Social media customer service has become a consumer staple. There’s no going back on it now.
Say goodbye to the era of phone queues or endless email chains. Today’s consumers are commenting, tagging and sending direct messages. Immediate and accessible, social media provides a much-needed direct line between buyers and businesses.
Of course, what streamlines work on the consumer’s end can create some internal confusion if processes don’t adapt to keep up. Is your business ready to tackle high-volume service events across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more? If not, we’ve got the tips and tools you need to get it done.
This guide breaks down how brands can create a seamless social media support strategy. We’ve also gathered some of our favorite takeaways from brands providing great customer service across social.
Breaking down customer service vs. customer care
“Customer service” and “customer care” are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s make a quick distinction:
Social media customer service is the reactive support you offer your customers across social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Customers can request assistance via DM, a review site or through their own social posts. The time it takes to triage that request and respond appropriately is what makes a superior customer service experience.
For example, this customer reached out to the Spindrift social team on Twitter about a potentially sold-out product at 8:39. Spindrift responded promptly and enthusiastically at 9:07. In less than 30 minutes, Spindrift created a wow-worthy experience.
Customer care is about proactively meeting your customers’ needs. In terms of social customer care, that means:
- Having a self-service help center
- Educating customers about your product via social content
- Interacting with customers consistently (even before they make a purchase)
- Having answers and information on-hand before someone reaches out
- Offering personalized service that goes beyond automated responses
If you’re looking for customer care inspiration, turn to Brooklinen. The direct-to-consumer bedding brand excels at proactively connecting with customers, even when they aren’t directly tagged or mentioned.
we’re so happy to hear you’re loving your sheets! thanks for sharing the love
— Brooklinen (@brooklinen) November 28, 2022
In short, social customer care is differentiated from service in that it starts before a customer reaches out to you about a product or service. That includes both responding to complaints and rewarding compliments.
What does good customer service on social media look like?
Social customer service standards are constantly changing as network features evolve and people find new ways to contact the brands they love online. Staying up to date on what wows consumers today means staying on top of the social media trends that drive the most engagement.
That said, some fundamentals will never go out of style. These tips transcend networks because they’re simply standards of great customer service translated for an online audience.
Providing the best customer service on social can look like:
- Keeping response times low: According to The Sprout Social Index™ 2022, more than half (57%) of consumers expect a response on social media within 12 hours. Tools (like Sprout’s Inbox Activity Report) can provide a holistic average of your response times across network so you can ensure they’re in line with consumer standards.
- Going beyond business hours: Don’t worry; you don’t need to have your inbox staffed 24/7 to pull this off. There are customer service chatbots that support automated away messages. Use these tools to properly set expectations with customers contacting your brand at night and over the weekend.
- Making it easy: The best customer service creates little to no friction on the customer’s end. Pull this off by establishing a digital primary point of interaction. If you can’t solve the issue on social, direct them to another chat or ticket support solution. Customers seeking assistance online aren’t interested in dialing a call center.
- Staying human: Your customers are people, who want to be treated like a person by a person when possible. Human touches, like personalizations and greetings, go far when providing service on a digital channel.
6 ways to provide great social media customer service
Let’s say you have a basic social media support strategy in place, but you want to increase your efficiency. Below are some ways you can take your approach from good to great.
1. Conduct a social customer service audit
There’s no sense in making changes for the sake of it. For a truly effective process revamp, conduct an audit of what’s currently working with your social media customer service strategy and what’s not.
A simple SWOT analysis can provide meaningful insights into where and how you can improve. What about your process is going well? Where are there roadblocks or bottlenecks? A candid conversation with your team will reveal where changes can be made.
For example, if you’re managing a high volume of messages split across multiple networks, it may be time to level up to a tool that aggregates them in a single location, like Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox.
In addition to incoming mentions, the Smart Inbox can pull branded keywords to cast a wider net on online conversations. That will help you find indirect mentions and other key terms for your brand quickly and easily. Sprout’s chatbot functionality also lets you keep an eye on chatbot-based conversations in the Smart Inbox, so a human team member can jump in when needed.
2. Create an internal tracking system
Good customer service creates a feedback loop that improves processes and products.
You need a way to monitor common issues that should be addressed at a company level, such as correcting an ongoing problem in your shipping process or identifying a recurring product defect. You also need to generate reports to make sure your plan is succeeding. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet.
The Tag feature in Sprout allows you to tag incoming messages with any created tag, such as “feature request” or “product complaint.” This way, you can quickly run a report on these tags to see what’s trending.
Any service report you generate should also include how quickly you can respond and, if enabled, how pleased someone is with your service. This feedback loop encourages you to continuously improve your quality of service.
3. Use canned responses for consistent, speedy replies
If you’re looking to standardize your social customer care responses and address more customers ASAP, canned responses can do the trick.
Canned responses are saved messages support reps can roll out when responding to customers. Rather than write every reply from scratch, canned responses provided an approved, brand-friendly starting point. These replies can cover anything from general “thank yous” to specific concerns.
