social media how toAre your customers on social media?

Do you interact with them?

The key to effectively using social media for customer service is to listen, take action and make the most of what your community tells you.

In this article you’ll find out how to provide great customer service with social media.

offer customer service with social media

Discover how to offer customer service with social media.

Listen to this article:

#1: Make a Customer Service Plan

It’s important to have a plan in place for managing customer service on social media.

First, define a clear social media strategy. Pinpoint how you can use social media to support business objectives to build and maintain relationships with your target audience.

Next, identify which tools you’ll use to respond to customers. If you’re a small company, you may not need to use tools. If you’re a larger company with constant customer feedback, there are tools you can use to support workflow processes, facilitate approvals for sensitive questions and share feedback with the appropriate people.

customer service plan graphic

Define your company’s customer service plan for social media.

Finally, develop a process for managing crisis scenarios, which often strike when you least expect them. If you’re in the restaurant business and a customer claims to have found a non-food object in his or her sandwich, a simple post on a Facebook page could quickly erupt into a much greater issue, especially if that customer has a significant following.

A crisis plan will help you deal with real-time scenarios. If your company has a public relations or communications team, they will often have crisis protocols already in place. If not, ensure that you outline simple steps to get a response to such an event—for example, specify whom you (or the community manager) need to coordinate with to develop a response.

#2: Train Your Staff

Any employees handling customer service for your business should have a clear understanding of your guiding principles and protocols.

Start the staff training by reviewing your social media strategy and brand positioning and the types of social media tools you use.

social media customer service graphic

Make sure employees are well-versed in customer service protocols.

Walk employees through your process for managing customer service, stress the importance of customer sentiment and explain how positive and negative reviews can impact your business. Address all social channels and review sites like Yelp.

Also, provide a list of potential questions they’ll need to respond to. Include examples of negative and positive feedback.

During training, use a grading scale to evaluate how employees manage sample scenarios to ensure they understand what appropriate steps they’ve taken—or what they need to work on.

Lastly, have a manager or experienced customer service representative walk through live responses with employees, ensuring they’re prepared to do the job on their own.

#3: Address Complaints and Take Action

Let’s be honest—negative comments are scary. They can quickly turn away potential customers and leave a negative impression of your brand. To handle complaints effectively, you must listen and engage with your customers.

checkmark image shutterstock 161559647

Be prepared to handle unhappy customers. Image: Shutterstock.

Laurie Meacham, leader of JetBlue’s social media and customer commitment team, shared the airline’s perspective: “We’re committed to listening to customers and doing the right thing regardless of what medium they contact us through, and cut through social media noise by looking for opportunities where we can offer value to our customers. We believe in smart engagement and work to build real relationships with our customers.”

If customers leave negative feedback on social media, address their issues directly online or ask them to email you to take things offline. Although you typically can’t remove a negative post, other customers will see that you’ve responded to the complaint, giving them confidence that the company is listening and cares about its customers.

If you have more serious customer issues, consider the public relations implications. Serious issues include selling electronic devices with defects that are causing injuries or food products that have been recalled.

#4: Ask for Feedback

Leverage offline channels to drive online reviews. If you have a call center, a brick-and-mortar destination, an email database or other places where your company communicates with customers, ask customers to consider leaving reviews on your social channels.

feedback image shutterstock 228985963

Ask for feedback to drive online reviews. Image: Shutterstock.

You can encourage customers to post on Facebook or leave an online review. Keep in mind that some review sites like Yelp have policies that state companies cannot explicitly ask customers to leave reviews.

#5: Look for New Opportunities

Feedback across social channels can be useful for developing new products fueled by consumer demand, and later supporting the sales funnel (and your sales partners along the way).

For example, if your company manufactures bread and customers have been requesting new flavors on your social channels, listen and track that feedback. Create benchmarks to identify when a new flavor should be considered. Thirty customer comments about cinnamon-flavored bread might indicate it’s time to consider producing such a product. Although the sample set is small, it may be an indicator of larger consumer interest in that flavor.

Consider leveraging your partners and existing customers to solicit feedback for new product development. This may be as simple as sending a customer email survey or publishing a poll on a social channel.

#6: Share Customer Insights

Share customer feedback throughout your company. Use the “What, So What and Now What” framework to share relevant and useful customer insights with other areas of your business.

social media customer insights graphic

Share relevant customer insights throughout your company.

Depending on your company’s size, here are some internal departments you may want to communicate with:

  • Give the research and development team a heads-up about product issues.
  • Talk to the legal group about potential lawsuits or individual customers to watch out for. For example, if legal firms are soliciting customers who have had negative experiences with your business, they may be considering suing your organization. Find out who the people in these firms are, identify what they’re talking about online and gauge how consumers are responding. Provide links to further information.
  • Share with the executive team any information about marketplace positioning and competitor product announcements that are driving significant social buzz.


