The keys to offering great customer service with social media

customer service with social media

Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review ran an article with the headline, “Your Company Should Be Helping Customers on Social.”

I think that sums up the bottom line very well: You should be offering great customer service with social media. However, it does leave some details to be filled in and that’s where the picture can get complicated.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” pattern for a small business that wants to offer great customer service with social media. Depending on the size and nature of your business, the appropriate strategy, tools and platforms change. We will look at the topic starting at the “entry level” and build from there.

Your first platform

When small businesses have only one active social media platform, Facebook is almost always the channel of choice. It has the biggest number of users and your small business can definitely use it to serve your customers.

A friend was trying to get of a printer ink supplier’s mailing list and the unsubscribe link was not working. He found the company’s Facebook page, posted his problem and it was quickly solved.

Even if you are limiting your social customer service to Facebook, you need to respond within an hour, and the sooner the better. Go beyond an hour and your customers will feel it.

The downside of Facebook is that everyone can see everything posted and add their own comments. However, when they see you resolve an issue in a way that pleases customers, being able to witness that will have a positive impact on your business.

Twitter for social customer service

Twitter has been the platform of choice for companies both large and small that want to offer great customer service with social media. With 140 characters you can’t explain how to change the water filter on a counter depth side-by-side refrigerator…but you could send a link to a page or PDF that does give the complete instructions.

Because messages are short and to the point – and generally responded to quickly – consumers seem to prefer Twitter for a customer service pipeline. Major corporations devote separate accounts dedicated to serving customers, like Best Buy’s @twelpforce.

Being able to funnel a big percentage of customer service inquiries to your Twitter account can simplify operations. And if you want to go beyond merely providing great customer service with social media, to providing a great customer experience, Twitter can be very useful, but it does “up the ante.”

To provide extra value to your customers, you need to be listening to your mentions in the social media. For example, a California hotel noted that a client due to arrive one day had tweeted that he looked forward to a spa visit. The hotel staff noted that and booked his time in advance.

Social media listening

As that example illustrates, social media listening has a role in proactive social media-based customer service systems. You can get started in social media listening by monitoring your mentions or specific hashtags in an app like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

There are more specialized services that will go further than mentions on Twitter, such as TopWalker and others. If you want to start “listening” you may want to know about every mention of your brand.

Further, many small businesses that deal directly to consumers will want to monitor what is being said about them on the different rating sites. For example, if a customer posts a critical restaurant review on Yelp, it would we wise for the owner to respond and try to make the situation right. The same goes for any site a customer might post a review, including Amazon.

Now you can see that providing great customer service with social media can be very time consuming. You can start with a simple business page on Facebook and evolve it all the way to monitoring any mention of your brand across the entire Internet.

However, let me end with one final word of advice. If you have great employees, good products and an excellent system, you won’t find yourself cyber-racing across the Internet trying to put out customer service fires.

No matter what approach you take to providing social media customer service, if you’re providing a great experience to begin with, your job will be much easier.