How to provide customer service through social media

We are a dynamic and creative full-service marketing communications agency, based in the south of England.

There’s more to running a successful business than having a great product or service. They may generate revenue but, to attract and retain loyal customers, you need to provide faultless customer service.

With social media platforms, such as Facebook, having a total of 1.71 billion users and Twitter and Instagram having a combined total of 813 million users, they have quickly evolved to become the main platforms for marketing and advertising. Increasingly, they are also valid and important channels through which consumers review, complain and compliment products or services.

The reality is that customer service expectations are rising year on year and consumers are looking to you to create a seamless experience from the office or showroom to the Facebook timeline or Twitter feed.

Determine where your customers are

You’re thinking, how do I do this? The first thing you need to determine is where to focus your time and resources. Marketing efforts may drive traffic to targeted social media sites, but it’s vital that you’re providing exceptional customer service once they’re there – if you have a number of various social media accounts it may be harder to keep track.

For most companies, Facebook and Twitter work best, but some may find that their customers are also active on Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram or other social sites. To figure out where your customers are, search for mentions of your company/sector within the social sites.

Listen to your customers and respond effectively

Depending on how much activity your social media pages generate, it’s important to collect and analyse customer activity so that you can flag up all the issues being raised over social media in order for you to respond effectively. Smaller companies may collect a week or months’ worth of activity, while larger companies will need to gather activity over a shorter period of time.

There are many marketing tools to monitor your social media, such as Hootsuite or Buffer, which automate the process of gathering mentions of the company name, but listening is also an important part of the customer service process.

Make sure you understand the difference between feedback and a complaint and note down all feedback and complaints separately, making sure complaints are your priority.

Several studies have found that the majority of customers expect a response over social media within the same day. Edison Research reported that 42% of consumers who complain via social media expect a response within 60 minutes, and an Oracle survey showed more than half of Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting at a company – both of which can be very tough expectations to meet.

On Facebook, you can use the auto-response tool to let customers know you have acknowledged their message and will respond as soon as possible, which can also improve your response time. But, as a best practice, always respond with immediacy or with the promise of it.

You don’t always have to respond quickly but, if you’re able to resolve the customers issue over social media via a tweet or comment and it can be seen by the public, then do. But it’s more important to provide a timely and correct answer than reply on the same social platform – this might involve providing a first response over social media then taking the conversation offline either via email or telephone.

The most powerful way to create your company image is on social media; neglecting conversations that occur on sites like Facebook and Twitter can have staggering consequences. The more engaged you are, the less likely you are to have an online PR disaster. So, investigate any complaints thoroughly, contact the customer directly to apologise or offer a solution if it is your fault, and encourage feedback so you can keep improving.

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