Social Customer Service: How to Care for Your Customers on Social Media

Let’s not beat around the bush. Whether you recognise it or not, customer service is one of the most important aspects of any business. After all, it is potentially the only personal interaction you might have with your customers.

How you handle that personal interaction will leave your paying customer with the affirmation that their purchasing decision was correct, or a bad taste in the mouth and a significant barrier to repeat business. That much is clear.

But the importance of customer service runs deeper still. Understanding why customer service is a vital business practice, that social media has a fundamental role to play in customer interactions and how best to use it to handle complaints will strengthen your business, reducing churn rate and increasing customer satisfaction.

Why You Should Focus on Customer Service Through Social Media

Taking the example of air travel, in the digital age the only contact a traveller will likely have with their chosen airline prior to flight is when a problem arises. How you deal with their issue when the time comes could very well dictate whether they fly with you again. And this applies to any business.

But why?

1) Good Service Builds Trust

When a customer comes to you for a service or product they expect the transaction to occur without hassle on their part. But mistakes do happen and questions do arise, and it’s how you handle those situations that says a lot about your business.

“…companies who ‘fail to respond to customers via social channels’ experience a 15% higher churn rate than those who don’t.”

The knowledge that a customer can quickly and easily return or exchange a product, for instance, builds trust in your brand. They know that they can make a repeat purchase without risk. It’s your job to mitigate those risks, removing as many barriers to conversion as possible.

Remember, it’s far easier to keep a customer happy than it is to find a new one – and companies who ‘fail to respond to customers via social channels’ experience a 15% higher churn rate than those who don’t.

2) Loyal Advocates Build New Business

Good customer service is about more than ensuring the satisfaction of one paying customer. Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth recommendations. People talk. Please one customer and they might well recommend you to their friends, some of which convert and recommend. The principles apply to influencer marketing.

From one interaction you’ve not only secured repeat business from the initial customer, but potentially countless brand ambassadors. It’s the reason certain businesses, most visibly those in trade industries, can thrive on the back of loyalty and recommendations alone.

3) Social Media is Where Your Customers Are

With 38 million active users of social media in the UK alone, there is no other channel that brings together as many users in one place. And, in most cases, social media (Twitter and Facebook, in particular) represents the easiest touchpoint for customers and brands. In theory, an answer to their question or query is merely a few clicks away.

Why, then, do only 26% of companies ‘take social seriously as a customer service tool’?

You need to be where your customers are. Disgruntled customers will make complaints whether you’re there to answer them or not. But being there, and quickly, means you can head those complaints off before they result in damage to your brand and business.

How to Deal With Customer Complaints on Social Media

It’s not enough to know why you’re investing in customer service through social media. You should also understand how best to deal with complaints and queries to limit damage to your business, and turn a negative situation into a potentially positive one.

So, how should you be dealing with complaints on social media?

1) Respond As Quickly As Possible

If possible, respond to all complaints and queries within one hour. It doesn’t matter whether you have the answer to the specific question immediately, but simply acknowledging your customer and letting them know you’re looking into the issue goes a long way.

Sometimes queries take a little longer to deal with. And that’s ok. But make sure you’ve provided your customer with a time frame for response, or escalate the issue to another channel to be dealt with.

2) Escalate Where Appropriate

Not every problem can be dealt with through social media. The solution may be complex and require you to talk a customer through a tricky process, and others might want to pitch in and give their two cents on the matter. Knowing when to escalate the issue and take it offline is key to providing effective social care.

Offering to take the issue to email, or even a phone call, can help you focus on delivering a solution to their specific issue without interference. Simple issues should absolutely be fixed in a post or two on Facebook or Twitter, but those of a more complex nature often demand a different playing field.

3) Don’t Hide Your Mistakes

A mistake isn’t the end of the world. Whether it’s human error or a problem with an automated process, mistakes do happen. And it’s better to confront them than it is to shy away from them, driving your customers away at the same time.

Take ownership of the mistake, whether it’s yours or your company’s. Doing so means you can deal with the issue and make amends. The nature of social media means that any customer correspondence will be public – being humble, apologetic and working to fix an issue reflects far better on you than ignoring it.

And for God’s sake, please be human in your response. There’s nothing worse than receiving an automated response to an urgent issue.

4) Don’t Be Afraid to go the Extra Mile

Negative emotions can be turned into positive customer experiences. Understanding how to accomplish this is something that many businesses lack. Leaving your customers with a good feeling could be the difference between repeat business and brand indifference.

It may not be immediately feasible, but providing responses to customers on weekends is a great place to start. Facebook pages, for instance, actually make your response rate available for all to see. Having this under an hour instils confidence in your business. Leaving comments and complaints sit over the weekend can damage this and your reputation.

And why not follow up with particularly tricky issues that have arisen? Proactively ensuring that your customers are satisfied makes them feel valued and taken care of. Reassuring them that the problem has now been addressed – and won’t happen again – removes yet another barrier for repeat business.

5) Monitor Your Brand Online

Unsurprisingly, this is one of the least common aspects of social customer care undertaken by businesses. It requires serious commitment to community management and an understanding that conversations about your brand are likely happening “behind your back”.

A study by Mention found that nearly 31% ‘of tweets containing company names don’t include their Twitter handle’. That means that unless you’re actively using a monitoring tool to track those mentions, you’re unlikely to be able to manage any negative feeling that arises as a result.

Final Thoughts

If it isn’t already, social media will soon be the primary platform for customer service queries and complaints. Being ready to receive and deal with those complaints can drastically affect positive sentiment towards your brand, improving retention and increasing year-on-year positive social media mentions.

But simply being there isn’t enough. You need to be proactive in your approach to customer care through social media. Listen to your customers, respond quickly and go the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction. And, perhaps above all, learn from the problems your customers experience and start breaking down any barriers to repeat business they face time and again.

If you have any questions, or would like further information on now to implement effective customer support services on social media, please get in touch on +44 (0)1179 111 420, or send an email to info@digitalvisitor.com.