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omnichannel customer service best practices


The Comprehensive Guide to Surprise & Delight your Customers on Live Chat, Email, Social Media & SMS

Best Practices for Digital Omnichannel Customer Service

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Chapter 4

Social media

As of 2020, there are 2.6 billion monthly active users on Facebook and over 1.2 billion on WeChat. Instagram has over one billion, and Twitter has 330 million.

Chances are high that some of these users are your customers. And whether you’re aware of it or not, those customers are actively seeking support via social media. The numbers back this up: in a study by J.D. Power, 67% of respondents said they had reached out to a company via social media.

When approaching social media support, it’s important to keep in mind why your customer is using that channel in the first place, and how they use it. Customers may be hopping on social media as a simple preference. But other times, they air their grievances on a social platform because they want to discuss something your company did (or didn’t do!) publicly.

Social media allows customers to reach out to companies easily, without going out of their way. Research from OpinionLab shows that 66% of customers prefer to give feedback by actively reaching out – not by taking surveys. Instead of scouring a website for a company’s contact info, or spending minutes filling out a survey, customers can tell companies what they think within seconds, as easily as tagging them in a status, tweet, or post. How your agents respond can be the difference between long-term retention and immediate churn. Here are some social media customer support tools structured by the key best practices.

Best Practices for Social media

1. Respond quickly

Social media is a channel that was designed for communication between friends, families, and social groups. When customers invite brands into their social spheres, they do so wanting the same quick response times that they would get (or hope for!) from their closest friends.

According to influencer and author Jay Baer, 32% of consumers expect a response on social media channels within 30 minutes . The same report found 57% of consumers expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.

For companies, speed on social media is critical to not only providing good customer service, but to establishing and maintaining a brand image that is centered around attentiveness and care. Use these tools to keep your social media customer service quick and competitive.

Key tools:

  • Unified platform
  • Ticketing
  • Custom views, tags, and filtering
  • SLAs

A big pain-point that companies have with social media is that it isn’t just one channel: it’s a series of platforms that share a few commonalities. Not only does juggling platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Facebook Messenger create internal friction that slows down customer service – it’s also easy for incoming queries to fall through the cracks. To nail quick responses on social media, the first thing you need is a unified inbox for processing social requests.

A unified platform keeps all incoming customer queries in one place, eliminating the need to toggle between social media accounts. Agents can seamlessly tackle requests no matter which social channel the customer is engaging from, increasing operational efficiency and bringing about faster resolution.

Unified platforms increase speed by making workflow management simple and intuitive. When a new social media request comes in, a ticket is created and can be flagged with the necessary tags to indicate priority. Agents can filter through tickets and see which incoming messages need to be addressed first – keeping response times fast and your team on top of social media requests.

This can be aided by a features such as custom views, which allow you to create custom filters that group and display tickets. If a customer reaches out to your company on two different channels, such as email and social media, those ticket will be grouped. This keeps agents from doing double the work and prevents two different agents from being assigned a task they might inadvertently give two different answers to.

Ticketing makes it easy to route incoming social media requests to the appropriate department, such as sales or billing. Just like with email, routing can be done automatically, ensuring fast response and resolution times. Social media inquiries can be assigned distinct SLAs depending on the department they belong to and even the platform that they originated from.

For example, your company might assign an SLA of one hour to first respond to incoming Tweets complimenting your brand, and an SLA of 15 minutes for private Facebook Messenger requests. This helps your agents prioritize and respond quickly to the most pressing social media inquiries.

Pro Tip

Customer expectations vary depending on the social platform, and your SLAs should reflect this. Customers generally post longer, more thought-out comments on Facebook, where 71% of all social media complaints are made. Meanwhile, Twitter users engage with companies in a way that is more immediate and informal, and generally expect faster replies.

2. Know when to move it to DM

There are two ways that a customer can reach out on social media: on the public feed, or in a DM (direct message). Both can be successful arenas of customer service, with the exception of two caveats: (1) there are some limitations to addressing inquiries in the public sphere, and (2) channel switching is a delicate matter.

It’s important to define which incidents should trigger a channel migration and actively monitor them. For example, you should ask customers to contact you through your direct messages if supporting the customer requires the exchange of their private info. You should also switch to direct messages if a customer has an issue that will require significant back and forth, or that needs very specific support from a department or agent.

Key tools:

  • Unified platform
  • CRM integration

Your unified platform is not just useful for answering queries quickly: it can help reduce channel switching, while making any necessary switches easier on your customers and team. Comm100’s unified platform has omnichannel functionality, making it an effective hub for not just social media, but all lines of digital customer communication. When coupled with an integrated CRM, you have 360-degree visibility into your customer’s entire cross-channel history, as well as valuable account data.

If your customer has corresponded privately with your company in the past, you already have access to information that would have required you to switch channels under other circumstances. For instance, let’s say a customer posts publicly on your Facebook page complaining that they are locked out of their account. Instead of asking them to switch to DMs and inundating them with follow-up questions, with Comm100, you can proactively look into your customer’s contact history, find their email address, and send them a private email to reset their password.

If changing platforms is advised, Comm100 helps with that too: the full conversation history will follow your social media ticket. This makes it easier to switch to a more private setting without forcing the customer to start over and re-contact the company.

