Before we even say a word, here’s a graph that we want you to spend a couple of minutes on.According to research by Khoros.com, approximately 50% of the consumers who engage with brands on social media are reaching out to solve their customer service queries.
That is half the customers approaching you on social media.
Because social media is where everything is now. You. Your customers. Your products. Your thoughts, their thoughts and everything in between. So if everything and everyone is on social media, then why would one go anywhere else to have their problems solved?
With easily available messaging channels, a platform to reach out to the masses and the ability to share thoughts along with photos and videos, Social Media is the place to make or break your brand's image. It is the citadel of the digital world where your King, the customers, truly reside.Which makes social media customer service a highly crucial part of the brand’s image and operations.Let us take this one step at a time.
The role of social media on relationships
There’s a phenomenon known as social displacement, when time spent on social media sites eats away at face-to-face interactions. Fears of social displacement have existed for centuries, beginning with the emergence of telephones. No matter the latest technology, there’s always going to be a fear that technology will impact our relationships with loved ones. But is the idea of social media reducing face-to-face interactions necessarily a bad thing?
Since the lockdown began in March 2020, everyone was taken aback. People who once met every day couldn’t do that anymore; Brick-and-mortar stores had to look for alternate ways to operate. Ultimately, what came to save the day? Social media.
Zoom allowed overseas families to connect when they couldn’t travel; E-commerce platforms encouraged many young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and start a LLC business. Social media provided a path for businesses to support their customers.
In particular, the relationship dynamic that stood out the most to us was between the customer and the brand through proactive social media customer service. Let’s explore.
Initially, one of the biggest selling points of social networking sites was to connect people virtually so that distance would not lead to losing contact. This helped many millennials and generation X people catch up with their school and college mates even while having zero physical contact and brought a lot of people together.
Moreover, when the lockdown began in March 2020, everyone was taken aback. People who once met every day couldn’t do so anymore; Brick-and-mortar stores had to look for alternate ways to operate. Ultimately, what came to save the day? Social media.
Zoom allowed overseas families to connect when they couldn’t travel; E-commerce platforms encouraged many young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and start a business. Social media provided a path for businesses to support their customers.
In particular, the relationship dynamic that stood out the most to us was between the customer and the brand through proactive social media customer service. Let’s explore.
What is social media customer service?
Social media customer service is offering support through channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For customers, it minimises the effort it takes to reach out to brands when having doubts or facing a problem as opposed to traditional methods like going to the company website, filing a complaint, and waiting for a service representative to get back to them.
For brands, it’s almost like moving from a scarcely populated ranch to a densely populated metropolis. When anyone faces a problem, their first instinct is to write a Facebook status about it. For example, by being active on Facebook, you’re allowed to control the narrative and fix the problem right there. It’s an essential element of customer success.
As social media becomes more sophisticated, brands slowly realise that it’s not only a channel for maintaining personal relations. It can progress into building professional connections as well. With social media, you can build a community for your brand.
And with customer expectations rising every year, the line between personal and professional relations is becoming more blurred. Now, customers expect omnichannel support over social media as well.
So, what is exactly the importance of social media customer service.
Why social media customer service is important?
Stronger brand awareness
When people think of brand awareness, they usually think of billboard advertisements and powerful word-of-mouth marketing, but it doesn’t have to be that grandiose. Sometimes, all it takes is an activation of a business account on social media. On average, a person is active on about 8 social media accounts. If your brand is present on these platforms, you have a greater monopoly on someone’s newsfeed.
By being omnipresent on someone’s newsfeed, you build awareness amongst prospects online. It’s comparable to building a bridge that connects them directly to your brand. This connection can be taken a long way towards creating more meaningful relationships, when brands avail customer service on these channels. By being available to engage customers on their favorite channels, businesses can build a strong rapport and a sense of loyalty with their customers
Connects you to your customers
Let’s face it. Whether you’re 13 or 30, you’re going to be glued to your phone. That’s just the nature of technology. At a subconscious level, people are absorbing information at alarming rates through their devices. If you consistently post content that provides value on a channel your customers are on, you’re allowing your customers to absorb more information about your brand. And with 24/7 social media support and online marketplaces, you’re providing a path for them to explore your brand openly.
Engages your customers
When building a brand or a community for your customers, engagement is exceptionally crucial. In an analog sphere, customers can only engage with you when they’re in-store. However, in a digital space, there are many opportunities for customers to engage with you. You can host giveaways, share unique content, provide instant support, and more. The possibilities are endless.
You can also reward a customer for liking your products and services to build a more compelling connection. If a customer mentions you in a tweet or makes a post about you on any social media channel, a basic response is a surefire way to build a healthy online relationship with your customer.. And if you encounter a negative review, you can also control the narrative for your brand. Sure, you can’t control what your customers are feeling, but you can control how you respond. Who knows? With the right choice of words and a smile(emoji), you could convert the negative experience into amore positive one.
