How to master social media customer service

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As an ecommerce business owner, you’re likely to be aware that you a strong line of communication between your business and your customers is essential. How do you achieve this? 

In today’s digitally connected world people are expecting more frequent lines of customer care than through email. Social media customer service can provide the perfect avenue for your customers to get in touch with you and strengthen your customer relationships

In fact, a Nielsen study has found that over 30% of customers prefer to contact brands through social media, while a separate Microsoft study shows that 64% millennials believe social media to be an effective form of communication with businesses.

In this article, we discuss seven ways that you can use social media as a form of customer care for your retail business, so that you can form strong emotional bonds with your customers and improve your provision of customer service.

1. Monitor for brand mentions

The rise of social media has put the power firmly in your hands of your customers. This digital development means that you are no longer the one in control of your reputation.

While you may not be looking for your customers on social media, they may be trying to find you. Not providing social media customer service may do your brand more harm than good.

In order to prevent this from happening, daily monitoring of your active social media channels is key to maintain a level of control over your brand’s reputation and to provide speedy customer service when in need. This becomes especially important as your business grows.

Most customers who are seeking a response from your business will tag your social media handle (e.g. using the @ symbol on Twitter or Facebook) so you’re likely to be notified and can remedy the situation as soon as possible.

However, this isn’t likely to be the case for every customer.

Some customers may choose to not include a tag which puts your brand name at risk. While you may not see their complaints first hand, all their followers will see their post and may then choose a competitor over your online retail shop.

That’s why monitoring your social media channels and the internet as a whole is so important. You want to diminish any negativity surrounding your business as quickly as possible – although admittedly this won’t always be possible

2. Respond in a timely fashion

Social media networks work in real time and, as such, any comments or complaints to do with your retail business need to be completed in a relatively timely fashion. 

Unlike with email, where it’s common to expect a wait of one to three days before receiving a response from a customer care team, customers typically expect a response within a few hours on social media – and even that’s pushing it as you’ll see further below. 

And, with the global average being above 30% for customers who have complained about a brand or its customer service, this is certainly not something to get wrong; a figure that will likely rise as more digital native generations progress into adulthood.

What’s more, an estimated 67% of customers now use social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook as a way to seek resolution for issues and spend 20-40% more with companies who engage and respond to them through the platforms. 

The speed of your responses on social media is also paramount: 

According to a study by The Social Habit, 32% of customers who have contacted a brand for customer support expect a response within a 30-minute timeframe, and 42% expect to be contacted by the brand within the hour.

If you’re not equipped to deal with this fast-growing trend, then you may do your brand and business more harm than good. Your customers form the backbone to your company and maintaining good relationships is a necessity to achieve a highly profitable business. 

3. Act like a human

When dealing with complaints or other comments on social media, it’s important to remember that you every comment you make reflects your brand online.

Developing a human personality for your brand allows you to engage with your audience on their level. Personifying your brand and giving it a human voice is a key element in an effective social media strategy, especially when looking to improve customer service.

The meaning of online communication (and the purpose of social media) has changed for the better – people value real, authentic, transparent and human conversations on social media over corporate interactions.

What’s more, a brand showing human-like characteristics helps to enhance a customer’s online experience and diffuse any negativity in a speedier fashion.

As a result, a simple thing such as voice can actually enhance his or her intent to buy from you. This is because people connect with people; a conversational human voice on social media positively impacts the customer experience — building trust, satisfaction, and commitment to your brand. 

4. Consider a dedicated support channel

As your business grows, an element to consider is a dedicated support channel to help with your supervision of complaints or comments on social media. 

The best platform to do this on is Twitter, and in fact, many large global brands already do.

If you also use the platform for marketing purposes, dealing with complaints is going to make your social media profile look cluttered and messy. What’s more, you probably don’t want potential customers seeing complaints first hand when vying your business out.

Of course, there is only a point in doing this if your brand and business is large enough to warrant it and you have experienced a lot of activity on Twitter. Otherwise, steer clear.

