7 Pro Social Media Customer Service Tips

Engage your customers easily with these 7 tips.

Social media customer service – Ah! It’s what everyone is talking about nowadays. We’re not only on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to push out content– we are there to engage, right? Arguably the most important way to engage with your followers on these platforms is through social media customer service.

Customers who reach out for help are often in an emotional state. This is the time for you to jump in and save the day. How fast and how well can you serve your customers?

Let’s start with this:

How has social media customer service become more prevalent in the past year?

According to Ericsson, in Q1 2016, there were around 7.4 billion mobile users, with 63 million of those as new subscriptions.

social media customer service
Image Credit: Ericsson

Why does this matter? The more mobile we are, the more convenient it is for us to reach out to companies via social media.

Since customers are ready at any moment to tweet a company, they also expect that the company will tweet back to them in a timely manner. Jay Baer, in his book, Hug Your Haters, says that most “complainers” expect a response within 60 minutes. To their dismay, the average response time is 5 hours.

Also in Hug Your Haters, Jay Baer mentions that answering customers’ tweets increases customer advocacy by 20%. Not answering their support requests results in a 40% decrease in customer advocacy.

Does social media customer support sound important yet?

It is! You’re not alone, though. There were also some really great tools that are helpful in staying on top of your social media customer service.

Here are a two that came out this year and one that has been around for a while, but is pretty great:

Twitter’s new social media customer service tools: From feedback forms to the ability to send links to initiate a DM with someone you don’t follow, these new tools gave us the ability to think beyond response time and more into how to improve.

RespondA Twitter listening tool that allows you to assign tweets to other team members, tag tweets with keywords, and follow/unfollow/block, among other features.

Spark Central: A bit more robust and full of bells and whistles, but really proven in the marketplace. Spark Central will allow you to keep an eye on any keyword or mention you want to track on Twitter. One of my favorite features is their internal chat within the platform.

7 Social Media Customer Support Tips from the Pros

Help Scout logo social media customer service

Help Scout: Polite Honesty Trumps Appeasement

The truth is, you don’t need to be worried about a mass exodus of customers just because you regularly say “no” to many product features. –Gregory Ciotti

Such courage from Gregory here! In the moment (you know that moment… the one where a customer asks you to add a new service or to tweak to your codebase) it’s really natural to want to say “Yes! Yes, we can do that for you!”

In fact, I have experience with this. I used to run a fitness business and was often asked to offer classes at different times, to offer new classes, and to do personal training.

It was a classic case of wanting to do everything for everyone, but pleasing no one – including myself.

Sitting down with your team (even if that’s “me, myself, and I”) to drill out where you want to go with your company, will give you a very simple and clear “Yes we can,” or “That doesn’t feel like a great fit at this time,” answer in these situations.

In case it helps, here’s the snippet Gregory uses:

“Hey ______, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us. As of this time however, [Feature X] isn’t the perfect fit, and we have no immediate plans to implement it. We do have some other exciting features on our plate, and should anything change about your request, we’ll make sure you are the first to know.”

Basecamp logo social media customer service
Basecamp: Keep ‘Em, or Show ‘Em the Way

It’s all about finding the best fit for the customer. If it’s with us, that’s great. If it’s with another product, that’s great too. –Chase Clemons

What a noble philosophy!

The relationship between you and your customers won’t last if it’s simply not the right fit. Of course, you can con your customers into choosing you by either bending your service or product to sound like something they will need. In the end, though, both you and the customer will feel like there is a piece of the puzzle that is missing and you’ll break up.

Assessing customer needs for a smooth fit on the front-end will save both of you in the long run. Before you decide whether or not this customer is for you, one idea is to think to yourself, “Can I not only adequately serve them based on their needs, but also blow them out of the water with what I have in-store?”

(Quote published by Freshdesk)

Forbes logo social media customer service

Forbes: If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it. But, if it is…

Try your own website without your auto-log in.  Is it easy?  Or a pain? Come in the front door and see if the door swings open easily, or whacks you on the shoulder.  And so forth. –Micah Solomon

We all tend to test our processes before we open our “doors”, but what about months and years down the line? Do things still work well?

