It’s now an extremely common way to engage with a business and is quickly becoming a de-facto communication channel. It’s no wonder that so many people are turning to social media seeking customer service - it’s accessible, free, easy & public. In short - it’s an exceptional way for customers to get answers to their questions, share experiences and ultimately, be heard.

When it comes to your business, will social media be a viable way to accomplish these things? If not, perhaps it should be? It’s time to put in place a process that will help you deliver the support your customers need and expect. What would this type of process look like for you?

When your business is approached (or @’d) publically

Direct messaging is available on every major social network but some would rather ask questions, leave reviews and make complaints out in the open to ensure others can learn from them or to see if they can leverage their feedback for some greater response. How can you keep tabs on what people are saying and provide good customer care over these channels?

Track what people are saying about your business

Online reputation monitoring software solutions can track al mentions of your brand, products or services. Receiving these types of reports will provide you with the ability to witness each and every mention posted, in real-time. It opens the way for you to engage with your audience and customer base even when customer service is not outright requests.

For example, imagine that a customer states an issue they had with your product on social media. They don’t tag your business in their post nor do they sound as if they’re seeking solution.

Without social monitoring, you may never see this post at all. With it, however, you can both witness, track and respond to these types of conversations, perhaps providing the opportunity to resolve the issue proactively; earning that person’s loyalty. This is just one of several ways social listening/monitoring/tracking can be valuable for your business.

Comment on public reviews appropriately

Is someone shouting about how much they love your brand, products or services? If they are, be sure to thank them sincerely with a custom comment. This will not only increase their brand loyalty but also impress online witnesses/bystanders.

Furthermore, if the happy customer hasn’t left a formal review and you would like them to, don’t hesitate to ask. You might approach it from the angle that such a thoughtful, frank review helps other consumers. You might be surprised at how many will happily write glowing reviews of your business!

What if someone is dissatisfied and says so publicaly on social media? You should have a rough policy in place not only to protect your reputation but also to diffuse a negative situation on social media. In most cases, you should acknowledge the complaint respectfully, apologize and make clear that you are open to resolution and improvement.

As you can imagine, it’s not always appropriate to hash out a matter publicly. Sometimes it’s best to directly contact the person and invite them to discuss their issue in a 1-on-1 conversation. This provides both parties with an opportunity to address the issue and implement a solution. Sometimes sensitive issues need to be dealt with outside of the public eye.

Respond to questions intelligently & contextually

A policy can be fairly useful to ensure an equal level of care, however for small businesses just keeping things fair and relative is usually sufficient. Some questions are general and can be answered publicly without any negative repercussions. If many others could benefit from the answer to a question or if it addresses a specific concern, a public answer may be best.

You may also choose to direct some to relevant documentation (if this is an FAQ). When deciding on your process, you should clearly define when which action is appropriate. This includes how you respond to questions or concerns that require additional context or exchange of personal information.

When approached privately

How will your business manage matters when approached privately such as through DMs? In some cases, more support may be needed than what you can provide on social. It would be best to direct individuals to contact you or to get the information you need to contact and assist them. In some other instances, you may be able to answer questions and address concerns right on the spot.

What? If your current social media team is busy planning, creating and posting content - they may not have the time and other resources to handle customer support. After all, these projects take time and attention. Especially if you have a high volume of support requests coming through the door, it would be wise to create a dedicated support account manned by a dedicated social customer care manager ( read: warrior). Then, your core social media team simply direct people to that account.

Which way you decide to go about this, always keep in mind best practices and defined processes.

Best-practices for customer service via social media Personability means stronger emotive results. The more personable your responses, the better they’re received by your audience. Avoid being too stiff and corporate, which are often a result of applying generic templates. It’s smart to have a rough outline of what you’ll say in certain situations but do your best to personalise the interactions. Add colour.

Listen, Acknowledge, Resolve and Nurture You should Listen to understand. Acknowledge the feelings and thoughts expressed. Seek the resolution of any issues or nurture the positive perception of your brand or services. This should be the underlying framework for all of your social interactions and certainly services us well.

Reply quickly. This will reinforce positive experiences. It will also reduce the changes of unhappy individuals remaining unhappy and or/spreading negative talk over a duration. In other words, it can promote customer satisfaction and prevent negative word of mouth.

With these best practices in mind, as well as some possible approaches to this form of customer service, you’re ready to provide top-notch support to your audience!