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How to Use Social Media for Customer Support

Customer service has evolved from the standard 1-800 number. Nowadays, customers flock to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to express their concerns. Here’s how you can create a social media strategy that incorporates customer service.

You’ve no doubt noticed a rise in technical questions, or complaints about your brand’s service, on your company’s social media pages. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are no longer the domain of marketers and advertisers. Today they’re valid channels for customer support and are increasingly part of an organization’s multi-channel support strategy.

Back in 2012, a survey from Oracle found that 31 percent of respondents expected direct access to customer service reps from a company’s social media channels. That’s a percentage that may be increasing, largely based on age demographics. Social media is now the second most preferred channel of engagement (behind electronic messaging) for Generation Y.

Here at Zendesk, we know that customer service expectations are rising year over year and that customers expect brands, both B2B and B2C companies, to offer a consistent experience across every communication channel. Yet it can be difficult to be consistent when different communication channels are owned by different departments, using separate tools.

At Zendesk we use our own product to handle customer service over Facebook and Twitter, but we also have a dedicated social media manager in the marketing department. So how does that work? Like most B2B companies, we’re learning as we go. The good news is that the best practices for using social media to provide customer service will be familiar to  marketers. And by having a cross-functional conversation between your marketing and support teams, you stand to only strengthen your brand’s identity, as well as to make it easier for your customers to get help.

Cut through the clamor

The more informed you can be, the better. You want to be able to meet your customers’ support needs on social media by building a strategy based on actual demand. Just providing ad hoc customer service on social media makes it hard to track volume or trends.

Take a pulse on your social volume to determine:

  • How many comments appear to be written in moments of frustration, perhaps after having a poor customer experience in person or online?
  • How many are technical or account-specific questions?
  • How many comments provide feedback, positive or negative? Perhaps these comments are generally handled by marketing, but is there an opportunity to proactively link to support articles or existing help content, and to drive customers to self-service options?

Alternatively, you might have great social engagement but aren’t getting many support inquiries through social channels. There are reasons to promote social media as a support channel. According to a report by Gartner, agents trained for social media have the potential to handle four to eight times the number of contacts as they can by phone.

At Zendesk, any direct @mentions on Twitter create a ticket in our Zendesk and route to both our social media and support teams. Our social media manager also uses Hootsuite to manage content across all our social pages, and she creates a ticket whenever an indirect mention of Zendesk would benefit from support’s attention.

Business in the front, party in the back

There is an argument for large companies or businesses with a lot of social traffic to keep their marketing and customer service separate on social media. Why? Because you don’t want frustrated customers mingling with new prospects in the public sphere.

In our tip sheets for providing great customer service on Facebook and Twitter, we recommend creating a separate support handle on Twitter and adding a support app or feedback tab to your brand’s main Facebook page. It’s important that support is easy for your customers to find. It’s also helpful for your support team to see all questions in one place and not have to sift through every comment.

That said, if your social pages aren’t a dumping ground for complaints, there may be no reason to do this. Smaller companies want to be easy to find, so sometimes it’s best to keep things simple. Also, when you have the opportunity to successfully resolve a customer question on a public profile, your customer service becomes a great marketing tool. Conversocial reported that 95.6 percent of consumers are affected by other customer  comments on a brand’s social pages, and so a positive support interaction can go a long way.

At Zendesk, our support advocates can decide whether to respond back through the @Zendesk handle, or through email, from inside Zendesk. We also have additional Twitter handles for customers to get product-related news (@ZendeskDevTeam), as well as for operations (@ZendeskOps) to report on system up-time.

How fast is too fast?

Edison Research reported that 42 percent of consumers who complained via social media expect a response within 60 minutes, and, according to the Oracle survey, more than half of Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting at a company. These can be difficult service levels to meet, though some companies are beginning to.

Chances are, a customer used social media because they believed it was the quickest way to grab your attention. That said, great customer service is an art (we think), and sometimes “social care” is an elevated art form because a good response over social media must do everything a great email can, but in less space and in less time:

  • Correctly identify the customer’s issue
  • Provide links to additional information
  • Close the loop (even to a “thank you” comment or tweet)
  • Include a personal touch, such as signing off with the agent’s first name or initials
  • Be consistent across the organization, with regard to tone and response time

When using social media for customer support, it’s key that you define priority criteria so that you’re quickly responding to direct technical questions, complaints, or urgent service issues. Speed is important, but so is accuracy, and ultimately, when it comes to support, it’s best to provide a resolution using the channel that makes the most sense. Just because a customer asked a question on Twitter doesn’t mean they need the response on Twitter too. Customer service inquiries are oftentimes more involved, and so anything that requires multiple back and forth replies, or sensitive personal data, should be moved to another channel of support.

  • adeem jan

    Such a nice topic you shared. Activeness and connecting with customers via social media can really helps for better business.

    Good customer relationship is very important to grow our business. I agree with your points like thanking to our customer and being apologizing helps to maintain good relationship.

    Social media is a great source to connect with our customers and interact with them to know their needs and apply with them.

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.… keep up the good work….

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