As we’ve watched our digital spaces—including specific social media platforms—grow, diversify, mature, and specialize over the past 20 years, we’ve also felt a simultaneous societally seismic shift in their acceptance and adoption among wide demographic swaths of the US. In a 2011 collection of essays, Emerging Digital Spaces in Contemporary Society, editor and social scientist Phillip Kalantzis-Cope wrote in his introduction “it is [no longer] possible to separate meaningfully the digital from the non-digital space.” Now nine years on, this fact has only become more prescient as “the digital” has only continued to morph the way we communicate, learn, entertain, and shop on a global scale.
From the highest level, digital spaces offer us the convenience of immediacy paired with the appearance of a utopian equality. With information and access on demand for all, it’s understandable how they have grown to increasingly supplant the brick-and-mortar and face-to-face, transforming consumer-to-brand relations and even entire industries in the process. The fact is: brands simply cannot ignore this monumental shift as consumers often find themselves reaching for the most convenient option when it comes to customer service.
The choice is easy for the consumer. Not too long ago, engaging customer service meant either going to a store on your own time and waiting in line to talk to a clerk (who may or may not be empowered to help) or, more likely, calling into a helpline and mashing ‘0’ to get a human, if you could at all. “No thanks,” says today’s savvy consumer, “I’ll just blast them on Twitter instead.”
Give It A Try
It’s public, easy, and non-confrontational. And it gets the consumer the result they want. How often these days do we see articles chronicling brands being embarrassed publicly for customer service issues on Twitter?
And so, social media has become a new frontline of customer service in the 21st century as brands have scrambled to build internal processes to address this new channel. Some brands have been more successful than others and those that have, have developed playbooks to catch, route, and engage with customer issues in the digital space. The alternative—ignoring issues—is simply not an option anymore.
It doesn’t all have to be negative though. The digital is in fact open for all to participate. With the right social listening tools, brands can hop into conversations preemptively to solve customer frustrations before they become issues. Not only is this good customer service, but also preemptive reputation management!
Keeping up your customer service game on social media is important. We get it. But where does a good social playbook come from? Here are a few tips to help your brand begin managing its own customer service in the social space.
Have a Plan
If they have an issue, your customers will seek out your brand online. Expect them! The first step to resolving any issues is to establish a clear chain of responsibility within your internal team regarding how to answer customer questions. Who’s watching your social channels daily? Who’s responding to DMs as they come in? Just having a plan for how to address any issues and responding to them as they come up is a million times better than leaving them unattended, even if you aren’t able to solve the issue on the spot.
Keep the lines of communication open
In a customer service situation, brands should avoid adding to customer frustrations by not being clear enough on where issues can be directed online. Consider some clear messaging on your website, directing consumers where they may reach out to a brand representative for immediate (or near immediate) digital assistance. Also, brands should maintain presences on social channels that have become more specialized in the customer service space, such as Facebook Messenger and Twitter, if they can. Plan for regular feed content to go out on these channels to telegraph that they are “live” and put a note in your social profiles of when your internal team will be available to new issues.
Work on your FAQ
Customer questions have a tendency to trend. An FAQ document can be a great shortcut and reference point to your team. As you see patterns emerge in the questions / issues that you receive, start to build a centralized document of responses to expedite the process. Once you’re up and running, make sure to update your FAQ regularly with any new Q/As you see coming in.
Go from Reactive to Proactive
The ultimate goal for any brand should be to turn their social channels into proactive customer service tools, solving frustrations before they become issues. However, this can be a significant investment from a manpower and social listening perspective. This is certainly a realm where efficiency comes from scale. Working with a strategic agency partner can help you establish the strategy and tools you need to make this a reality. Our expert digital team has vast experience in social customer service and reputation management across industries—including CPG, automotive, luxury, healthcare, and telecommunications. It’s what they do everyday. Working with an agency team to man your channels with the right social listening strategy can vastly improve customer experiences and online ratings.
Customer service has certainly changed in the digital age but these tips should help your brand address the basis. Reach out to our team to discuss how your brand can take their customer service to the next level.
 Kalantzis Cope, Phillip. (2011). Emerging Digital Spaces in Contemporary Society: Properties of Technology.