9 tips for providing great social media customer service
Today’s customers expect excellent social media customer service from leading brands. Learn how to win buyers’ hearts on their favorite platforms.
Last updated September 8, 2023
Social media has become an integral part of our lives, and it’s no surprise that businesses are using it as another medium to connect with their customers. Social media customer service can be a great way to build relationships, resolve issues quickly, and create great experiences.
However, if you don’t approach social media with the same degree of care as other customer service channels, you could end up harming your brand’s reputation. Read on to discover customer service tips for social media and how to create a winning strategy.
Table of contents:
- What is social media customer service?
- Why is social media customer service important?
- 9 tips for providing great customer service on social media
- What not to do on social media platforms
- Social media customer service examples
- Take your customer support from acceptable to exceptional
- Social media customer service FAQ
What is social media customer service?
Social media customer service offers support through social channels like Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter). It allows businesses to communicate with customers on their most used channels and answer questions quickly.
Social media sites have evolved to be more than marketing and advertising platforms. Today, they’re also valid and important channels for people to receive customer service, especially given the rise of conversational business, where customers interact with their favorite brands through messaging apps.
Offering omnichannel support via social media can be a challenge for both large and small business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. Smaller companies may lack the workforce to keep up with customer requests, while large companies with high levels of engagement may find it hard to connect with every contact.
Either way, customer service expectations are rising every year, and your company needs to evolve to meet them.
Why is social media customer service important?
The challenge of providing additional service on yet another platform might initially seem like more of a burden than an opportunity, but businesses are adopting social media customer service due to its many benefits, such as:
- Improved customer satisfaction: The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023 reveals that 64 percent of consumers spend more when their issues are resolved in the same channels they used to reach out. Enabling customers to contact you through their preferred channel can help improve customer satisfaction.
- Increased brand awareness: According to a Cocoroco study, 90 percent of consumers communicate with brands over social media. When businesses provide social media customer service, they can interact with a wider audience to increase brand awareness and reach new customers.
- Greater customer loyalty: Convince & Convert reported that not answering a customer complaint on social media lowers consumer loyalty by as much as 50 percent. Social media customer service can help businesses engage with customers more personally, leading to increased customer loyalty and advocacy.
With people getting increasingly comfortable using social platforms, social media support is becoming more of a necessity than an option.
9 tips for providing great customer service on social media
Social media presents a cost-effective way to deliver customer service to a large audience, but you need to approach it correctly to receive the benefits. Follow these tips when crafting your social media customer service strategy.
1. Plan how support and social will work together
Customer support and social media teams should work together to manage the company’s brand image and serve customers’ needs on social media. Without a clear plan, the two teams will likely have conflicting opinions on how to do things.
You can avoid this potential clash by establishing clear directives for how your organization will manage social media. Identify team roles in executing key tasks like:
- Managing inboxes.
- Responding to public comments.
- Escalating issues to tickets.
Assigning these roles early on will keep everyone accountable, provide a seamless customer experience, and create a culture of collaboration.
2. Offer support where your customers are
An early challenge you’ll face when providing great social media customer service is deciding where to focus your resources.
For engagement to happen, your support team has to be available on your customers’ favorite platforms. For most companies, that means Facebook, Instagram, X, and LinkedIn. You might also have customers using Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.
To feel out where your customers are, search social media for likes, tags, and mentions of your brand. Manual searches can be performed using Facebook, X, or Instagram’s search bars.
If your audience isn’t talking about you much, look for ways to include your business in relevant industry conversations. Try adding something of value to the conversation to increase engagement.
3. Know what buyers are saying on social channels
Using social media monitoring tools to find your brand name mentioned online is one thing. But listening is equally important from a support perspective.
Keep track of customer interactions with your brand on social media. Look at the information you’ve collected and consider the following:
- Do comments sound like customers wrote them after having a bad experience?
- Do the comments provide positive or negative feedback?
- When are your customers most active?
- How many brand mentions would benefit from a response?
- Are the comments of a technical nature?
- Can knowledge base content answer their questions?
Answering these questions helps you plan staffing, set up self-service options, and decide which issues need to be resolved offline.
Social media and customer support teams can share information to create a complete picture of the customer experience and improve the services they provide. The teams can share information about common customer inquiries and how to resolve them. This ensures that customers receive accurate information, regardless of the team helping them.
4. Integrate your social media and service tools
Expecting customer service and social media teams to monitor all of your social channels manually is a tall order. If you want to keep tabs on what customers are saying about your company online, consider investing in a social media monitoring tool. These platforms use complex algorithms to track every mention of your brand online to keep you on the front lines.
