8 Tips for Improving Social Media Customer Service

The average user spends one-seventh of his waking life on social media, and companies are making social media customer service a priority to boost brand loyalty and increase market share. The quickly evolving social media landscape has forced companies to work harder to maintain a positive customer experience, as 83 percent of people have higher digital customer service expectations than they did last year. Still, many brands are failing to do the following:

  • Make it easy for customers: When companies dive into social media customer service without proper planning or training, getting their issues solved can become more work for customers, which creates a bigger problem rather than adding value for consumers.
  • Build trust: People are more cautious about what they read on social media platforms, with global trust in social media at just 41 percent.
  • Create an authentic experience: When companies make a sport out of using an overly cheeky or sarcastic tone on social media, they could alienate followers and miss the mark on authentically connecting with customers.
  • Leverage the human touch: Often companies rely too heavily on automation to keep pace with customer inquiries and overlook the value of connecting with their target audiences in an empathic, personal way.
  • Focus on the conversations that matter: Of the people who speak out against brands on social media, 81 percent are "hotheads" and the other 19 percent are focused on harming and seeking remedy from companies. Knowing where to focus your attention can make a huge difference.

Below are eight ways companies can fix these social media customer service blunders and elevate the customer experience:

#1 Focus on your brand voice.

Understand your audience and dive into the data about your followers so you can speak to customers in a way that will resonate and reflect your brand's core values. Be authentic and responsive to prevent your company from not standing out and fading out of your customers' fields of perception.

#2 Listen strategically.

Leverage social media listening tools to actively monitor and record discussions to understand the needs of your customers. Use the resulting insights to proactively reach out to followers or create tailored content that actually fits their needs. Interact directly with customers' posts and create a unique rapport with consumers to show you care about their opinions and views. Know customers' likes and dislikes and show that knowledge through social media to make people more inclined to take your companies'recommendations.

#3 Create a community.

Leverage the power of user-generated content to your benefit. Consumers, particularly millennials and members of Gen Z, regularly write reviews and share their experiences with companies. Start conversations and encourage people to share images, videos, or memories associated with your product or service to build a community of brand advocates who will inspire others and battle negative sentiment.

#4 Be proactive.

According to Forrester, customers expect companies to look out for them, informing them of service interruptions or relevant new features. Use the reach of your social pages to proactively share helpful updates and tips that deliver value for customers and establish trust.

#5 Be mindful with automation.

Prioritize meaningful and useful interactions over automatically generated responses. Instead, use technologies like artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to drown out social media noise, process simple requests, and enable customer support specialists to concentrate on the complex issues and create relationships with customers.

#6 Respond promptly.

Reply to inquiries in minutes, not days. In fact, research by Conversocial states that 37 percent of consumers expect a response in fewer than 30 minutes. Detail which team--marketing, PR or customer service--is accountable for which social media interactions to prevent confusion that causes delays and impacts the customer experience. Provide each team with access to the necessary resources to respond quickly to questions.

#7 Manage issues.

Actively respond to negative comments to turn sentiment around, prevent churn, and retain customer loyalty. Provide detailed, sincere apologies that communicate sympathy for the customer's situation. Outline next steps for resolving the complaints that do not involve too much effort or expense on the part of the customer.

#8 Train your talent.

Select and train representatives to provide speedy, accurate responses and cultivate crucial human skills like empathy and problem-solving to handle a wide range of inquiries on social channels. Depending on the service you are providing, onboard people with the right experience or technical aptitude to be the experts your customers want or need.

Whether it is making interactions easy on the customer, building trust, reaching out with the right tone, or using a human approach, companies must be mindful with social media customer service. As social media continues to grow in popularity, it is critical for your strategy to evolve to elevate the customer experience and attract loyal customers.

Fara Haron is CEO of North America, Ireland, and Southeast Asia and executive vice president of global clients at Majorel. She leads a rapidly growing team of customer service professionals helping companies with their global customer service strategies, providing customer engagement to some of the world's largest and most respected companies.