5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Media Customer Service

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Media Customer Service

Consumers rely heavily on social media to make purchasing decisions, and they rarely keep their opinions and experiences to themselves. They use social media to reach out to companies, to ask questions or to lodge a complaint. Are you listening?

Here are five ways you can do a better job with your social media customer service and customer relations.

1. Set Up Your Policies and Guidelines

Put processes and guidelines in writing for your internal staff and customer service team. Define how your company will respond to positive, negative and even neutral comments and feedback. If there is a complaint, decide how the issue will it move from social media to another form of communications such as email or even a phone call. Some other things to define include:

  • Who will monitor your social media accounts and how and when should they respond?
  • Who within your company receives what specific types of messages, inquiries or complaints?
  • What is your approach to complaints – everything from the wording and tone to remedies?

After you have your processes in place and written out, train any staff who may be part of the process of handling customer inquiries or complaints.

2. Listen with the Right Tools

A good social media customer service program requires a the right tools that integrate into the social networks you use the most. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are two affordable social media dashboards that give you both listening and posting tools and ways to manage customer service activities. Once you have your social media monitoring tool, you should:

  • Set up tracking for keywords and key hashtags including your company name and other related search terms.
  • Set up notifications so you are alerted to posts that pertain to your company or industry.
  • Pay attention to current events that could affect your business or customers.
  • Create templates of answers to frequently asked questions for fast response.

Provide relevant team members on your staff with access to your social media dashboard with permission levels commensurate with their roles. Provide training accordingly.

3. Acknowledge All Comments and Messages

No comment made about your company or products should go unanswered. Even a neutral expression such as “stopped by ABC Restaurant for lunch today” should be met with, at the very least, a courteous response such as “Glad to have you!” Keep in mind that by engaging a customer, you will be expected to continue to be responsive so don’t move on and call it good. Be prepared to hear back from the customer – and be aware that the response may not always be positive.

4. Take It Off Social Sooner Than Later

If you find a negative comment about your company in social media – or if your interactions surface a complaint – be prepared to steer the customer to a better forum for handling the situation. You need to be at the ready with an immediate response and potential remedy, although situations will vary so pay close attention to what you are reading. Most people simply want to be heard and their displeasure acknowledged. Leading with an apology (not an admission of blame) can help.

Start with a statement something like “We’re sorry to hear that! Please email us at ______ to let us know what happened so we can help.” Then get ready for the email or call. Demonstrating you are listening, that you care enough to reach out, and that you’re ready to hear them and help can go a long way to diffusing a negative situation. The sooner you can get the conversation off social media, the better experience for everyone.

5. Learn From Your Customers

Keep track of when you’ve engaged with customers in social media and provided customer service stemming from those interaction. Document what was said and done and the final outcome. Don’t let this information go to waste. Review customer service issues that came from social media and learn from the information. If you see customers complaining about the same issue – such as a faulty product feature – this is the time to review your manufacturing or quality assurance processes. If you hear frequently that customers are unhappy with service they received from your company, this is the time to assess personnel issues and potentially provide additional training.

If you aren’t listening and learning from what your customers are saying in social media, you’re missing valuable information that can help you enhance customer service and even improve your products, services and company.