Social Customer ServiceBy Jess Ostroff

My company is called Don’t Panic Management.

There’s a reason for that.

My goal is to make our clients feel comfortable and safe giving us the keys to their personal and professional lives.

But the other reason for the name is that I have to remind myself daily not to panic when something doesn’t go my way.

I deal with a LOT of different clients, colleagues, companies, and strangers every day, both online and offline. There is a huge opportunity for things to go wrong. And they regularly do.

However, as a proactive and solutions-driven individual, I find ways to deal with day-to-day crises with grace (as much as I can, at least!).

The best way to avoid crisis is to do everything right. I always double-check my work. I always triple check for client approval. I try to make sure that on my end, all ducks are in a perfect row.

But sometimes it’s not about you. Sometimes it’s about the companies you’re working with. And, unfortunately, that’s the reality of the world we live in.

The biggest issue with customer service in general is that it doesn’t always work.

Yes, I said it.

Adopt Social Customer Service

People have problems all the time and many companies aren’t equipped to deal with them. This is especially true now that consumers have so many channels on which to complain about the service they received. And while it’s true that many companies may not have the bandwidth to support the level of comments they’re getting about the service, it’s important to adopt social customer service.

Do Your Due Diligence

It might seem obvious, but it’s important to pay attention to what your customers are saying online. It doesn’t matter if you sell a product or service or both – people are talking about you.

Do you have Talkwalker alerts set up for your name and your company? Do you have keyword alerts set up on your social media accounts?

People won’t necessarily take the time to include your social media handles when they’re complaining (or praising) your company. You have to seek them out.

This is important for two reasons:

  1. It allows you to proactive in finding solutions and correcting issues with your audience, especially if something went wrong; and
  2. It helps you find issues with your internal processes or products so you can fix them. After all, you know that if there is something wrong with your product, someone is going to talk about it online. Find these mentions, engage in the conversation, and make changes so your current and future customers will be happy.

Social and Service Teams Must Be On Same Page

People aren’t picking up the phone or even sending emails as much as they used to. When they have an issue, they want to talk about it on their social networks. They want to hear whether their friends and colleagues have dealt with the same problems. They want YOU to be listening.

Therefore, a social media manager also must be trained in customer service. He or she should understand what to say when an issue arises or who to assign the conversation to so the customer gets the attention they deserve, regardless of the channel. Invest the time to train your social and service teams to serve your customers the way they deserve.

The Channel is Up to the Customer

If you’re going to offer online support, make sure you’re offering it on the channels that your customers are using.

Don’t set up a dedicated Twitter support account if people aren’t tweeting about their problems, for example.

Figuring out where you should dedicate your online support resources takes some market research. You can’t simply guess where you think people might be talking about you, you need to spend some time monitoring what people are saying online and where they are saying it.

Using tools such as Mention, Topsy, or customized searches in your social media management software can help you identify customer service opportunities on social channels.

Bottom line here is that even if you don’t have dedicated customer service accounts on every social channel, you still need to be listening so that you can respond when people are talking about you, no matter what.

Find a Quick Solution

I think we’ve all dealt with something like this before:

“Thank you for your message. One of our service representatives will get back to you in 24-48 hours.”


I want this matter to be addressed now.

Even if your resources don’t allow you to get back to everyone immediately, set up a small thank you or token of your appreciation for your customers to show that you actually do care about what their problems are even if you can’t solve them right away.

In this example, why not change up your (often generic) autoresponder to say something more specific and helpful such as:

“Sorry you’re having some trouble. We want to make sure you’re happy with our [product/service]. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can, but in the meantime, here’s [some incentive/gift] for your troubles. We appreciate your support and hope you have a wonderful day!”

Not hard, right? You’re a human, you are dealing with humans, why not make your customers feel heard, loved, and cared for whenever you possibly can?

Take it Offline

You should always try to solve every problem in 140 characters (or less). And if you’re able to do it that easily, more power to you! But most of the time, you need more information about the situation and the customer to find a solution that works.

If you’re chatting on Twitter, get their email address via direct message. Better yet, get their phone number so you can call to talk through their issue. This human touch can make all the difference when you’re dealing with an angry customer.

You might think social customer service isn’t for you, but the fact is  people are going to talk about your company whether you’re listening or not. It’s time to start paying attention and adopting a few simple online service techniques to make your customers feel as good about buying from you as you feel about serving them.

Jess Ostroff

Jess Ostroff is the founder and director of calm of Don't Panic Management, a virtual assistant agency. She loves finding efficient ways to get work done, bringing good people together, and enjoying live music.

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