Handling customer service on social channels can be challenging. To be successful, you need to have clear customer service processes in place. Also, listen carefully to community feedback to support your business goals—from introducing new products based on customer demand to creating a positive brand perception.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these customer service strategies on your social channels? What tactics have worked for your business? Leave your feedback in the comments below.

Checkmark photo and Star rating photo from Shutterstock.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Get Social Media Examiner’s Future Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 480,000+ of your peers! Get our latest articles delivered to your email inbox and get the FREE Social Media Marketing Industry Report (56 pages, 90 charts)!

More info...
  • There has been a major shift when it comes to customer service, long gone are those days when your consumers would write your a letter or call you up. Now social media has become their go-to, where they expect instant solutions.

    Great tips Stephanie, to offer customer service on social media.

  • It’s one of those tricky situations. As the size of your company goes up, so does the risk of one of your employees saying the wrong thing on social media. With a small business you can get away with handling it by yourself or with a very select group. But from a large corporation standpoint, training (and active monitoring) is huge.

    There are many cases where employees say the wrong thing. This happens even in life or death situations such as 911 operators. You have to give your employees some rope to do their job and hopefully represent your company the right way, but at the same time you don’t want them to negatively impact your business.

    With that said, companies that engage with their customers via social channels ALWAYS WIN.

  • Stephanie00

    HI Digital Insight (ay! I dont have your real name), though yes – totally agree. While there are still various types of way customers are being serviced, social has become more prominent and puts brands in a position where they must have a plan and necessary resource(s) in place to support responding effectively and ensure customers are happy to maintain positive brand experiences and sentiment. Best, Stephanie

  • Stephanie00

    @jeffdstephens:disqus Yes! The infrastructure – process, tools, staffing etc is entirely dependent on the size of the organization, but there are certainly foundational elements that every business can learn such as walking through use cases.

  • Stephanie00

    @allinsights:disqus Totally agree. While there are still various types of way customers are being serviced, social has become more prominent and puts brands in a position where they must have a plan and necessary resource(s) in place to support responding effectively and ensure customers are happy to maintain positive brand experiences and sentiment. Best, Stephanie

  • Nice post!

    Training your staff on social media is a must, especially if you’re in a passionate industry. Take the non-profit, for example. It’s great that employees are enthusiastic about the organization and community they serve, however, they’ll want to remain professional. You don’t want employees telling customers where they “can go” or bad mouthing supporters. A little social media training will go a long way. 🙂

  • Stephanie00

    @AmandahBlackwell:disqus yes!

  • Love this, Stephanie, great write up. There’s been a huge shift to digital service in recent & it’s at the forefront of most businesses. Online complaints & comments have to be addressed or they’ll just live their on their forever. Having an online complaint or comment and NOT answers it is similar to listening to your office phone ring every morning and not bothering to pick it up – that’s not the way to do business!

    Unfortunately, I see so many businesses who ignore their consumers’ online commentary today – as if ignoring it will make it go away. This is such a terrible practice and tremendously hurts the company’s public image.

    So, when I see organizations who are proactive about true online engagement & interaction, it brings a smile to my face – that’s the way all businesses should do it, just like you described in your article.
    Thanks, Stephanie!

  • Great post Stephanie! I always encourage my clients to have this social media customer service. Have a fun Friday! 🙂

  • Stephanie00

    @juanvlopez:disqus @stevehedstrom:disqus thanks for sharing your perspective! It’s true – many businesses don’t have a plan in place, often times on the small business size due to lack of resources, and with larger organizations (and even small), lack of prioritization. We’ve seen the importance of superior customer service (fueled by having structure in place) – through the many case studies that have risen to mainstream media news.

  • Using social media to support your business can make or break your brand. Awesome tips on creating plans for everything. Thanks.

  • Interesting topic Steph.

    It’s true that we should always satisfy the needs of every customer we have on social media by offering them the greatest service that we can give them for as far as we can do. By the way, “Every great achievement was always once considered impossible.”

  • People often forget that their small business don’t exist to please Google’s algorithms, etc. Their main purpose is to please their customers!

  • Ravi Shukle

    Great post Stephanie, I would also add include a
    listening strategy. A lot of customers who use social media to contact a
    company do not tag their official accounts in the conversation. Using tools
    such as Hootsuite and Mention will help to identify these key posts so your
    brand is able to dive in and engage. This proactive approach is another great
    way to tackle issues before they get a chance to escalate any further.

  • .I agree that some people often forget that their small business don’t exist to please Google’s algorithms, etc. Their main purpose is to please their customers!