Even if your company isn’t ready for it yet, social media is probably used by many of your customers as a way to contact businesses about products and services. Many major companies are hiring entire teams of social media specialists who are trained on how to best respond to customer service requests through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other sites.

Whether you have a team of your own handling social media customer service, or you’re the sole manager learning best practices, these suggestions can help you improve your messaging and strategy. They offer solutions to help you provide timely responses to your customers, no matter how they contact you.

Customer Service

Track Misnomers and Misspellings

It’s common sense to track mentions of your brand and products through your username and product names. Have you ever thought to track misspellings and other mistakes? If you don’t, you may miss out on valuable customer service opportunities, or people saying great things about what you offer.

Be sure to track the hashtag version of any Twitter and Instagram accounts you own, including top executives’ names. For example, #MarkCuban is a common hashtag for the people discussing the Dallas Mavericks, as he’s the owner.

One Instagram user, a children’s librarian whose quirky style has earned her over 17.2K followers, used the hashtag #modcloth instead of tagging the company’s official Instagram profile, @modcloth. In one post, her followers fell in love with her green dress and asked her where they could buy it. This is a valuable opportunity for ModCloth, a popular inexpensive clothing retailer, to thank the user for her post, then direct the commenters to the page where they can buy the garment or find something similar.

Besides random hashtag use, be sure to track misspellings of your brand and products as well. ModCloth also needs to track the results of “Modclothe” which is a common misspelling, and “Mod Cloth.” There are plenty of opportunities for the ModCloth team to engage with customers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and they have to be on top of the variations in how their audience addresses them. To come up with hashtags and misspellings, brainstorm options with your team in a shared Google Doc, or look at the customer service archives or Google AdWords data to see if there are any common misspellings.

Have a Team Around The Clock or Receive Alerts

The best social media teams work in shifts so social media is managed 24/7, even on holidays. If your organization isn’t to that level yet, consider setting up alerts on employee phones (or your phone, if you’re the sole manager) to get notifications for mentions on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The Facebook pages app is great for handling these, as well as for managing posts. While push notifications aren’t the most peaceful option, many entrepreneurs or social media managers find that they sleep better at night knowing their apps will ping them if there are any fires to handle.

But if this isn’t an option or you want something more scheduled, set multiple, recurring daily reminders to check your social media mentions and customer messages. Many customers won’t mind an answer within four to eight hours, depending on the request. However, this obviously isn’t true for a company like Southwest Airlines: People use social media to ask about flights or luggage. Make sure you choose the best option for your business.

Finally, if your organization is big enough that it handles more than 50 or 100 customer service requests per day, it may be time to formalize your strategy by having a dedicated team. Most organizations wouldn’t bat an eye to hire enough customer service representatives to manage the phones or email support requests, and social media shouldn’t be any different. Many large companies have dedicated Twitter accounts just for customer service help, such as @DellCares, or they have their Support information right in their Twitter bio, like Virgin America.

Setting up a dedicated Twitter customer service account should also be considered and shown as an option to users. The Virgin America support page gives all the options customers can use to contact them, and Twitter is just one.

Customers like options that make getting ahold of someone as easy as possible. After all, people spend just under five hours per day on their phones and 28 per cent of their time online on social media. Be available where they are—it’s crucial to your customer service efforts.

Be the Fall Guy and Do What It Takes to Fix It

When customers reach out via social media, they are usually looking for a response that includes a resolution or a next step toward fixing their problem. If they are complaining about a product or service, and you have the power to fix it, it is usually more beneficial to do so. Making customers go through a long process of calling a support line or emailing a different person wasn’t their preferred method of contacting your organization, so why make them go through that if it’s not needed?

One example is with Delta’s Twitter support. My husband spelled my middle name wrong on our honeymoon flight reservations. The third-party booking site he used responded to his request to update the reservation and said it would require more than $50 in change fees. Instead of settling for this option, I tried tweeting at Delta first, and the error was fixed within the hour.

Because of a simple exchange over Twitter, Delta did what it took to make the change and keep my business; since then, I’ve turned into an advocate for them. Delta could have earned a few bucks charging me for the change, but an advocate for your brand is much more valuable.

Whenever possible, when customers reach out through social media, do what it takes to fix issues quickly and easily. After all, if they contact you through a fast-moving medium, it makes sense to resolve problems (as often as possible) in the same way.

Social media customer service comes down to three things:

  1. Tracking as many variations as possible of your brand and product mentions
  2. Responding to these mentions and requests for support as quickly as possible
  3. Doing what it takes to make the customer happy

While it may take some experimentation to figure out what works best for your organization to get customer service right through Twitter, Facebook, or other platforms, it’s worth mapping out a dedicated strategy. After all, making sure your customers are satisfied is the quickest way to get more good words about what you offer published online.

Customer Service

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