once these streams are set up, those working on the customer support frontlines can assign posts and messages to other team members, including those in other departments.
When aiming for timeliness, it’s also important to closely monitor analytics and past response times. Look at how quickly your team is responding to inquiries, analyze any blockers, and figure out how you can reorganize schedules to streamline the process.
This data-driven system will ensure your business is helping customers faster, while making the process efficient for all team members.
In such a fast-paced role, it’s important for social media customer support advocates to prioritize inquiries by urgency, channel, or visibility.
Corina Santema explains: “Hootsuite abides by a ‘first come, first served’ principle, but if two requests come in at the same time and one is public facing and one is private, the public facing inquiry is addressed first.”
This means that if a customer Tweets a request at @Hootsuite_Help at the same time someone sends a Direct Message, the public Tweet is dealt with first.
This approach shows that you’re on the ball and accountable to customers.
As a social customer support professional, you always want to stay one step ahead of your customers. Instead of relying only on a reactive system—where you respond to customer inquiries as they come in—consider the next frontier in social support: proactive social customer support.
Proactive social customer support focuses on anticipating the types of questions your audience will have. Reflect on past content that has received a lot of traction and look for creative ways to boost that kind of content.
Gabrielle Maheux, Hootsuite’s expert in the proactive approach to social customer support, explains: “A good starting point is to share resources—links to help centres, FAQ, blog posts, forums, etc.—on social media and to make them discoverable. Doing so will help you build a content strategy for social customer support that goes beyond expected replies.”
One way that Hootsuite nails proactive social customer support is by posting weekly polls. Directly asking your audience what they’d like to learn more about or what common problem they’re running into, is a great way to plan upcoming content that can help you stay ahead of the game.
For a detailed guide on how to take a proactive approach to social customer support, check out Maheux’s post: Take Customer Support on Social to the Next Level by Being Proactive.
Take care with frustrated customers
The hardest part of any social support role has to be dealing with frustrated customers. Keeping your cool in these types of situations, while remaining helpful to your customers, is a powerful skill.
At Hootsuite, the focus is always on empathy and putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes. Santema explains: “If the customer is really frustrated on Twitter, for example, we hear out their issue first and then will move the conversation into private Direct Messages where there is more space and characters to find a solution. Direct Messages also allow us to gather private information, such as their email address, so that we can connect with them further.”
Make an effort to provide personalized, patient, and empathetic service, and your customers will respond accordingly.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
Every customer support role will be different, but there are guiding principles that can help set anyone up for success.
From a content strategy perspective, Gabrielle Maheux suggests, “Think about how you can stay a step ahead of your customers. Noticing that people are asking a lot of questions about one topic? Build your content strategy around that.”
For those working on the social channels themselves, Corina Santema has a few words of advice: “Put yourself in the customer’s mindset and imagine you were reaching out to a support team of a product or service you weren’t completely familiar with. How would you want to be treated?”
The importance of building relationships and communities is something that both Maheux and Santema highlight. Santema says: “Don’t feel like the conversation ends after you fix the issue. Follow-up, and always make sure the customer is happy.”
Use Hootsuite to set up keyword streams so you can easily monitor and respond to customer questions, complaints, and comments across multiple social networks.