Best Practices in Social Media Customer Service

If you are a social media or community manager, doing customer service is just part of the job. When I was a Social Media Manager for a large craft company, I was the only person doing Social Media Customer service. This goes beyond just answering questions on posts, but issues consumers are having with the product. 

  1. Know your Products/services – This may be a no brainer, but having a grasp on every product/service is invaluable. The consumer you are talking too will not be happy if you have no clue what they are talking about. 
  2. Answer in a timely fashion – The goal where I worked was that a consumer question/complaint should be answered in under an hour. This is a good rule of thumb, but the faster you respond, the better. If possible, do it in minutes rather than hours. 
  3. Know when to take it offline – If the person has a simple problem, you can solve that online. If, however, it’s a very complex problem, take it offline and get on a call. It will make it much easier to solve the problem and much faster. An example is at the craft company; our products sometimes had several steps. To go back and forth with a consumer could have taken over an hour or more. It’s easier to talk on the phone, so you can ask questions in real-time and get to the heart of their issue. 
  4. Don’t send canned responses – Take it from me personally, do this at your own risk. Nothing will make followers angrier than being given a canned response. In a crisis, I posted the “official statement” to people, and they called us out. Once you post canned responses and get called out for it, you will never do it again. It’s essential to provide a consistent message but adapt it for each person you respond to. To this day, I refuse to send out a canned response. 
  5. Know how to empathize – If a person is really mad, don’t come back with sarcastic/snarky responses. This will only make things a lot worse. When I was working in the craft world, when things went wrong, it ruined heirlooms and items with sentimental value. Sometimes we were able to fix the problem, and other times we were not. A lot of times, the reason these pieces were ruined because they listened to a third party tells them how to use the product. The information they received was not how the product works. To them, it didn’t matter, we made the product, and it was our issue to fix. If you can fix these problems, you can turn them around from someone who hates you to someone who loves and defends your brand. It’s fantastic when this happens. 

There are also advantages in having excellent customer service on social:

  1. You can find problems with products and services before they become even more significant problems. People will start complaining right away when something doesn’t work as expected. 
  2. Find Trends where trends started. While at the craft company, we had a new product that was selling way more than anyone had expected. It wasn’t at retailers and was only online. We found out that several Facebook Groups discovered the product and were raving about it. This was the cause of all the sales. 
  3. People know they can trust you. If you are there and open to helping people, it will get around, and more people will seek you out. You stand behind your products, and you want to make sure things are right. 

One last piece of advice is to have your social team and customer service work closely together. The Customer Service department can give the social media people a heads up on an issue and vice versa. It will build trust, and you will work as a team. 

Good luck with your social media customer service! 

Tim is the founder of Element33. A social media agency specializing in education, management and strategy for small businesses. He comes from a traditional marketing agency but has embraced all things digital. He considers himself a marketing nerd and believes that all marketing is tied together. This means no matter what silo you are in, social, email, seach, etc, changes in one will affect the other!

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