Practical Ecommerce

Social Media-based Customer Service: Dos and Don’ts

Customer service can make or break an online business. A willingness by merchants to address customer feedback demonstrates concern, which helps assure new shoppers. It also encourages repeat purchases.

Merchants increasingly use social media sites as customer-service channels. This can involving separate social media accounts solely for customer service — such as ASOS, the U.K. fashion brand, shown below — or combing customer services functions with social-media marketing activities.

Fashion retailer ASOS created a dedicated Twitter channel solely for customer service. It's called "ASOS Here to Help."

Fashion retailer ASOS created a dedicated Twitter channel solely for customer service. It’s called “ASOS Here to Help.”

Whichever approach a merchant takes, here are my top dos and don’ts for using social media sites for customer service.

Social Customer Service: Dos

  • Use the customer’s name. It’s easy to copy and paste an answer, or simply forget to personalize a message. But it’s something that makes a difference to the customer. It’s a simple thing that shows you care.
  • Make helpful suggestions. When a shopper asks for hours of operation (for brick-and-mortar retailers), don’t just link to a store locator. Find the times and give the reply she’s looking for. To make your reply even more helpful, suggest another store that is nearby and open longer.
  • Speak their language. You don’t have to incorporate street slang into your replies, but it’s worth checking your responses from a customer perspective. Do you speak in plain English or are you using industry jargon or complex terminology in your responses?
  • Reply publicly when possible. Naturally there are occasions where a conversation should remain private. But in most cases, address the issues publicly. When a community can see your responses, it shows you can be trusted. It can help other shoppers with the same issues. It can also help reduce unreasonable complaints.
  • Respond timely. Customers expect quick responses on social media channels. Even if you can’t fully answer the query, make sure you acknowledge the customer and give him a timeframe for your full response.

Social Customer Service: Don’ts

  • Spam your following with customer service replies. Twitter is a helpful platform for communicating directly with your customers. However it is also the easiest to get wrong. So many users forget the top rule of replying on Twitter, which is if you add any characters in front of a Twitter handle, it will show up in all follower’s feeds.
This response will appear only in "@customers" Twitter feed.

This response will appear only in “@customers” Twitter feed.

This response, with "Hi" in front of the "@customer" handle, will appear in all followers' feeds.

This response, with “Hi” in front of the “@customer” handle, will appear in all followers’ feeds.

  • Direct your customer to another platform. If a customer reaches out to you on Facebook, try to answer her query on Facebook. By using this channel the customer has already sought you out and decided she is comfortable getting in touch this way. A blanket “please contact us on…” can be annoying to the customer, who then must repeat on another channel.
  • Be impersonal. A list of standard answers to common queries and complaints is acceptable, but make sure your responses are more than a copy-and-paste exercise. A character limit doesn’t prevent polite responses.
  • Leave customers waiting. When customers contact you through social media, they expect a speedy response, especially if they can see updates being published while they wait. A study from Lithium Technologies, a social-media-management platform, found that 53 percent of customers that ask a company a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour. This is a huge challenge for businesses; aim to answer all queries within one business day.
  • Neglect grammar and spelling. Poor grammar and spelling is a common frustration for those experiencing poor customer service. It signifies a lack of care on the part of the company and lowers the trust in the brand and its ability to deliver the service. Replies without any capital letters, no punctuation, and littered with spelling mistakes will reflect poorly on your business.
  • Be defensive or take negative feedback personally. This is a pet peeve of mine as it’s something I see often. A complaint is made and instead of considering the customer’s concerns, the reply takes an aggressive, angry tone. It often serves to escalate issues that could easily be resolved. In the example below of a customer asking a question about delivery times, which response would you rather receive?

Customer: @fashionbrand Hi your delivery times mean I have to be home all day. Can you do evening deliveries?

Merchant 1: @customer No, sorry. We’re doing the best we can to offer cheap delivery and satisfy all our customers.

Merchant 2: @customer Not yet, but bear with us. We’re looking into adding evening and set day delivery options soon!

Merchant 1 shows a disregard for the customer’s query and devalues the experience. A reply like this would make me think twice about placing an order. Merchant 2 is a much more positive response that shows the business recognizes the issue and is working to address it.

What are your dos and don’ts when it comes to social customer service?

Samantha Collier

Samantha Collier

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