On the subject of engagement, you can also personalise the interaction with each customer; As each interaction becomes more personalised, the engagement increases. Social media allows you to do so without being intrusive. It’s easy to slide into your customer’s activities on social media since it is ultimately a public cloud. Apart from sliding into profiles, taking advantage of omnichannel support also allows customer support to keep track of all conversations with a customer. This way you have context on all old conversations from different channels, all in a one view inbox, giving you all existing information on any recurring customer.
Quicker response times
Go back to the time when Google Suites servers were unresponsive for a couple of hours. What did users do? They went straight to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, making tweets and liking comments about this catastrophe. Work was on pause, leisure binge-watching on YouTube was at a standstill, and everyone was left confused.
Customers will use social media to vent their frustrations out. They tend to use it as an echo chamber and don’t always expect the business to respond, but imagine if the company they were complaining about responded to them immediately? Expressing their sincerest apologies? The customer would be pleasantly surprised.
Brands can use social media to respond to distressed customers in real-time to find a quick resolution for their situation. It’s faster than sifting through an online complaint box and routing the complaints to the appropriate departments. This speed and proactivity are what customers expect from brands. In fact, 72% of customers expect a response within 2 hours of posting a negative tweet, which leads us to our next point.
Provides accurate insights on customer expectations
Sure, you can send out a survey to a customer, but how honest are they with us? And how likely are they to take the time out to fill out a review? Unless you offer an incentive to fill a review out, it’s unlikely to happen. However, there is a way to gather insights on customer expectations without surveys. Try social media.
As we’ve mentioned, when customers post a review about a brand, they typically don’t expect them to respond. This allows them to be more candid and honest with their reviews- customers are voluntarily providing feedback. You can gauge what you’re doing right and what you need to adjust on social media. Even a like or comment on your recent posts should give you enough information on the gaps you need to fill to increase your customers’ satisfaction and exceed their expectations.
So now that you know why it’s crucial to be present on social media, here’s how to develop a social media customer service strategy.
How to a social media customer service strategy?
The first step towards building a comprehensive social media customer service strategy is acknowledging that it is necessary. Understand that customers are moving away from the call center and email sphere and entering the social circle. Make social media a priority amongst your teams and treat it with the same respect as other customer service channels. Find out what your customers’ most favorite social media platforms are, and have your customer support teams available to aid and engage them. For most businesses these channels may be limited to popular channels like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkdIn. Others may have to branch out to channels like Pinterest, Youtube, Snapchat and more, based on the brand and its customers niche.
It is absolutely essential to be aware of where your brand is being mentioned directly and indirectly, and to actively engage with appropriate responses whenever required.
You can start with doing searches on social media for likes, tags and mentions of your brand. While channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provide you with search bars to do the same manually, you would eventually require to invest in a social media monitoring tool to keep complete tabs on what is being said about your brand online.
According to a research by Jay Baer of convince and convert, answering a complaint on social media can increase consumer loyalty by 25%, while not answering a complaint can lower consumer loyalty by a whole of 50%. Which makes it crucial for a brand to be on top of their game when it comes to social media customer service.
It is crucial for any business to remember that the Customer is King. And when it comes to social media, your consumers almost completely control your brand's image. Therefore it's isn't sufficient to just track where your brand is being mentioned, you must actually listen to why your brand is being mentioned.
Is it a complaint from a frustrated customer who had a bad experience? Or is it just feedback? Is the feedback positive or negative? Are there queries to be solved? How many queries can be answered by using links of your existing help content?
Where else is your brand being mentioned? Are there any indirect mentions in conversations you should be a part of? What are these conversations about and how can you benefit the most from them?
There are a lot more questions that you as a brand must ask yourself as you get into social media customer service.
One of the initial questions to start with would be to know what time your customers are the most active on social media during the day. Once that is established, you can answer the above mentioned questions to properly evaluate and improve on your customer service on social media.
You can then further go into sifting and segregating through such interactions to prioritize comments and mentions that require an immediate response from the ones that can wait or do not require a response.
To make a rough priority list for you:
Urgent responses- These are complaints that need active resolution
2. Complaints from dissatisfied users
3. Issues affecting multiple users that may potentially cause a PR crises
4. Issues/mentions from older existing customers who have been with you for a while
Proactively responses - These are issues and situations that are not very urgent but give you the opportunity to be proactive
4. Thanking those who buy and promote your product or provide positive feedback
5. Responding to mentions of your brand, product or services.
6. Responding to comments made about your brand that may not have been targeted to you.
This way you can prioritise your replies and get the opportunity streamline the entire process with technology.
The next step is to have the right social media tools in place. Of course, you can’t expect a team to monitor your social media accounts 24/7. So, what’s the next best solution?
An always-on intelligent conversational chatbot.
A chatbot can engage with your customers on the channel they prefer with no downtime without any human intervention. An intelligent chatbot will also personalize every interaction with your customer. It can address the customer by their name and broadcast offers that align with their interests. When an agent needs to step in, the chatbot will seamlessly transfer the conversation without any hassles or delays.
