This is probably one of the most missed opportunities for small businesses when it comes to social media. Because social media can be so complicated—you have to have someone manage it, you have several different platforms to work with, your content has to be relevant and engaging, you need to be looking at metrics for analysis, etc.—customer service is usually the last thing on anyone’s mind.

While using social media for customer service purposes may not be the first thing to worry about when creating a social strategy, it isn’t something that should go unnoticed completely. Once you are a little bit more advanced and have all of your different social accounts running smoothly you can start to take on customer service requests. You have to create an entirely new strategy to make this work, but it’s an excellent avenue to use to help set you apart from the competition.

3 Quick Benefits and Statistics for the Social Customer Service Strategy

There are essentially three major reasons that using social for customer servicer purposes is important for future success:

  • The Consumers Want It. According to a ZenDesk article, nearly half of all US consumers use social media to ask questions, complain, or report something, and one third of social users prefer social media customer service to a phone call.
  • Beat the Competition. For whatever reason, businesses are still missing out (despite the last point). According to a Triangle Direct Media article, a 2015 Northridge Group study found that 40 percent of consumers expect resolution within one hour when using social media, but one-third of those who contact a brand never get a response.
  • Consumers Have New Expectations (they want fast). The rise of the Internet has made consumers a little bit less patient. Everything is at their fingertips, and customer service should be as well. Even if you are trying to stray away from the phone calls and offering online options, you can’t beat social media because it is so widely available and used. This is essentially why social media content is so important in the first place. It offers information fast, and consumers expect answers to their questions fast.

Tips to Creating a Social Strategy That Improves Customer Service and Response Times

It is important that you create a process not only within your company to responds quickly to questions that pop up on social media, but you have to make sure that you’re actually encouraging questions in the first place and letting your consumers know that your social accounts are ready and expecting your questions. Remember: This does not mean anything else about your social strategy has to change; it’s just a great add-on.

So how do you start? Below are a few things you can do to make sure you’re successful:

  1. Have a designated account for support questions.

This is probably the biggest tip anyone can give you. It may seem overwhelming to have questions being posted to your social media accounts, but that’s because it is. What you need to make sure you do is setup accounts specifically for questions and help. Take Hootsuite for example. They have an @hootsuite_help account that answers questions right then and there. They talk more about their success here where they talk about why developing their own product in this way was so important.

  1. Make it known on your accounts that you welcome questions and comments.

Naturally, if you’re going to have a separate account for all questions that come through via social media you have to let people know that the account exists. Market it by writing a blog post and making an announcement. Start following loyal customers and getting the word out there, and of course put the account link in your description on your actual social pages.

If for some reason someone does ask a question on the wrong page, it’s a good idea to still answer it if it is a quick answer to show that you’re monitoring your accounts and you appreciate the questions (and you don’t just have the generic “please call us”). However, this is also a great time to point someone to your help page; thus getting the word out even further.

  1. Treat your responses like a conversation and keep it public.

Unless a question or comment is very involved and needs to be taken off social media and into a direct message and then probably an email or a phone call, you want to keep your answers public. This helps show that you’re answering questions and are engaged with your customers/ clients. As far as reading “like a conversation” goes, it’s important to simply talk like a real person and not a computer. When an issue is solved, go the extra mile and say, “thanks so much for asking!” so that it shows you’re engaged and not just managing a huge operation of questions. Social Media Examiner offered this great screenshot below:

nordstrom Using Social Media to Improve Your Customer Service

  1. Make sure you have enough people working to answer questions quickly.

Again, one of the biggest benefits of social media customer service is the fact that people can ask questions and get answers quickly. You need to be prepared for the influx of questions and make sure they’re answered quickly and correctly. It’s tough to be prepared at first, so air on the side of caution and consider allowing several or your employees to take one hour out of their day to manage the questions and/or send them to the right people to answer.

I recommend having one person from each department in charge of looking over your support accounts and answering when appropriate so that you have someone from all areas answering. Then, you need to have your social media expert or team keep an eye out on all of the accounts to make sure nothing gets looked over.

  1. Have your hours of operation clearly stated.

People are used to social media being there and ready to work 24/7. It’s important you put your hours of operation clearly on your accounts to avoid any confusion.

  1. Don’t forget to send people back to your website to learn more.

As you answer questions, don’t be afraid to put links to your website in your answer if relevant. Not only will this get someone onto your website and hopefully clicking around, but because your answers are public other people may click as well to learn more.

The Takeaway

Again, it’s important that your social media accounts don’t turn into a place full of questions. You still want the majority of your social platforms to be full of engaging and relevant content, images, videos, and company news. Questions should not take over, which is why I highly recommend having separate accounts if possible.

Do you have any experience with using social media as an avenue for customer service, either as a consumer or as a company owner? Let us know in the comment section below.

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