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This Fine Tuning focuses on how to provide great support through social media, including:
- What to consider before adding social media channels to your support workflow
- How to respond to social media support requests
- How to optimize your use of social media support channels
Zendesk Customer Success Manager Lisa has worked on the Zendesk success team since August of 2013. She has over eight years' experience with helping customers get the most out of the systems they use.
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Part 1: Getting started with social media for support
It’s important to get your ducks in a row before launching into providing customer care through social media. A disorganized social media response - or even worse, a complete lack of response to issues and questions - reflects poorly on your brand. Here are some things to consider:
Learn where your customers are. Social media has long fallen under the purview of the marketing department, but customers will often use their preferred networks to review or get in touch with your company to ask questions.
Do your research to find out which social media channels your customers are using by searching for mentions of your brand on various social media sites. For most companies, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular.
Find out what your customers are saying. Read through comments that mention your company or product specifically to gauge what customers have to say.
- What kinds of questions are your customers asking?
- When are they asking them?
- Do any of the comments provide feedback?
- Could any of the questions/comments be answered with existing documentation or FAQs?
- Would any of the comments benefit from a social media response
- How many questions or comments are you getting across all of your channels?
This activity serves several purposes, including helping you plan staffing and the resources necessary to answer support requests via social media. It also helps you make decisions about self-service content, define your priorities, and determine what your social media support strategy should be.
Decide on what needs a response. Providing support via social media means you’ll have to sift through lots of comments from people that aren’t reporting issues. What will you do when one customer tweets how much they love your product, another tweets a response to a marketing survey you posted two days ago, and still another posts a comment on your Facebook page about the order they placed last week?
You need to have a strategy in place for sifting through it all and finding what’s relevant for your support agents to address. Here are some ideas for priority issue types that should definitely get a response:
- Service outages or other issues that affect a large number of users (come back for part 2 to read about an example)
- Direct questions about technical or account-related issues
- Urgent questions - including issues that affect a customer’s ability to use your product
- Complaints (more on this later)
Create a social media support plan. This should address how you’ll handle your incoming requests. Are you using a customer service platform that can integrate with your social media channels and turn those tweets and Facebook page posts into tickets automatically? If so, think about the volume of comments you’ll receive through these channels. Is your support team equipped to handle sorting through these requests, or will you need to have someone dedicated to sifting through the comments to make sure that support questions get answered?
As a best practice, you don’t necessarily need to turn each and every social media mention into a support ticket - simply because the volume of requests may become unwieldy, or you’ll have several mentions that don’t actually require a response. Rather, an integrated customer service platform can provide context for the interaction, such as whether this customer tried contacting you before through other channels, and what the tone of any previous interactions might have been. This can help inform how you’ll respond to the customer.
A business that doesn’t have an integrated customer service platform should think about who will monitor those channels, and make use of the private or direct messaging features of the service in question to maintain a record of your customer interactions. Another option is to look into a social media management platform that can gather all of your channels into one place for easy monitoring and responses.
Have you already implemented social media support? How did you plan for it? Do you wish you’d done anything differently at the start? Share your experience in the comments below!
Part 2: Responding to social media in your support organization
Okay, you’ve flipped the switch on social media support in your organization. You’ve decided who will be responsible for monitoring your social media mentions and getting the appropriate questions to your support team. How should your agents respond to these types of requests?
Fast responses are critical in social media . The majority of your customers will expect a response over social media on the same day. Make sure you meet that expectation. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll already know what time of day people are most likely to get in touch with your company, and you might have discovered that those hours don’t always align with your business hours. In this case, you can create a quick auto-response tailored to the appropriate channel that lets your customers know that you’re looking into the issue.
In the case where several of your customers are affected by the same issue (such as an outage), it’s best to ditch the personal replies, and instead post a public status update on your feed. This ensures that anyone who’s checking your social sites will see the update. For example, our Twitter handle @ZendeskOps covers updates relating to scheduled system maintenance and unexpected outages. Don’t forget to post the all-clear when the issue is resolved!
