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How to interact with customers on social media

Social media can be, and usually is, the place where frustrated customers go when they want to vent in a public space. As a result, supporting customers on Twitter and Facebook requires a special mix of customer service skills. You need to be responsive and helpful, but also careful because your customer interaction is public.

Here are some best practices for interacting with customers on social media.

    Respond quickly. Social media channels are often used when people have failed to get help via other channels, so emotions can run high here, and a quick response is important. Try for under an hour. Check out this Hubspot article that discusses this in more detail.

    Reply back the way it came in. If the customer tweet or Facebook post is public, reply back publicly. If they send a direct message, send a direct message back.

    Be mindful of what you say. This is a public forum, so be careful not to share any information that should be private, and be especially mindful to keep your tone friendly and compassionate. Many companies create social media guidelines that you should consult if available.

    Speak in a voice that matches your company’s brand. Again, because your interactions are public, it’s important to word your responses in a way that reflects your company’s personality and brand. You’re a brand advocate as well as a problem solver. You’ll find an excellent discussion of this in the Relate article Let’s get real: the not so secret relationship of brands and customers online.

    Show it with pictures. A picture’s worth a thousand words, so screenshots, animated gifs, videos, and links to knowledge base articles that contain screenshots and other graphics can be helpful as well. Just make sure you don’t include (or blur out) any customer information.

    Make your responses concise. It’s important to be concise on social media, especially on Twitter with its 140 character limit. You should also use URL link shorteners when you need to point customers to articles or other information.

    Splitting tweets is okay. It can be okay to split information into multiple tweets, but probably not more than two or three - beyond that, you’re probably better off switching to a ticket. If you are going to split a long response, include “(1/3)”, “(2/3)” etc. so that the customer knows when you’re done.

    Go offline or use direct messaging if needed. Moving the conversation to a more conventional (and private) channel such as email may be necessary for technically challenging or sensitive issues. You can also try asking the customer to direct message you on Twitter.

    Keep the customer informed. If you need to move the conversation into a ticket, let the customer know why. This is not only for the customer’s benefit, but for others who may search for keywords in the tweets later, or who are watching the conversation as it happens.

    Refrain from responding to customers when… Sometimes the best response is no response. Trolling for example should be ignored. Don’t respond to baiting, or obvious attempts to pull you into a pointless altercation in a public space. Nobody gains from this kind of interaction.

    Forward “love” tweets to your Marketing team. Many tweets may be best handled by a different part of your company. For example, you may just want to assign marketing related tweet tickets (compliments, etc.) to your Marketing team in case they want to retweet and reach out to the customer.

    Create documentation or a special team for handling social media. Not everyone is comfortable handling social media customer support, so many support teams create small teams that focus on social media (and who work the other support channels as well). Another option for taking some of the anxiety and guesswork out of social media customer support is to define standard responses to common tweets that you receive and provide those as documentation or training.

You can find best practices for supporting customers on live chat in Essential customer service skills: how to interact with customers on live chat and for phone support in Essential customer service skills: how to interact with customers on the phone.

Check out what Veronica Belmont has to say about managing social media customer service in this video from Relate Live San Francisco.


Have any tips to share?

Have any social media support tips to share with the Relate community? Add your comments and let’s discuss.


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