Social media is a vital tool for marketing your business. Aside from posting photos or status updates, using social media for customer service can bring your business to the next level.
Business should have strategies in place for handling customer service issues through social media, as this will be another, more convenient way to get in touch with customers and vice versa.
"[Social media] is the number one mode of communication [customers are] choosing when coming to brands with customer service issues," said Patrick Cuttica, senior manager of product marketing at social media management company Sprout Social. "Throw chatbots into the mix, and it's an excellent channel for customer service for companies as well."
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Cuttica said that a small business shouldn't imply a small social presence. The best place to start, he suggested, is to make it known on your social profiles that you're standing by and ready to help.
"When people do come to you, prove that you can turn around a helpful response in a timely manner, and your customers will likely return again when they know social is a viable avenue for seeking support," Cuttica told Business News Daily.
Since so many customers, and people in general, already communicate through social media, businesses of all sorts should be prepared to invest in building out their social customer care efforts.
"Brands need to be thoughtful about which social platforms their customers are using to reach out and focus on enhancing their engagement efforts there," Cuttica said. "A successful customer service strategy requires that a brand be present and available across the channels their customers prefer. Traditional customer service channels still have their place, but brands should anticipate fielding more and more customer service inquiries through social."
Cuttica, along with Mechi Annaís Estévez Cruz, founder of Una Vaina Bien Spanish, and social media expert Gerille Rosado, offered some strategies for small business owners looking to use social media as a customer service tool.
Build real customer relationships. Many businesses approach social media as another channel for self-promotion and don't always respond when customers comment on their posts or tweet at them. Use your Facebook and Twitter accounts as an opportunity to build real relationships with your customers by engaging in conversation.
Use a hashtag. Rosado explains that a specific hashtag helps to search concerns under the hashtag. That way, everything is organized and easy to navigate. You can add more original information and curate content to the hashtag as well.
Focus on creating a customer advocate base. If a customer has a bad experience with a company, one of the first things he or she is likely to do is write about it on social media. Instead of figuring out how to manage and respond to those negative comments, businesses should focus on providing such excellent customer service that they create a strong, loyal customer base that will advocate on their behalf if someone has something bad to say.
Be present. Cuttica said that more often than not, brands fall short on social customer service because they simply aren't actively listening to and engaging with customers. Brands that want to deliver effective customer service on social should be using social media monitoring to flag all messages related to their company or products.
"Introducing automation through chatbots can help ease the burden on human customer service agents," he said. "Striking the right balance of automation and accessible customer service agents, working hand in hand, will help brands respond more efficiently and effectively to every meaningful conversation."
Additional reporting by Danielle Corcione. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.