Should you use social media for customer service?

Posted under Social Media

The One Show recently set up a social media customer service experiment, contacting five different companies via email and Twitter to see which methods worked most quickly.

Twitter won hands down, each company responding quickly via this medium.

Independent of this, NewVoiceMedia also recently surveyed 2034 UK adults, and found 31 percent of us will post online following inadequate customer service.

Should you be providing customer service via social media?

Many of our customers today (ourselves included) have realised that we get quicker results if we complain on Twitter rather than usual traditional routes.  Of course the fact that social media is generally public means we know that we’ll get action more quickly.

If you’re a B2C (consumer facing) business this is a real dilemma – should you deal with service questions publicly using platforms such as Twitter and Facebook? It feels a bit like washing your dirty linen in public so it’s not surprising that it makes us feel vulnerable.

But unfortunately consumers will be in that space whether we have profiles or not.  The increasing ease of access to Twitter via mobile also means it’s just quicker to communicate in this way (see our blog on making your website mobile friendly for some interesting stats about mobile). Wouldn’t it be better to be able to address negative comments about your brand than have other people do so?

Here are some very good reasons to go social with customer service:

  1. Dealing with complaints and questions well is the perfect way to demonstrate publicly that you care about your customers, the positive PR benefits out-weighing any negative ones
  2. Social media gives you the opportunity to do more than just respond to complaints, you can ask for feedback too
  3. Joining a conversation with customers on a regular basis is a powerful way of building real time relationships

There are lots of good examples of this when you search. Interflora uses Twitter to provide customer support, adopting a variety of methods such as calling back or DM (direct message) to resolve a query:

Interflora on Twitter image

If you’re thinking of embracing social media to speak directly to customers, there are a few things to think about:

  1. Set up a separate profile for customer service where practical as it’s easier to manage, also clearer for people to know where to go to ask for help
  2. Have at least one person dedicated to managing this channel, once you start it must be attended
  3. Deal with each complaint individually – avoid copying and pasting a reply that’s the same. Your response should be personal.
  4. Understand when to take the conversation offline- never share or ask for personal details of your customers online and never start an argument. For unreasonable behaviour this can sometimes mean walking away.
  5. Have a social media policy and guidelines for the people in your team responsible for managing social media channels.

Engaging with consumers (particularly when it concerns your brand reputation) in most cases is a positive activity. Being open and transparent helps to build stronger customer relationships, but do remember that social media guidelines are important.

Karen McNulty

Karen joined Media Matters in 2007. She is an accredited trainer and Chartered Marketer (with the CIM) and has worked in the sector for over 20 years. She is passionate about technology and loves to keep up with new innovations and trends around Digital Transformation, digital marketing and cloud computing. A strategic, dynamic and innovative senior digital marketer, Karen has a rich and varied portfolio of experience in a variety of disciplines, industries and verticals.

Karen actually left us to pursue her interest in IT for a two year spell but couldn’t keep away! She has returned full of beans to raise the profile of digital and cloud marketing opportunities for business. Her role as operations director covers all things “techie" both in house and with on-boarding clients.