Create various customer service response templates based on your customers’ frequently asked questions. Check out this round-up of direct message templates for inspiration if you need a starting point.
4. Standardize your brand’s customer service voice
Having multiple people manage social media means that there’s more chance of your voice getting diluted.
You want your social approach to be cohesive across promotions, posts and service responses. It’s possible to have a “pun-tastic” attitude for original Tweets and a more conciliatory tone for customer complaints. Alternatively, you could go the Discord route and incorporate conversational cues directly from your audience.
Oh no!! What happened to your account? 😮
— Discord (@discord) December 2, 2022
However you approach it, document and create a brand voice strategy, so everyone on your team knows how to represent the brand on social media.
5. Document an escalation management strategy
There may be times when you can’t resolve a situation in the public sphere. Those instances call for a documented escalation management strategy.
Outline what types of situations should be escalated to a private channel like DMs or ticket support. For example, if a conversation gets contentious or personal information needs to be shared, it’s probably time to take things off the feed.
This will help ensure that reps only handle challenges within their wheelhouse and that customer issues are solved quickly and efficiently.
6. Uncover crucial customer conversations with monitoring and listening
Social listening is becoming increasingly crucial for the sake of social customer service.
With so many conversations happening via social, keeping track of every mention is often chaotic. That’s why so many brands today rely on monitoring and listening tools to uncover:
- Brand mentions that aren’t directly @tagged (or misspelled brand mentions)
- Competitor mentions related to your business, such as call-outs or comparisons
- Compliments and shout-outs that could result in more positive customer sentiment
Listening is also invaluable for uncovering your customers’ frequently asked questions. For example, you might notice an uptick in volume about a specific feature or bug. You may realize that customers are stuck on the same few product features or questions. Tracking these changes via listening and writing canned responses to address them is a win-win for your social team.
Gathering voice of customer data gives you a more comprehensive understanding of what your customers want and need. A listening tool makes the process much easier.
3 Brands that provide great customer service on social
Now that you know the basics of providing stellar social media customer service, let’s check out some examples. Here are three brands that have mastered the art of creating lasting customer connections on social:
At MeUndies, the average time to first response on social is just under 20 minutes. That’s impressive, but it’s astounding when you account for the fact that they received more than 12,000 messages in just two months.
Providing high-quality service quickly is no easy feat, but it’s essential to delivering on the MeUndies brand promise. Social Media Support Coordinator TK Lynch believes doing so on social is key to meeting customers where they are.
“We want to create an experience that doesn’t feel like you’re dealing with a customer service representative. Social allows us to create a customer experience that’s personable and casual, while still being effective.”
To create these experiences, the MeUndies team relies on the Sprout Social Smart Inbox. The tool consolidates all inbound messages—including DMs, mentions and comments—within a single stream.
For a business managing an Instagram following of more than 481,000, that’s huge.
More than 30 million people worldwide use Grammarly to punch up their personal and professional writing. Many turn to social media when they have questions or feedback on the product.
The Grammarly social customer care team recognizes this as not only an opportunity to provide excellent customer service but also as an opportunity to collect meaningful consumer insights. However, synthesizing feedback from more than 13,000 messages per month is no easy feat. To pull it off, they use Sprout’s Tagging feature.
“Once a month, we combine tagging insights from Sprout with Zendesk reports to create a deck that gets shared across the organization,” says Emma Hanevelt, Social Media Insights Analyst. “It’s how we keep others up to date on trends and opportunities we’re seeing in customer support.”
These reports make social media customer service data a cross-functional resource that informs product and service improvements. It’s no wonder many of their customers sing their praises on and off social.
Aw, thanks for your tweet! We’re thrilled to hear that it’s making a difference in your writing. 🤗
— Grammarly (@Grammarly) December 5, 2022
3. Solo Stove
The 2020 holiday season was not easy on any retailer, and Solo Stove was no exception. Amid a supply chain crisis, their team of nine worked tirelessly to address all the inbound emails and calls. Unfortunately, they still received some criticism on social media.
However, their team was able to take this experience and turn it into a launchpad for a new social media customer service strategy. Solo Stove Community Manager Katelin Keeling expanded her role, shifting from a solo operation to leading a team of three social customer care agents. Together, they address customer feedback from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
These additional staffing resources and updated processes worked wonders on their brand health. “So many people write reviews that they were helped on social media, and their experience was so positive it turned them into a true believer of Solo Stove.”
At your service with expert tips
Brands today can’t wing it when it comes to social media customer service. Without a plan or the proper tools, you’re inevitably letting your customer’s questions and concerns fall by the wayside.
Use the tools and tips above to help ensure that you’re actively listening to each customer and responding promptly. Remember that you have to walk before you can run. Attempting to implement multiple process changes at once might set you back instead of driving your strategy forward.
If you haven’t already, check out this roundtable featuring social experts from Subaru of America and Sprout Social. They’ll walk you through everything you need to know to take your social customer care strategy from reactive to proactive.