How to use social media for customer service

Nobody doubt: Customer service is important. We’ve all had an experience that pushed us over the edge, breaking our relationship with a brand.

You don’t want that brand to be yours.

But what’s your customer service strategy for social media?

If you don’t have one, it’s time.

Social Media Today reports that 67% of consumers use social media to resolve customer service issues. Even more important for your bottom line, customers spend 20-40% more with companies that engage and respond on social media. For small businesses and social enterprises, a 20-40% increase in a customer’s lifetime value can be revolutionary. What impact would you make if you could tap into that growth?

If you can’t be nice, don’t even try.

Sure, it’s a childish adage. But social media puts your brand’s customer service issues on display. And if that wasn’t enough? It opens the door for your responses (both the good ones and the missteps) to go viral. If you can’t approach your social media strategy with a cool head and positive tone, stay analog. You won’t be capitalizing on increased customer spending if you take a reactionary approach.

The brands who succeed in their social media customer service strategy rely on:

  • Empathy to make the customer feel valued and understood, helping to diffuse the situation
  • Curiosity to discover the root of the problem, finding areas for future growth
  • Receptivity to customer feedback, considering the conversation an opportunity rather than a judgment

I’m one of the 67% percent of people who expect online resolution to customer service problems.

Recently, a frustrating hotel search demonstrated exactly how brands can use social media to resolve customer service issues and create a positive brand experience.

While planning a trip, I set out to find an IHG property (because redeeming points is so satisfying). There were plenty to choose from. The catch? The massive amount of discounts, fees, and special rates the agent offered me made the process hopelessly confusing. On multiple occasions, choosing a discounted rate triggered an avalanche of fees that negated all savings.

What the hell.

So I picked up the phone and called Starwood. The agent gave me two simple options, and I booked a room. While waiting for my Starwood confirmation email, I tweeted my frustration to IHG.

social media customer service provided by ihg on twitter


Empathy. Curiosity. Receptivity.
I left the situation more firmly supportive of IHG than ever before.

Oh, and SPG? They stayed out of the Twitter exchange. Talk about a wasted opportunity. By listening to my frustration and responding to it as an opportunity for growth, IHG made me feel like we were on the same team—working to improve the hotel experience together. That’s a solid strategy.

How to be responsive to customers on social media

In order to effectively use social media to resolve customer service issues, you have to listen. The notifications on your social media accounts are a good place to start. Who is tweeting at you? What comments are fans leaving on your Facebook page? No matter how small your business is, you need to set aside time to respond to your customers regularly. 

I’m not saying you have to be glued to your phone, exchanging productive work for notification addiction. However, 42% of consumers expect a response on social media within 60 minutes. While your business might not be able to meet that goal (few can, although hiring a dedicated social media manager can relieve that burden), it’s important to decide on a timeframe for responding to customers.

Having a clear strategy is critical for success.

True social listening goes beyond the notifications you receive. You have to pay attention to what people are saying about your brand, even when they aren’t saying it to you. 

Hootsuite makes it incredibly simple to set up your social listening dashboard.  By using Hootsuite to monitor keywords across social media platforms, you can pay attention to what people are saying in real time — whether or not they tag you in the conversation.

Here’s how to set up your social listening dashboard:

  1. Login to your Hootsuite account
  2. Add keyword streams for your
    Company name
    Product names
    Branded hashtags
    Publication titles
    High profile employee names
    Other relevant terms for your brand

using hootsuite for social listening and customer service

In the end, you’ll have a collection of streams that will monitor your brand’s most important keywords. You may also want to monitor competitor’s names to find new opportunities for positioning your brand. Then, take action on these conversations by responding in a timely manner. You may be surprised at the way good social media practices can transform the customer experience of your brand and build loyalty.

using hootsuite for social listening

How does your brand approach social media customer service?

Are you staying out of the game entirely? Do you check in occasionally, but lack a clear plan? I’m interested to hear about your strategy (or what prevents you from having one in place) in the comments.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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