Using social media for effective customer service

Whilst it can seem like managing comments on social media is a continual battle, it’s also an effective platform to gain (or regain) consumer trust and loyalty following a crisis.

The way in which a company responds on social media can quickly reflect the brand overall and have a significant impact on company perception, particularly if negative. Company reputation is extremely valuable and can be hard to repair once damaged.

Last year saw a number of high-profile reputation crises, from the Volkswagen emissions scandal to TalkTalk’s hacking. How these international brands handled themselves throughout the crisis paved the path for their future reputation, with the majority releasing official statements and apologies via social media.

The good and the bad

In the wake of the hacking scandal in which there was a serious data breach to TalkTalk customer’s information, TalkTalk demonstrated particularly bad customer service, with many customers taking to Twitter to express their anger and concerns.

TalkTalk failed to notify customers with information surrounding the hack in sufficient time which led to negative customer interaction across social media, particularly Twitter. However, the company did attempt to make a comeback and regain customer support by trying to respond to as many customers individually as possible.

This is an example of how the speed of a response plays a vital part in the way customer service is perceived.

A way to ensure your company has a good relationship with the public and is providing great customer service – particularly online – is to never take yourself too seriously, whilst keeping it professional.

Canned responses are generic and show that no time, thought or effort has gone into ensuring that the best customer service is provided for a customer’s particular issue.

Supermarket store, Sainsbury’s joined a customer on making fish-related puns and showed that their customer communication team was friendly and light-hearted:

Sainsbury's Social Media Customer Services

Tips for customer service on social media

  1. Respond quickly: You absolutely need to have someone / a team in charge of customer services on social media and they need to be constantly monitoring and responding to queries. 42% of consumers complaining on social media expect a response within 60 minutes, meaning that efficiency is a vital part of online customer service. Leaving the customer without a response for a significant amount of time or even without a response at all could result in the customer getting angrier and finding another online outlet to air their complaint. Respond quickly and you could keep that customer.
  2. Train social media staff in customer services: The team looking after your social channels should be fully trained to the same standard as your offline customer services team. This ensures that response is always consistent and helpful. Keeping a consistent communication strategy across the board ensures that consumers can have faith in your brand that you will deal with any issues as you previously have, hopefully in a quick and professional manner.
  3. Take negative conversations offline: You don’t want to carry on a heated exchange with an angry customer on Twitter for all to see, so respond publicly to ask that the unhappy customer gives you their number or email address, or direct message them. Make sure you always respond publicly once to say this though so that other customers can see that you’ve dealt with it and it doesn’t look as though you have not responded.
  4. Have a plan: Make sure that you have the resources available internally to actually deal with the issues customers are complaining about. The social media team should know who they need to pass issues onto and there needs to be a good level of communication between the social media team and the team sorting out issues, so that those customer-facing can let the customer know what’s happening with their query.
  5. Be human: Have a personality online that reflects your brand, don’t try to be over-friendly, but also don’t just copy and paste generic responses to each complaint. The example seen above is a perfect example of this, your customers want to know that you take each and every complaint or comment on board and look at it individually to ensure the issue is rectified in the best possible way.

If you want to know more about monitoring for an online crisis, dealing with an online crisis, or how to implement an effective customer services strategy online; please feel free to get in touch with me on +44 (0)203 542 8689 or at

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