For example, online fast fashion retailer, Missguided, has two Twitter accounts – one for main marketing purposes and a secondary support account as they receive complaints every hour. They also helpfully label all ways you can access support at the top of their profile. 

You could also choose to make your customer service account private to keep prying eyes out of comments that could lose you future business, much like Adidas does. 

5. Go the extra mile

Although quick responses are needed when it comes to customer service on social media, many small to medium online retail brands still choose to leave it up to the customer to get in contact with a support line when they’ve posted a complaint or comment publicly. 

Think about this for a second.

Why might this annoy your customers and deter them from making future purchases?

For starters, they’ve already tried to contact you on their terms through their channel of choice. Choosing to fob customers off with an email address and suggesting they get in touch with your customer support team isn’t going to get you very far. 

Social media is social for a reason. People have increasing expectations of fast and helpful replies to remedy the situation that they are in. 

Instead, look at what you can do for the customer in a public spotlight. You can go the extra mile and fix whatever issue they have on social media – for everyone to see.

In doing this, you’re much more likely to create happy customers who feel that their needs and requirements have been met online. You also have a higher likelihood of creating customers who are more loyal and will choose to publicly advocate for your brand. 

Before making a purchase with you, first-time purchasers will likely check your social media profiles out. In fact, one in five people already do this – particularly for high risk purchases.

If they see that you deal with complaints in a speedy and helpful fashion, you have a higher likelihood of securing new sales, because your displaying that you are a brand that cares about its customers and the service that you provide to them. 

It’s also interesting to note that close to 50% of customers perceive that companies take complaints more seriously when their posted on social media websites, rather than choosing a more direct form of communication, such as email.

Another study by Gartner also found that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers. It’s clear social media support is essential.

While it’s a popular belief that negativity brings misfortune on social media, responding to customers in a public domain will give the impression that should anything go wrong with their order, they have a way to get you to listen to them on their terms.

6. Respond to both negative and positive online reviews

A misconception made by many online retailers is that reviews don’t count as social media. 

In fact, they do. Reviews are public forums and they have a big effect on whether or not potential customers choose to buy from you, as we’re sure you’re aware. 

So, how can you put yourself forward in the best light when it comes to reviews? 

Respond to them – and we’re not talking about just the negative ones. Respond to both positive and negative reviews with your human hat on, not a corporate formal voice. 

With negative reviews, show empathy for the customer’s situation first.

Put yourself in their shoes and think about how they must be feeling. This shows that you understand them and are trying to respond to their needs in a polite fashion.

Take care of the complaint instead of opening a discussion or debate about who is right and who is wrong. Showing that you understand their disgruntled state can have a positive effect on potential customers viewing your reviews and this can lead to more sales.

In the instance that you’re convinced a negative review has been left for little reason, we still don’t recommend to open fire. Instead, choose to thank them for their feedback and try to reconcile where possible and keep it clean, informal but polite.

What’s more, responding to positive reviews can create loyal customers who will likely become repeat customers and will happily advocate for your brand.

By showing that you are a brand that cares about both the good and bad, you create a caring reputation for your business, and this creates a level of trust between you, your customer base and any potential shoppers vetting you out before making a purchase.

7. Use a social media management tool

It can be hard work trying to keep on top of your social media presence, especially when it comes to customer service. That’s why a social media management tool can be handy. 

If you’re looking to make your approach to social media more efficient and streamlined, then a social media management tool can make your life a lot easier. 

We recommend checking out the following:

A social media management tool can help to organize not only your posts across multiple social networks, but also monitor brand mentions for your business, saving you on needing to check every single network that your retail business uses.

From any of the above recommendations, it’s easy to monitor your social platforms and you can respond easily to questions, engage with your customers and make sure that your customer service is on point across all your social media networks. 

Social media customer service with a smile

Social media is a powerful tool that is not going anywhere soon – it connects friends to family, brands to customers, customers to brands and humans to humans.

By utilizing social media for customer service, you are putting yourself exactly where your customers and future customers want you to be.

By investing in a social media customer service strategy, you can be sure that you are future-proofing your business, especially as more digital native generations enter adulthood and customer expectations evolve once again.