Here’s what an appropriate channel switch might look like when a customer’s information is not yet available in your system:

social media comm100

This quick exchange helps keep customers’ privacy a priority, as well as prevents unnecessary spamming of your other customers. It also provides a solution, informing the agent exactly how to follow up.

Pro Tip

Some public social media posts require a special level of finesse. Consider routing more complex social media queries to specific agents who are specialized in social media customer service.

3. Hone your public-facing image

If there’s one problem that companies have with social media, it’s that social media is truly the wild west of customer communication. Not every message for or about your company will arrive neatly – or quietly – in your inbox. Unlike channels that are tied to your own website or servers like live chat or email, customers can complain about – or praise – your company on a channel that your customer service team may not even know exists. Having a proactive social media strategy is vital to catching those unexpected requests and controlling the narrative about your brand.

Key tools:

  • Chatbot
  • Mention tracking

Customers don’t just want fast responses on social media: they want around-the-clock support. If no one is online to lend customers the hand they need, it can be easy to opt for a scathing, public post instead of a private DM – especially if they believe that’s more likely to get them help. And, if other frustrated customers jump on the bandwagon to publicly flame your brand, you could have a PR nightmare on your hands by morning.

Social chatbots can help you provide quick and immediate customer service at all hours of the day via direct messages on Facebook or Twitter. Social chatbots can help users book appointments, pay invoices, find relevant media, and more, giving frustrated customers an immediate way to remedy a number of concerns.

Comm100 uses a single unified chatbot, meaning that the chatbot you use on live chat can also be deployed on social media. This eliminates the need to piece together two separate chatbot programs and keeps your chatbot experience cohesive across platforms. Because the chatbot uses advanced NLP technology to learn from each customer interaction, it provides increasingly advanced and accurate resolutions to problems – reducing customer effort and boosting satisfaction on both live chat and social media.

Chatbots have an added benefit: they are reliable, consistent, and speedy, which social media rewards. Facebook grants businesses a “Very responsive to messages” badge if you maintain a 90% response rate and a response time of 15 minutes – easily achieved with a chatbot. Not only is this public recognition of attentiveness good for your brand, but it also funnels more users to your chatbot, reducing incoming queries and freeing up your agents to tackle more involved customer issues.


very responsive facebook badge

“Very responsive” badge, Facebook

Getting frustrated customers into your DMs is a win for brands. But your public image won’t always be crafted in your arena. Often, customers are talking about your brand without directly involving you, keeping you out of the loop and unaware of their frustrations.

One way to keep tabs on your brand’s public image is to track your mentions. Companies like Mention and Social Mention can help you track what customers are saying about your brand on social media – and even on blogs and websites. That way, you can proactively reach out to social media users who are complaining into the ether, giving you the chance to win them back before they defer to a competitor.

Once you find your preferred method to track hashtags and mentions, it’s time to plan what you will track. Compile a list of terms related to your company, such as:

  • Brand name
  • Product lines
  • Marketing campaigns/slogans

You can even track the mentions of your competitors to give your organization an opportunity to swoop in and save the day. For example, Rapper Iggy Azalea was upset after a Papa John’s delivery employee leaked her number–so she took to Twitter to complain.

iggy azalea twitter

That’s when DiGornio saw this golden opportunity to take the limelight:

digironia pizza twitter

DiGiorno Example, Twitter

Although this is a high-profile, and tongue-in-cheek example, it shows the fan-winning potential of tracking what customers (and would-be customers) are saying outside of your inbox.

Pro Tip

Sometimes customers are talking about your company, but they’re saying it a slightly different way. Track common misspellings of your brand’s name to make sure you’re tapped into the entire conversation.

4. Keep brand voice consistent

Keeping communications branded is especially important for social media, where interactions can occur publicly and screen captures of interactions are shared freely. According to research by Sprout Social, 41% of customers will share a bad social media experience they had with their network.

And make no mistake, inconsistent and confusing tones make for bad customer experiences.

While social media nightmares are unfortunately not uncommon, there are simple ways that your brand can offer customers a consistent, positive experience on social media. Customers love companies with witty voices or helpful information. Take a look at the example below, when the young adult author, Hank Green, tweeted at Steak-Umm for some advice on how to prepare their products. The resulting advice used slang and took creative license with spelling, generating a very casual and fun tone consistent with Steak-Umm’s social media presence.

Steak_umm Example, Twitter

Steak_umm Example, Twitter

Keeping a brand voice consistent can be difficult without a strategy, but a little forethought goes a long way. Plan words and phrases that work for your team and use the following tools to help keep brand voice on track.

Key tools

  • Canned messages
  • Real-time monitoring

With canned messages, agents can access pre-written and pre-vetted language that can keep tone consistent across the board–especially on more publicly scrutinized channels. And with real-time monitoring, senior agents and management can keep an eye on social media channels, making sure the voice is consistent–and appropriate– among various chats.

Pro Tips

Depending on your target audience, your company’s tone on social media may be vastly different than it is on live chat or email. Once you have decided how you want to brand your social media presence, make sure to train your customer service agents to be experts in that voice. For more on social media customer service best practices, check out our eBook, The Definitive Guide to Social Media Customer Service.

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