Customer service today is customer-driven and omnichannel. When someone is reaching out to your brand on social media, you need to be listening and ready to respond. While we find that most companies want to include social as an integral part of their Customer Experience, many feel like they don’t have a good plan or strategy in place to address comments or inquiries. Regardless of where your social media effort stands, it’s always smart to evaluate your social response strategy. Based on discussions with our partners (of all shapes and sizes), we came up with 10 basic rules to follow when it comes to social response:
1. Always respond (and try to do it within the hour)
According to a Forbes article from social media expert Jay Baer: “A lack of response is actually a response. It’s a response that says, ‘We don’t care about you very much’.”
While it may seem like an obvious practice, many organizations don’t follow the rule of thumb of responding to every comment or inquiry – good or bad.
Of course, there are underlying factors that prevent companies from responding on their social media channels, like corporate bureaucracy. Companies operating in highly-regulated industries may be less inclined to respond on social, for fear of saying something that could “get them into trouble.” (see rule #2). For those situations, it’s important to have approved responses on hand.
2. Have a plan in place and official statements drafted
Whether it’s a critical issue that needs to be addressed by a service agent, or a customer commenting: “I really love your products” — in which case a simple “Thank you!” will do — every interaction deserves attention. Employees need to be enabled to respond quickly to these comments and questions without the need to run everything past a PR or legal department first.
That’s where official responses and blanket templates come into play. Those statements are important for addressing complex issues or complaints from customers. Consider a car company doing a major recall that affects millions of vehicles, or a power company dealing with outages after an ice storm. In those cases, a number of customers are going to take to social media to ask questions, complain, or alert the company of issues. It’s important to — at the very least — let these customers know their concerns have been heard, and direct them to more information if possible.
Having responses prepared for frequent customer inquiries can also cut down on response time, which is important, as 42 percent of customers expect a response within 60 minutes, and 32 percent expect a response in just 30 minutes.
3. Be consistent with responses
It’s important for every customer representative to be on the same page when it comes to social response. If customers are getting different answers to questions or different levels of service depending on who they talk to, it can be harmful to your reputation. This is where tracking responses (#4) and having some responses prepared ahead of time (#2) can save a lot of time and prevent customer service headaches.
4. Track everything
Tracking social activity can help you better serve customers. Since you’re treating every social interaction the same way you would treat a customer email or phone call, it should be noted in the customer record whenever possible. Being able to measure and take action on your customer data is an integral part of delivering a great Customer Experience. And keeping track of social activities and the appropriate responses can be useful for employee reference and training later on.
5. Be friendly and personable
It should go without saying that people like to talk to other people — not robots. The more human you can make these digital interactions, the better. Companies like Zappos are nailing customer service by making interactions more personal and personable.
6. Be on the same page with executives and others visible on social
While most organizations have official corporate social handles, many also employ executives or other thought leaders who are active on public social channels. A corporate guide of social media dos and don’ts should be available to your employees.
If you have an individual who decides to go rogue and post inappropriate things on their social media accounts, it may be a good idea to ask them to dissociate those accounts from the business or set them to private. It’s great to have individuals who act as a mouthpiece for your brand, as long as they are only tweeting/posting/sharing things that align with your company values and messaging.
7. Find out what people are saying about you — even when they don’t know you’re listening
Some companies have a tendency to treat social media like the “comment box” at a restaurant. If someone puts a card in the comment box, the staff will read it and respond to it if necessary. But instead of waiting for someone to put a card in the box, employees should be walking around the dining room listening to what guests are saying about the food, service, etc. The same logic applies to social media: Always be monitoring what people are saying about your company, products, services, and industry. If you aren’t sure how to do this, there are listening tools available to help — like Social Studio on Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
8. Listen to competitor chatter too
To stay competitive, it’s just as important to listen to what people are saying about your competitors. Maybe people can’t say enough great things about Competitor X and their products, or maybe they’re getting berated with complaints — either way — knowing what customers and prospects like and don’t like is extremely valuable.
This tactic is also helpful for inserting yourself into a conversation. Say, for instance, that a competitor’s product lacks a feature that your product has, and a customer is complaining about not having it on social media. A well-crafted response could bring you a new customer.
9. Hang out where your customers are
Do your homework and find out what social channels people are using to interact with or talk about your business. Your customers are unique, and people tend to use different platforms depending on the industry. For example, a clothing retailer might get a lot of activity on Facebook, while a B2B services company might interact with customers more often on LinkedIn. No two companies are exactly alike, so it’s up to you to know your audiences and meet them where they are — and cater to them with the appropriate messages and responses.
10. Measure effectiveness
Social media interactions are important to map on the customer journey, and just like you may measure email activity or online shopping habits, knowing how your customers interact with your brand on social is just as important when it comes to providing a good Customer Experience. Are your social interactions with customers leading to more sales? Are customers less satisfied after interacting with you on social media? These are important marketing metrics to track. Surveys can be a great tool for collecting meaningful feedback and gauging customer satisfaction.
Whether you’re an organization of 10 people or 10,000, responding to your customers, prospects, and fans on social media is worth the time and investment. Not responding to a customer question on social media is like not answering the phone in a call center — not good for business. And on the flipside, executing great social response can drive loyalty and wow customers. As Baer said: “If you’re willing to invest in customer service and customer experience at a level your competitors aren’t, that is a differentiator. That is the defining factor that will set you apart.”
Nicole Klemp is a Staff Writer at Appirio, a global cloud services company that helps customers create next-generation worker and customer experiences using the latest cloud technologies. Nicole has worked in digital marketing for nearly a decade, studied marketing at Indiana State University, and has an MBA with a focus on management and leadership.