- Sprout Social: all-in-one social media management platform
- Konnect Insights: collects data based on keywords and social profiles
- Sprinklr: uses AI to analyze social media brand mentions
- eclincher: monitors brand mentions, suggests content, and creates analytics reports
- Facebook Reviews: creates tickets for customer reviews on Facebook pages
- Instagram Channel: integrates your posts and comments from your Instagram account into agent workflows
- Tweet Preview: provides X conversation context within the Zendesk agent workspace
Since integrations like the ones above reveal more customer engagement opportunities, your agents get more opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. They can recommend new products or add-ons that customers may not be aware of and improve the customers’ user experience.
5. Track and manage your customer support volume
Some businesses will see a lot of “noise,” like mentions that don’t require a response, on social media platforms. (The challenge here is to sift through the clutter to prioritize comments that do need action.) Other businesses will primarily have direct customer service requests.
Depending on the volume of customer comments and your staff size, you may want to use technology to help you. Certain customer service platforms can track social media inquiries and turn them into support tickets. This makes it easy to handle issues while still responding to customers on the platform where they reached out.
An omnichannel customer service platform can provide conversational context clues like:
- Open or past conversations with this customer.
- Who the customer previously interacted with and the result.
- Recurring issues the customers had.
- Past attempts to reach support through other channels.
If agents already have this data, they can reduce a bit of the back-and-forth with customers.
Managing support volume effectively is critical for response times. With social media, your customers expect you to respond as fast as their friends and family would. To improve response times, you have to prioritize your customer contacts so the most critical issues are addressed first.
6. Use AI and automation
A best practice for social media customer service is to always respond immediately—or as quickly as possible. If you don’t staff live agents 24/7, one workaround is writing template responses. These automated messages are sent when a customer contacts you outside of your normal operating hours so they know you received their request.
AI-powered tools like chatbots and intelligent routing can help agents shoulder the burden of addressing large message volumes. You can set up chatbots to answer questions and provide resources from your help center. AI can also use intelligent routing to pass complex customer issues to an agent with the right customer service skills.
7. Arm agents with the right tools
Your agents can better manage your customer support volume using technology that streamlines the process. An omnichannel interface lets agents deliver support from a single platform they’re well acquainted with. The simpler you make it for agents to manage their workload, the more productive they can be.
Omnichannel practices also create more convenient experiences for customers. Agents can respond quickly since they can monitor all social messaging channels in one place. Plus, agents can access customer profiles that provide context into the customer’s purchasing history. And since all agents are working in the same ticketing system, they can easily collaborate on complex issues.
8. Decide when to make interactions private
Providing a public response to a question or complaint can go a long way, but not every social media interaction should be public. Customer support and social media teams must be skilled at deciding when to take a conversation private or off social media altogether.
Establish which team is responsible for addressing which messages to maintain accountability. Your customer support team might be more suitable to handle issues and customer complaints, while your social media team can probably respond to simple questions and brand mentions.
Conversations should move out of the public’s view when:
- There are several back-and-forth replies, like when a customer has a series of questions.
- Sensitive personal data is required, like an email address, phone number, password, account, or credit card number.
- The customer is frustrated, like after a negative experience.
Sensitive information that can be quickly conveyed in writing can easily be sent in a private or direct message through the social media site.
After resolving an issue offline, return to the public channel and thank the customer for reaching out. This lets people know that you’ve addressed the comment, and it gives customers a chance to praise the support experience where others can see it.
9. Treat negative feedback as an opportunity
A 2022 McKinsey study revealed that customers spend 20 to 40 percent more with companies that respond to comments and complaints on social media. Companies that neglect these channels experience a 15 percent higher churn rate than those that respond.
Negative feedback is an opportunity. It’s an open invitation to fix your brand’s image and, more importantly, your relationship with the customer. The customer must feel like they’ve been heard and that you’re willing to do what it takes to make them happy.
Here are some other proactive ways customer service reps can engage customers when they’re potentially upset.
- Respond to users that haven’t directly tagged you or asked for help. Answering brand mentions or comments that don’t require a response, but might benefit from one, shows you’re paying attention.
- Promote your customers by posting a positive interaction or by “liking” helpful interactions between customers to acknowledge them.
- Follow up on resolved interactions with, “How is everything?” when appropriate.
One of the best payoffs for a support rep is when they’re able to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive one.
What not to do on social media platforms
Regardless of the social channel, there are several ways to publicly stick your foot in your mouth. Avoid these bad customer service practices at all costs.
- Don’t neglect your customers: If you’re going to provide customer service over social media, at minimum every direct support question should be answered.
- Don’t delete (or hide) comments or posts: The only exception is when comments are clearly spam or violate posted community guidelines. Deleting a customer’s negative comment will only further damage the relationship and hurt your brand.
- Don’t be defensive: Remember that the customer, even when angry, reached out to you. Use the right tone of voice and thank them for bringing their issue to your attention. Acknowledge their concern, and apologize for the inconvenience.
- Don’t overwhelm your customers with too much information: Only answer their specific question. If the resolution is complicated, suggest moving to another channel.
