8 Steps to Get the Ball Rolling on a Customer Service Strategy for Social Media

This year, the number of people using Facebook is set to top one billion. That’s one-seventh of the world’s population. Creating a customer service strategy for Facebook that can easily apply to all major social media venues should be at the top of your organization’s to-do list.

As the social audience exponentially expands (Google+ is expected to reach 400 million users this year; Twitter: 250 million active users; LinkedIn: 300 million users), use the eight key actions below as a guide to better prepare your organization to use social media as a customer service channel.

1. Assemble your social media team. As social media continues its move from a marketing tool to a method of customer communication and support, organizations should consider bringing their social media account management in-house, if they haven’t already. For those companies that choose to retain PR firms to manage their social media efforts, representing agencies must be included in any customer service for social media plan.

A company’s social media team should include collaborative representation from all major departments including team members who can answer/advise on billing questions, tech support issues, etc. A social media administrator or administrative team should be delegated to directly manage day-to-day monitoring, content distribution and overall social media engagement efforts.

2. Account for all your accounts. An Altimeter Group report shows that the average large company has 178 social media accounts. Determine what accounts your organization currently owns, and also account for any others with your brand name attached to them. Determine which accounts you are actively going to maintain/monitor, and delete the rest, or make them inactive/unavailable for viewing by the general public.

3. Set up a social media workflow. Who will be the main responders for your social media accounts? Who will manage/monitor the accounts on weekends, after hours, holidays? (For those organizations with numerous social media accounts that require 24/7 monitoring, this is where social media monitoring/notification software especially comes in handy.) Who will be your organization’s go-to subject matter experts (SMEs) for product or service questions, tech support, billing? Who will serve as backups in the event the primary team member is absent, on vacation? A workflow chart shared with all team members is a valuable aid to organization.

4. Create a style guide and a response plan. Create a style guide or incorporate existing guidelines for consistent brand messaging, voice and tone, and commonly-used terms across all social media platforms. For example, do you refer to your customers as “customers” or “clients”? Do you have capitalization or spacing requirements that are unique to your brand name (think Chick-fil-A, eBay, etc.)? The devil is in the details.

Develop a social media response plan so that your organization is prepared to provide consistent responses to various types of customer questions, negative feedback and any potential crisis (for example, compromised customer data or negative response to pricing or service changes). Create scenarios and develop an escalation and resolution plan.

5. Train staff. The Altimeter Group’s recent State of Social Business report found that less than 20% of 1,000 corporate respondents agreed that their staff knew how to represent the company on social media, and a majority had no formalized way of recording social media interactions. Create social media guidelines and share them with your entire staff.

6. Listen to your customers. Effective monitoring of social media platforms can aid in detecting and resolving potential customer service issues before they escalate. Get to know influencers that are part of your social media following (for example, industry experts, those with large followings – anyone who could have a strong impact on your brand’s reputation, good or bad, if they mentioned your organization’s name on social media).

7. Respond positively and resolve issues as quickly as possible. Expectations for customer engagement on social media are high. Part of your customer service for social media strategy should include a set timeframe for responding to customer service questions or issues. Many companies publish their timeframe for customer service on their social media platforms (i.e., within an hour of receipt of any question; we are glad to provide answers to your customer service questions between 9am – 5pm EST). In an effort to provide more expansive 24/7 customer service options, many organizations have integrated support portal software as part of their brand’s Facebook pages.

8. Evaluate and adjust. According to Econsultancy’s State of Social Report, more than half of corporate respondents (52%) say their organizations use Facebook for reacting to customer issues and inquiries –  compared to just 29% last year. This number shows that providing customer service across multiple social media platforms is something that all companies are adjusting to.

Take time to develop a plan that will help your organization link social media to your customer service objectives. Implement, evaluate and adjust – and you’ll remain ahead of the game when it comes to the ever-evolving strategy for successfully using social media in business.

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