10 Rules for Responding to Customers on Social Media

February 9, 2017 Nicole Klemp

Customer service today is omnichannel and customer-driven, so when someone wants to reach out to you on social media, you need to be there, ready to respond. But while we find that most companies want to include social as an integral part of their Customer Experience, many say they aren’t exactly sure how to respond to social media comments and questions. Whether you have a robust social media program in place or your strategies are a work in progress, it’s as good a time as any to do a wellness check on your social response. Based on our many conversations with organizations of all shapes and sizes, we came up with 10 rules for responding to customers on social media.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but many organizations fail to respond to many (or any) of their social media interactions. As a social media expert, Jay Baer said in Forbes: “A lack of response is a response. It’s a response that says, ‘We don’t care about you very much’.”

Sometimes there are underlying factors that prevent companies from responding to customers on social media… like corporate red tape, including legal and compliance restrictions. For example, companies operating in highly-regulated industries may be less inclined to enable employees to respond on social for fear of saying something that could “get them into trouble.” For these situations, it’s important to have approved responses on hand (see Rule #2). Whether they’re critical issues that need to be addressed by a service agent or by just someone commenting: “I really love your products” — in which case a simple “Thank you!” will do —  every interaction deserves attention. And employees need to be enabled to respond quickly to these comments and questions without the need to run everything past a PR or legal department first.

This is especially important for addressing complex issues or complaints from customers. A car company doing a major recall that affects millions of vehicles, or a power company dealing with outages after an ice storm, are a couple of examples. In cases like this, a number of customers are going to take to social media to ask questions, complain, or alert the company of issues. It’s important to — at the very least — let these customers know that their concerns have been heard, and direct them to more information if possible.

Having responses prepared for frequent customer inquiries can also cut down on response time, which is important, as 42 percent of customers expect a response within 60 minutes, and 32 percent expect a response in just 30 minutes.

Some companies have a tendency to treat social media as the “comment box” at a restaurant. If someone puts a card in the comment box, the staff will read it and respond to it if necessary. But instead of waiting for someone to put a card in the box, they should be walking around the dining room listening to what guests are saying about the food, service, etc. The same logic applies to social media: Always be monitoring what people are saying about your company, products, services, and industry. If you aren’t sure how to do this, there are listening tools available to help — like Social Studio on Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

To stay competitive, it’s just as important to listen to what people are saying about your competitors as to what they’re saying about you. Maybe people can’t say enough great things about Competitor X and their products, or maybe they’re getting berated with complaints — either way — knowing what customers and prospects like and don’t like is extremely valuable. Or say, for instance, that a competitor’s product lacks a feature that your product has, and a customer is complaining about not having it on social media. A well-crafted response could bring you a new customer.

Tracking social activity can help you better serve customers. Every social interaction should be treated the same way you would treat a customer email or phone call and should be noted in the customer record whenever possible. Being able to measure and take action on your customer data is an integral part of delivering a great Customer Experience. And keeping track of social activities and the appropriate responses can be useful for employee reference and training later on.

It should go without saying that people like to talk to other people — not robots. The more human you can make these digital interactions, the better. Companies like Zappos are nailing customer service by making interactions more personal and personable.

While most organizations have official corporate social handles, many also employ executives or other thought leaders who are active on public social channels. Having a corporate guide to social media dos and don’ts available to your employees can help manage any issues. If you have an individual who decides to go rogue and post inappropriate things on their social media accounts, it may be a good idea to ask them what they dissociate those accounts from the business or set them to private. It’s great to have individuals who act as a mouthpiece for your brand, as long as they are only tweeting/posting/sharing things that align with your company values and messaging.

Do your homework and find out what social channels people are using to interact with or talk about your business. Your customers are unique, and people tend to use different platforms more often depending on the industry. For example, a clothing retailer might get a lot of activity on Facebook, while a B2B services company might interact with customers more often on LinkedIn. No two companies are exactly alike, so it’s up to you to know your audiences and meet them where they are — and cater to them with the appropriate messages and responses.

Social media interactions are important to map on the customer journey, and just like you may measure email activity or online shopping habits, knowing how your customers’ interact with your brand on social is just as important when it comes to providing a good Customer Experience. Are your social interactions with customers leading to more sales? Are customers less satisfied after interacting with you on social media? These are important marketing metrics to track. Surveys can be a great tool for collecting meaningful feedback and gauging customer satisfaction.

  1. Always respond (and do it quickly).
  2. Have an official response for major concerns or inquiries.
  3. Find out what people are saying about you — even when they don’t know you’re listening.
  4. Listen to competitor chatter too.
  5. Track everything.
  6. Be friendly and personable.
  7. Be consistent with responses.
    It’s important for every customer representative to be on the same page when it comes to social response. If customers are getting different answers to questions or different levels of service depending on who they talk to, it can be harmful to your reputation. This is where tracking responses (#5) and having some responses prepared ahead of time (#2) can save a lot of time and prevent customer service headaches.
  8. Be on the same page with executives and others visible on social.
  9. Hang out where your customers are.
  10. Measure effectiveness.

Whether you’re an organization of 10 people or 10,000, responding to your customers, prospects, and fans on social media is worth the time and investment. Not responding to a customer question on social media is like not answering the phone in a call center — not good for business. And on the flipside, executing great social response can drive loyalty and wow customers. As Baer said:  “If you’re willing to invest in customer service and customer experience at a level your competitors aren’t, that is a differentiator. That is the defining factor that will set you apart.”



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