The age-old saying “the customer is always right” — we’ve heard once, twice, a thousand times before. But how much does great customer service serve as an integral part of surviving in the world of online business? The answer is a lot.

While social media is definitely a wonderful marketing channel, it should also lend itself as a component of your company’s customer service, offering multi-channel support that is responsive, professional and, most importantly, friendly. Sound overwhelming? Let us demystify (and simplify) the magic of online customer support….

Pick and Choose

In an ever-increasing digital world, more and more consumers are choosing to use social media to ask questions over picking up the phone (because let’s face it, no one actually wants to deal with the great perils of social interaction or real-humans). So, your first point of consideration is – where are your customers?

Whether Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn is your company’s most prevalent social media platform, by going where your customers are, you can ensure a support experience that’s native to their preferred network.

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Alternatively, choosing a primary channel for customer service and deciding on a schedule of availability that includes set hours and days will help develop crystal clear communication. How’s that for alliteration? (Ed’s note: Perfect. Please proceed).

Be the Consumer, Not the Brand

Before you think this sounds like some weird, abstract concept, let us explain.

A study by top management consulting firm Bain & Company proposed that “when companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers, on average, end up spending 20% to 40% more with the company”. In summary, this means that the better your relationship is with your customers, the better your customer lifetime value – or the net profit contribution of a customer over time.

So, with the customer at the heart of the business, how do we keep them there? Simples: stand in their shoes. Empathy, or the art of seeing a situation through a customer’s eyes, is essential in building rapport.

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There is nothing more indispensable than some good old-fashioned friendliness – for customer service can’t always deliver solutions, but it can always deliver empathy.

Speedy Gonzales

Quick and effective. The Holy Grail(s) of social media customer service.

Research cited by bestselling author Jay Baer discloses that “42% of consumers expect a response within 60 minutes”. Speedy responses not only put customers at ease, they are a great insight into the structure of your company – that you’re reliable, consistent and timely. Basically, you have your *stuff* together.

When David Willis from Texas found himself locked inside Waterstones in Trafalgar Square, he took to Twitter for help:

Thanks to their round-the-clock customer support, Waterstones were able to take immediate action:

The curious case of David Willis is definitely one for the books (pun intended). From minor to major issues, taking fast action can no doubt help to create a seamless customer service experience. Well, as seamless as being in locked in a dark bookstore gets…..

TOV for Your VIP

By truly understanding your customer, figuring out how to best respond to their queries will become second nature. This is where TOV, or tone of voice, comes into the picture.

Establishing a tone for your social media conversations is vital, and it all depends on your customer. So, what’s the best way to get tone spot on? By identifying a few cues —

Does the customer seem flustered? Time to turn up the empathy and use a tone that’s apologetic and reassuring, even when you aren’t in the wrong.

Does the customer use emoticons or colloquialisms? Reciprocate!

Does the customer seem confused? In this case, simple language will communicate more efficiently and effectively.

Striking the right tone of voice with your online customers will not only shed your company’s values in a good light but will also make your company personable – something of a gem in this online world of perfectly-trained chatbots.

All Ears

Ever heard of the quote “the quieter you become, the more you can hear”? It speaks truth. Especially when it comes to using social media for customer support.

Often times, customers will rate whatever it is your company provides on their social media channels, but won’t tag you in their post, meaning they aren’t actively seeking a solution. The fine line between good and great customer service is going above and beyond, and setting up a social listening strategy that allows you to listen to all customer conversations, tagged and not tagged, will ensure your service extends to those who might not be expecting anything in return.

How? There are a multitude of social media monitoring tools which can help track mentions and conversations of your business online. What’s best, they really do work!

Just ask Delta Hotels. Upon seeing a tweet from a customer about checking into his room but not being blown away by the view of septic tanks (no Cockney slang intended), the hotel decided to take action. They offered a room with a better view, and also surprised the guest with a handwritten note and pastries (okay, they looked a little sad but it’s the thought that counts).

Be a brand that takes a step back, listens and really tries to make a difference.

Transparency is A-ok

Customers choose to complain on social media because there’s nothing quite like the threat of bad publicity to gear a company into action. When customers are upset or unimpressed, they want to be heard, and posting on social media is the perfect way to do just that.

Don’t fret. By allowing your customers to make their complaints or queries public, you’re granting them an immediate outlet. For companies, transparency means that other potential customers can see how well you handle high-pressure situations. Can you answer a customer’s concerns quickly, politely and effectively? If so, you’ll instantly leave all of your followers with confidence that your customer service is the bee’s knees.

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(Companies) Just Wanna Have Fun

We’ve saved the best for last — time to have a laugh.

Customer interactions don’t always need to be professional. They can be an hour long pun-fest:

Or end on a surprise plot twist:


Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you have fun doing it. It’ll win your customers’ hearts. And wallets.