Responsiveness is vital for customer service and satisfaction, but it’s imperative when dealing with customers who are active on Facebook Messenger.
Messenger rewards responsive businesses with colour-coded badges. The highest award is a green badge that states “very responsive to messages.”
To get this badge, you need a response rate of 90% and an average response time of precisely 15 minutes per interaction over a week. Obtaining this badge communicates to both customers and prospects that you have a top-of-the-line customer-care center.
While chatbots can take over 24/7, there are times when customers want to chat with a live agent immediately. Imagine their disappointment if they go through the effort of finding your page, initiating a conversation to speak with an agent, and they get hit with a reply that says, “come back tomorrow between these hours.”
A more effective way of communicating your agent’s operating hours is by stating them in your description boxes. This way your customers know exactly when they can directly contact a live agent for a more personal and flexible service.
Once the chat is connected with a live agent, it is important for them to have appropriate context on the customer they are dealing with. By using omnichannel you can record and keep track of all customer conversations across channels. With access to previous conversations the customer has had with the chatbot and other live agents. This gives customer service more than enough context to help the customer appropriately and maintain a personalised engagement to enhance the customer's support experience .
Multi-channel customer support is extremely beneficial for all digital marketing, sales and support systems of a business.
Average customer service is good, but have you ever heard of anyone raving about how average your service is? Probably not, so it’s time to go beyond. Create guided processes to deal with customer inquiries for your team to follow to ensure everyone is on the same page when dealing with questions. It minimises errors and raises the quality and consistency from average to fantastic.
Hire the right people to handle these inquiries and support them with the right customer engagement platform. In case a customer is facing an issue that one member of the team isn’t prepared to deal with, the routing engine can transfer the conversation to the appropriate agent without any hassle.
Remember that hiring the right person involves a lot of faith. Suppose you believe an employee can represent your company and provide customer-centric service. In that case, you have to trust them to speak on behalf of your brand and give them the freedom to build meaningful relationships with your customers.
When things went wrong in the past, the most your customer would do is complain about your brand to their close friends and families. Nowadays, with how quickly information spreads with technology, it is easy for a customer to screenshot the error and broadcast it on social media. The worst thing you can do is ignore that complaint till external replies will start pouring in, and it escalates from a customer-brand problem to a community-brand problem.
You have to have a crisis plan to face it head-on.
Remember, even when you feel like the customer is wrong, they’re still right. You have to acknowledge that what they’re feeling is valid and apologize immediately for causing any discomfort. Then ensure that you’re working towards resolving the problem and following up with the customer with a solution or updating the issues. It is also recommended to follow this protocol for all customer complaints as a preventive measure.
Customer service is also known as customer support or care, indicating or rather stating the fundamentals of the entire industry. To care for and support the customers and keep them satisfied. Therefore it is important to keep certain things in mind when providing customer support on social media.
- Listen to your customers.
- It is important to identify the problem.
- Give quick/prompt responses.
- Support your customer as a team.
- Provide helpful links to additional information.
- Be honest about what you don't know
- Close the loop to every message, comment or mention.
- Practice empathy.
- Give a personal touch to the conversation.
- Be consistent with your tone and response time across all channels of the organisation.
Also always remember to always respond to your customers and interact with them online. Also promote your customers by liking and sharing their content. Especially if it involves you.
The final step is to remember not to operate in silos. At Engati, we reinforce the idea that customer experience is a culture that flows within the organization. The feedback you receive from social media shouldn’t stay within customer service teams. It should be communicated with everyone, from product to marketing, all the way to the C-suite. To create exceptional standards, everyone needs to be in the loop. That way, your company can get to know your customer even better to build an even more meaningful relationship with your customers, which should be the ultimate goal.
Bad social media customer service - What not to do.
Let us end this article with what one should not practice as part of social media customer service.
DO NOT let your customers feel neglected. You may not be able to cater to everyone, but you can ensure that all the DMs' queries are taken care of.
DO NOT Go on the defensive. There will be many kinds of customers, some angry and some plain mean. It is important to remember that they are still customers, thank them for bringing the issue to your attention, acknowledge the problem and apologise.
DO NOT Bombard customers with unnecessary information. Always share information in question-answer bits without throwing lengthy articles and responses at them. Be as specific to the question as possible, and suggest shifting to a live chat or call to address complicated concepts.
DO NOT Delete or hide customer comments unless they are spam or against community guidelines. Deleting negative comments from customers can further affect your relationship with them and hurt your brand's reputation.
DO NOT reply to every single customer when there is a mass issue. In cases where many customers are affected by a single issue, it is recommended to provide a public online status update, over individually, trying to explain to customers separately.
Engati enables brands to utilise the power by using social media customer support. Our intelligent customer support chatbots can respond to and personalise any interactions with customers and bridge the gap between customers and brands.
If you register with Engati right now, you can get started with Engati’s integrated engagement platform with unlimited live chat agents for up to 30 days!