- Don’t reply to every customer during mass issues or outages: When many customers are affected by a single issue, it’s best to provide only public status updates that will reach everyone.
Make sure your customer service agents are all on the same page with these don’ts. Our CX Trends Report found that more than half of consumers would switch to a competitor after just one bad support experience.
Social media customer service examples
Explore how businesses like yours have successfully used social media to create great customer service experiences.
BlendJet: Build communities
BlendJet is one of the most popular blender manufacturers on social media. The company earned their following by providing quality customer service on social networks like Facebook, X, and Instagram. BlendJet customer service proactively engages with people who post about the brand and leave reviews. The team uses these interactions to understand what customers think about the product and the user experience.
These portable blenders are small but have a large community of enthusiastic customers. BlendJet encourages its customers to share recipes, photos, and personal health journeys on social media. This helps customers feel connected to the brand and helps the company gauge satisfaction levels.
By using Zendesk to manage social media tickets, BlendJet can view detailed information about the customers who reach out and use it to personalize the interaction. Quick access to this information also helps agents respond faster than if they had to use disconnected platforms.
“We try to treat our customers the way we would want to be treated. Not everything runs smoothly all the time, and it’s important to be there for them and resolve any issues as quickly as possible. Zendesk helps us to measure and maximize our response time and overall customer satisfaction.”
–Kathryn O’Malley, VP of customer experience at BlendJet
Chupi: Personalize service
Irish jewelry brand, Chupi has a firm understanding of how to use social media as a tool to provide great customer service. The Chupi team promptly responds to customer inquiries by integrating social media with their Zendesk customer service system, having reps available 24/7 to answer questions and resolve issues. In one case, a customer needed to replace a broken chain and the Chupi customer service team quickly reached out to get them a replacement.
Chupi also uses social media to maintain relationships with customers after a purchase by being friendly and approachable in their messages. When one customer posted on Instagram about their Chupi engagement ring and a wedding ring by another designer, Chupi commented on it the same day.
As a result of these practices, Chupi has established itself as a trusted brand in the jewelry market. It has a CSAT score of 98 percent and a reputation for going above and beyond to create great customer experiences.
“One of the key things we needed was to pull our Instagram DMs into the same place as all our calls and emails. Zendesk can do it through a simple plug-in.”
–Brian Durney, chief technology officer at Chupi
Syfe: Establish trust
Syfe is a digital investment platform primarily operating in the Asia-Pacific region. Syfe understands that it’s a big deal for their customers to trust the platform with their finances, so reps are available day and night to answer questions and track issues on Facebook.
Syfe uses Zendesk to ensure social media messages are consolidated into the same space as its other communication channels. Agents can monitor these channels and respond to customer inquiries promptly to show that they are committed to providing excellent customer service.
“With such a large volume of tickets from all over the world, our customers wanted to reach us through a variety of communication channels,” says Prickett. “We needed a solution that would bring all of these channels together and help us manage customer support effectively.”
–Jack Prickett, head of operations at Syfe
But Syfe isn’t only available for their customer issues. They use social media to share engaging content, such as infographics, videos, and blog posts. This helps to educate customers about their products and services and to build brand awareness. Syfe also runs social media contests and giveaways to engage customers and generate excitement about their brand, helping to attract new customers and keep existing customers interested.
Social media customer service FAQ
For even more information, check out these common social media support questions.
What is a social media engagement strategy?
A social media engagement strategy outlines how a business uses social media to connect with its audience and build relationships. It identifies detailed goals the business wants to accomplish and the tactics it will use. An effective social media strategy will clarify:
- The target audience.
- The content you’ll create.
- A schedule for publishing posts.
- Measurable customer service objectives.
What is the role of social media customer support?
Social media customer support provides your team with an additional channel for customer engagement. Responding to customers’ social media posts and direct messages makes your team more accessible, providing extra convenience. Offering social media customer support can also reduce wait times for customers who contact you via phone since fewer people will need to use this channel.
How does customer service respond to issues on social media?
Some of the ways customer service responds to issues on social media include:
- Replying promptly: Customers expect quick service when they reach out to you directly.
- Acknowledging the issue: Let the customer know their issue is taken seriously.
- Gathering information: Ask the customer for details about their problem.
- Investigating the issue: The agent will look at internal records or reach out to other departments for potential resolutions.
- Resolving the issue: The agent will take the appropriate steps to settle the issue.
- Following up with the customer: The agent will communicate to the customer what was accomplished and confirm that the issue is resolved.
Take your customer support from acceptable to exceptional
Monitoring your company’s social media pages and training your agents on how to use the platforms effectively can decrease customer churn and generate new sales, improving revenue. When you engage with customers on social media you can expect more traffic to your website and greater sales opportunities. Try a free trial of Zendesk for social media customer service today.