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It’s happening: Using social media for customer service

Everyone is on social media these days, including businesses and their customers. This creates a natural — or shall we say virtual — nexus for companies to field questions, comments and complaints from buyers or those interested in their products or services.

In other words, whether companies realize it or not, customer service is happening online. It’s super convenient for the buying public, but a business can incur notable risks if, say, questions go unanswered or a negative interaction goes viral.

Pick your platform

Perhaps the worst thing you can do in providing customer service on social media is to leave it to chance. You and your leadership team should make a conscious decision about whether to engage. If you decide to move forward, you’ll need to specify: 1) what level of service to provide, and 2) on which platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and so forth) to provide it.

The second of those two points is a little easier to address. If you don’t know already, determine where most of your customers are on social media so you can focus your efforts on only that channel.

If you’ll be using more than one platform, you may want to invest in software that enables you to monitor multiple accounts. It’s generally best to deactivate any accounts you won’t be watching regularly or at least clarify that you won’t be providing customer service there.

Establish a policy

The first point noted above — what level of customer service to provide on social media — is the bigger and more pressing issue. Naturally, the answer will differ for every business depending on factors such as size, industry, mission and customer base. But there are some fundamental questions to consider.

For starters, who will provide customer service on social media? Again, you don’t want to take an ad hoc approach — assign specific employees the tasks of monitoring accounts and replying to questions and comments. Ideally, you’ll want to create a comprehensive social media policy that addresses points such as:

  • Using appropriate tone and language,
  • Providing standard responses to frequently asked questions,
  • Deciding when to escalate a matter to a private interaction, and
  • Determining how to recognize “trolling,” spam, and phishing or other fraud attempts.

Also, how quickly will you respond? People generally expect quick replies on social media, which can be among the biggest challenges to providing customer service there. One potential solution is to set up a chatbot, powered by artificial intelligence, to transmit immediate responses to many inquiries. Chatbots are certainly quick, but they’re generally effective only for answering simple questions.

Last, should you set up a dedicated account for customer service? Many bigger companies have done so. It will simplify matters — you can post links to the account on your website and other social media channels to direct customers there. However, it will also mean you’re going “all in” and need to be fully staffed and prepared.

Identify the costs

Providing top-notch customer service on social media will likely entail some costs and reallocation of resources. As mentioned, you may need to invest in additional software as well as stronger cybersecurity measures. Training or upskilling staff may also be necessary — you might even want to hire new employees for this purpose. Contact us for help identifying these costs and setting a feasible budget for technology-related spending.