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Using Social Media for Customer Service

twittercustsvc.jpg Thanks to the ease and popularity of social media, more and more businesses are feeling the heat of customer service-related inquiries via Facebook, Twitter and other social channels. Now that consumers can send direct, private messages to brands with the new Facebook Timeline, customer service via social is more important than ever. What used to be handled in private, offline discussions is now aired publicly and demands attention from your organization.

While there is no “one size fits all” strategy for customer service and social media, there are a number of best practices that can be applied for every organization. But before we get into that, let’s get one thing straight: customer service does not start on social media. Social customer service is merely an extension of the organized, efficient process your brand already has in place…right?

Only after your organization has a clear internal customer service workflow can you begin to extend your excellent skills to public social media channels. Happy customers are the best customers—it takes a little bit of work, but it’s always worth it in the end!

Six tips for using social media for customer service:

  1. Evaluate which inquiries warrant responses. Generally speaking, most negative comments should be responded to—especially if there is something you can do to fix the situation. Give the customer peace of mind by letting them know the steps you are taking to resolve the issue.
  2. You don’t always have to play defense. If a customer takes the time to give a compliment, address it! It isn’t necessary (or realistic) to respond to every tweet or comment on your page, but making a genuine effort to show your audience you are listening to the positive comments and resolving the negative is extremely important.
  3. Be overly polite (even when it’s hard). What’s that, a rude complaint about your newest product? Thank the customer for providing valuable feedback and an honest opinion. Also, keep in mind…FREE MARKET RESEARCH.
  4. Show compassion. A simple apology can go a long way. Rather than spew out an automated response, take time to apologize to the customer and let them know you understand their frustration—we are all human.
  5. Be timely. This can be tricky but a good rule of thumb is to mimic your internal strategy. If your customer support center works Monday-Friday from 9-5, your social media point person needs to be prepared to escalate issues during these hours. If you operate a 24/7 customer service center, your social media strategy needs to reflect that as closely as possible. In any case, the sooner a customer receives a response, the better.
  6. Measure your success. This can be done by logging the number of issues handled, evaluating how many customers were retained and tracking the number of positive and negative online mentions. Look for trends, find the gaps and always adjust accordingly.

Do you see a lot of customer service requests on your company’s social media sites? What suggestions can you add to this list?

Photo credit: Deb Nystrom

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