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Topics: Social Media

 When it comes to brand communications, online customer service in social media can be your best buddy or your worst nightmare.

No other marketing channel offers such instant communication—a dazzling new level of client/customer synergy that can work for or against you.

To capitalise on social media’s marketing potential, your customer service must be bang on point.

Otherwise, online spontaneity and accessibility can lead to rage and insults and the brand damage that accompanies this behaviour.

This is increasingly important as the numbers of people using social media to air their grievances and challenge brands continues to grow. It’s make or break, guys!

According to a 2017 survey “55% of consumers complain on social media to see results.”

When traditional customer-service avenues don’t offer a solution, many consumers turn to social media.

After trying to resolve a problem via phone, emailing or an in-person interaction, many would suggest calling out the organisation on Twitter or Facebook—wherever someone might actually listen.

Some consumers even take to online channels first. The last thing these brand managers want is a PR crisis that extended from a social media post gone viral.

Airing customer service grievances online has become increasingly common. Forty-six percent of consumers say they’ve used a social platform to call out an organisation, according to a recent Sprout Social study titled, “Call-Out Culture: People, Brands & the Social Media Power Struggle.

This confrontational approach can have a good payoff in that brand managers are upping their game in the face of such blatant public accountability.

Responding to expectations

Expectations amongst social media users are high—and getting higher. They respond swiftly, say what they want and don’t pull any punches.

Some are equally quick in their praise and will share, recommend and chat about the brands with whom they have a great relationship. 

Quick to pick up on this trend, the social media channels themselves are responding accordingly.
Check out a Facebook business page. See this image below the logo/title image?...

… It means the company responds quickly and consistently to messages and have earned the coveted Very responsive to messages badge.

To qualify, they will have had a response rate of at least 90% over the course of a week. And be answering private messages in about five minutes or less on a consistent basis. And automatic responses just don’t cut the mustard when it comes to stats!

This badge means a lot. It tells existing and potential customers that the business is all ears —that it values its client interaction. Importantly, it’s official recognition and not the company puffing hot air.

Professors of social media

Don’t take our word for it. Check out a few of the brands that have their social media running at professor level.

Nike is a market-leading sports brand that excels on social media, especially with its customer service on Twitter, currently standing at 8.1 million followers.

Messages are personal, friendly and concerned. By responding quickly and using everyday language they are leaving many of their competitors standing.

socal media nike
Nike’s attention to their customer service on social media is all the more astounding when you consider the sheer volume of online interaction—that’s over 33 million on Facebook alone, let alone their other channels.

Supermarket colossus Sainsbury’s engages with many customer service contacts via social channels.

The company monitors conversations and then joins in—spending time listening to customers, interacting with them and getting to know them personally.

This helps them to provide a level of customer service that will encourage their loyalty and make them vocal brand advocates.

All social contact is handled promptly and efficiently, resolving issues to the customer’s satisfaction.

It’s called the personal touch and history has proved that this always works. So why any different on social media?

Be like Sainsbury’s—say goodnight and when you’ll be back online before you sign off for the day.

This British online fashion and cosmetic retailer views social media as integral to their company customer service policy—a day-in/day-out interaction that helps them to nurture relationships.

Ahead of the game, they employ unique handles for distinct areas of the business. This includes customer service.

They respond quickly and courteously, handle difficult customers deftly, shield the shoppers’ privacy and taking conversations offline if necessary.

Top steers for delivering first class customer service on social media

So, what are the key takeaways from these Big-Name Professors of social media customer service?

1. React quickly—don’t clock-watch
Get in touch as soon as possible, even if it’s out of hours. Remember, for the complainant, every minute counts. Issues may not be able to be resolved instantly but how a complaint is handled is everything. Listen, acknowledge, reassure and deliver a result on time.

Organisations that are streets ahead on social media are omni-present, to pace their customers’ routines—round the clock, weekends and evenings and public holidays, if this is what will keep them happy.

2. Match enquiries with personnel well versed in the area of concern
Make sure the people responding on your social media accounts have the right knowledge base to answer enquiries/complaints/issues with informed discretion.

A fudgy, off-hand response is worse than no answer—and probably more exasperating, because they should know what they are talking about and do it with manners.

Empower your staff through training so that they have the essential technical knowledge of your products and/or services.

This enables them to answer questions and issues with authority and offer real solutions. This role also requires tact and diplomacy which is a skill in itself. Make sure your staff has it. By the bucketload.

3. Have a unique Twitter handle for customer support
Lots of companies do this to great effect, e.g @ASOS_HereToHelp and @teamnike.

Tailored handles process messages into categories such as promotional, company, marketing, conversations and responses. This keeps them separate from each other and easier to deal with.

The main benefit for customers is that they get the help they want and need more easily and swiftly.

4. Make sure your customer service channels are synced
Although responding publicly on social media to queries and concerns is a good tactic, there will always be times when matters need to be dealt with offline—especially when there is a character limit, as with Twitter and/or customer privacy is a consideration.

It is an essential customer service skill to know when to do this, as is determining how to dovetail your customer service channels.

Come up with a strategy and related processes in place. This will ensure that customers get the flawless service they have come to expect.

5. BE the customer
There’s nothing like putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand exactly how they feel. Be sincerely interested. Don’t offer excuses. Don’t discount or ignore their very real concerns just because you don't agree with them.

Above all, never, ever argue with a customer on social media. You just can’t win this one. Listen, show real empathy with what they are flagging up. React appropriately and make them feel that they are in good hands and matters will be resolved favourably.

Do this right and you can turn a negative into a positive and have them singing your praises.

Congratulations—you have turned them into a brand ambassador!

It’s not unheard of for this to escalate and go viral. Maybe make the press, too. How’s that for free coverage?


Top quality customer service online is not an easy option. It takes as much effort as offline.

People want to speak with people, not an automated response that has them queuing for hours to speak with someone.

They don’t want to repeat their concern over and over to a person who may not understand/be interested in what they are on about. They don’t want to be bandied about between different people.

Customers want to be listened to.

Human error is natural and unavoidable—it’s how you handle blunders that makes or breaks your brand.

So, make sure your social media customer service runs at professor level. Your customer base will blossom. Who knows? You might even go viral and we all know what this means!
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