Whether you have a website, a brick-and-mortar store, a physical product, a traveling service, or other, there are likely hundreds of aspects to your business within which you can check for flaws.

Removing any and all barriers to entry will bring in customers a bit more smoothly and keep them.

Don’t forget:  Not all customers will shout when something goes wrong. Some will just quietly leave.

salesforce logo social media customer service

Salesforce: Shoulder the Issue for the Customer

Own the issue. If you didn’t ship something on time, admit it. If the wrong size was sent, apologize. Don’t make it the customer’s problem. –Nick Zinser

Such a bad feeling. Dread. Ick!

When you do something wrong and it hurts one of your customers, it’s one of the worst feelings. Not only are you nervous that the customer leaves or spread this embarrassing information, but you’re also worried about what your leadership will think of you.

All companies have their own level of comfort with admitting fault. One really prevalent piece of our Happiness (customer service) culture at Buffer focuses not only on admitting fault but on assuming fault.

social media customer service
From Buffer’s Tone Guide

Sound a bit extreme? Maybe we can think of it this way: removing all language that might sound as if it places fault on the customer can bring down customer defenses/emotions and open up their ability to work with you to find a viable and peaceful solution for both parties.

Carefully removing language that insinuates fault can immediately bring down customer defenses. Click To Tweet

the balance logo social media customer service
The Balance: Don’t Just Listen

Beware of making assumptions – thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. –Susan A. Friedmann

Oh goodness – this is a big one!

Let’s walk through a non-social media scenario.

You’re a salesperson at a kids’ shoe store, and a customer walks toward you with a pair of girl’s sandals. Twice this week, you had a customer walk up to you with the same sandals, pointing out a tear in the strap. Must be a manufacturing flub.

Now– the third time you’ve seen these sandals come your way– you know exactly what the issue is! The customer starts talking as she arrives near you.

She says, “Wow! These sandals are really great, but I found one issue. They…”

You interject, “Yes! The strap! That manufacturer really messed that lot up. We’re giving a 50% discount on sandals with that issue.”

The customer replies, “Oh… um… No, the strap is fine. I was going to say that I needed a size 6. All I’m seeing are size 5s, but now I’m a bit worried about the quality!”

There are two issues here:

1) The customer might feel a bit disrespected. Afterall, you interrupted her, and

2) You infiltrated her with information she wasn’t looking for, which took her off-track from her mission to find sandals in size 6.

Listen and reflect. Referencing your prior experiences is always a great way to go IF you have the full context. Sometimes it takes a bit of pause and reflection to pull in that full context, especially within the nature of social media customer service where we have no tone or body language to go off of.

Marsha Collier picture social media customer service

Marsha Collier: Competent Service Beats Out Rapid Service

…customers who receive competent, knowledgeable, and all encompassing services are more likely to remember their experience and tell their friends. –Marsha Collier

This one might feel a bit counter-intuitive, as social media is all about a rapid, “on-the-go” experience. As Marsha proclaims in her infographic, it can’t only be about speed.

Companies must ensure the customer’s experience is a straight path from problem-to-resolution. This will provide the best chances of causing a sense of gratitude from customers after that frustrating issue has been resolved.

Inc. logo social media customer service

Inc: Have a Soul for Social Media Customer Service

If you show indifference to your customers, your employees will mimic it. If you are enthusiastic and courteous, your troops are more likely to be so as well. –Inc. Team

The biggest inference of this quote might be that if you aren’t enthusiastic and courteous to customers by nature, social media customer service (or any customer service, for that matter) might not be the best fit for you.

If it doesn’t come naturally to feel the frustration that your customers are experiencing, you will spend each day acting, and one day you’ll slip.

It’s always best to stay true to your nature and find the best role to fit your and your team members’ talents!

Now to you! social media customer service

What are your tips to hit it out of the park with social media customer service? Is there something – big or small – that you learned throughout your time serving customers?

Alright – let’s get out there and thoughtfully serve.

Thoughts or Questions?

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