Fast responses are critical in social media - but so is the quality of the response. It can’t be stated enough - be quick with your social media responses. But don’t be sloppy, either. Grammar, spelling, and the tone of your reply are equally important, so carefully check your replies before sending. And be cautious when posting links to documents or images - you want to be social media famous, not social media infamous!
Know when to take a response offline. If the issue is one that can be easily answered in the space of a tweet or comment, and it’s an answer that can be posted publicly, reply publicly to the user as soon as you can. If the issue requires a more lengthy interaction or deals with sensitive information, though, you’ll want to move that interaction to a private channel. This is a great opportunity to send the first reply over social media that moves the conversation to a more appropriate channel.
Practice proactive engagement and encourage self-service. Not everything will need or require a response, and you might consider creating a “second-tier” response list for comments of this type. This could include:
- General references to your product or company
- Positive feedback
- Folks who have previously mentioned your brand
You can take this opportunity to reply to these customers with a link to your relevant knowledge base or FAQs, more information about a product or service someone may have idly mentioned, or a simple “Thanks for the kind words!” It’s a great chance to engage with your customers and promote any self-service resources you have available.
* Don’t touch the flypaper! * Earlier we talked about complaints being high-priority issues that needs a response. The vast majority of complaints are valid customer concerns that should be addressed quickly, accurately, and with empathy.
However, some people are just trolls. They’re probably not customers of yours and have a chip on their shoulder about something or other. They’ll go to your social media channels and try to engage you in an internet shouting match. Don’t take the bait; just ignore these types of social media mentions and move on to the people that actually need your attention.
How do you respond to your customers’ support requests on social media? What guidelines have you put in place, and how do they differ from your regular support protocols? Share your experience in the comments below!
Part 3: Optimizing use of social media in your support organization
Now that you’ve started answering social media support requests, you may be wondering how to improve on what you’ve built. Read on for some ideas on how to optimize your social media support operations!
When using Twitter:
Learn how to use the @ sign properly.
Leading a tweet with the @ mention ensures a semi-private conversation.
Adding the @ mention later in the tweet will appear as a normal tweet or status update from your account, while also notifying the user of the reply.
The “.@” mention at the beginning of a tweet sends your targeted tweet to the other party out as a normal tweet to all your followers. This is really no different from the previous tip; it just accomplishes the same thing in a different way.
Set up a dedicated support handle and post active support hours in your profile summary so your followers know when you’re responding. You can also use the profile summary to promote other customer service channels.
Host a live Twitter chat around a hashtag , where customers can tweet questions or feedback and receive responses in real-time.
Download our tip sheet on providing great customer service with Twitter here .
When using Facebook:
Enable private messaging. This gives customers an alternative to posting something sensitive or negative directly on your timeline. Note: private messages are stored in the customer’s “Other” folder rather than their “Inbox.”
Review your Page Insights. This can help you begin to understand how customers are engaging with the page, and to get a sense of the resources needed for support.
Consider adding a dedicated support app to your Page. A dedicated support page can help deflect complaints off the brand’s timeline, which is important considering that Conversocial reported that one negative comment in public can negate the effect of up to five positive comments. You can find apps in the Facebook App Center , or information on how to create your own tabs in the Page Tab Tutorial .
Hashtags aren’t just for Twitter - you can create clickable, searchable links by adding a hashtag to a word or phrase.
Download our tip sheet on providing great customer service on Facebook here .
- Already using a social media management platform? Integrate your customer service platform with a social media platform you already use, such as HootSuite, SproutSocial, or Tribes. These integrations can streamline your workflow for agents, turning mentions into support tickets that can be addressed either directly (as a public reply) or privately (in an email/support portal conversation). Find out about all of the social media integrations Zendesk offers here: http://www.zendesk.com/apps#social-media
- Turn complaints into opportunities to acknowledge, apologize for, and correct mistakes. Being humble and empathetic can go a long way with a frustrated customer, and demonstrates to your other customers that you care about making things right.
- Check out our article on providing great customer service through social media for in-depth coverage of all the topics we’ve discussed today and more!
How have you optimized your social media support channels? Share your experience in the comments section below!