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Emily Neier
by Emily Neier
on August 30, 2018


We’ve all seen company social media accounts make headlines for how they handle customer inquiries on social media, and for some reason a lot of them are from fast food chains. While roasting fellow tweeters might stir up some viral, short-lived success as a long-term marketing and customer service technique, it’s really better to play nice. In fact, one negative customer comment on social media can wipe out the effect of up to five positive comments.

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The social internet is a scary place for businesses and public figures of all kinds. One wrong move can spiral out of control within just a few minutes. However, social media is still necessary for businesses to have to connect with customers and generate leads. And as more people are reaching out to businesses on these platforms to solve customer service issues, how any business handles its social accounts is more important than ever.

Why Social Customer Support for B2B?

You know by now it’s essential for any business to have a presence on social media, but social media as a customer service channel has taken off in recent years. And it’s no surprise as to why: Pew Research Center reported as of January of 2018, 69% of adults in the U.S. have at least one social media account. That’s just about 7 out of every 10 people—and the numbers rise based on age. 8 in 10 adults ages 30-49 have one or more social media accounts, and 9 in 10 adults ages 18-29 have one or more.

An essential component of the inbound methodology is excellent customer service and taking steps to delight your customers over and over after they’ve purchased. And, the millennial generation is creeping into decision-making positions at their companies. IBM reported in 2014 that 41% of younger millennials (ages 21-25 at the time of survey) prefer to use instant or direct message to talk to vendors. As the age groups with the highest social media engagement enter the workforce, customer service interaction over social media for B2B businesses is necessary.

This shift in customer service channels is an adjustment, but it is beneficial for businesses, too. Conversocial’s Definitive Guide to Social and Mobile Customer Service reports that social agents can solve 4 to 8 times more customer service issues per hour than phone agents, and social issues cost businesses less than $1 per interaction. Compare that to $6 per phone call, and up to $5 per email. So if a phone agent can handle 4 customer calls in an hour at a total cost of $24, a social agent could solve around 16 per hour at a total cost of $16.

Additionally, effectively resolving customer concerns on a public forum is good for your business. Others see how you handled the problem, and a good resolution builds a positive reputation. And Conversocial found that customers who have a positive social care experience are four times more likely to promote that business.

How to Implement

When planning out your customer service social media strategy, the number one thing to keep in mind is that the ball is in the customer’s court—not yours. A poor response on your business’s behalf can result in a PR nightmare and a loss of business. Here are four tips for starting a social customer service plan:

1. Know Where Your Customers Are

With the exception of Facebook, who’s on what social platforms varies on age, race, gender, and level of education. For example, Pinterest is dominated by female users: 41% of adult female users in the U.S. have a Pinterest account, while only 16% of male users do. Pew Research Center also reported that 50% of college graduates have a LinkedIn profile, while only 9% of those with high school or less education do. Perhaps most surprising is that Instagram accounted for more users than Twitter across all demographics in the survey. A total of 35% of adults have an Instagram account, while only 24% of adults have Twitter.

Finding where your customers are will be informed by your buyer personas. As a B2B organization, you can also look for the company social accounts of the businesses you currently work with as well as the people within those businesses who are your touch points.

2. Speed

With the knowledge of the world at our fingertips, the internet has made us very impatient people. 84% of customers expect a response from a business on social media within a day. What’s worse is 47% expect a response within an hour. We individual humans can answer from anywhere, at any time, so obviously a business can do the same, right? You might be saying, "No way, an hour, seriously?!", so here’s some advice on addressing social customer service inquiries with speed:

  • •If a customer’s question or problem is more complex and will take a service agent some time to find an appropriate solution, still respond to the customer to let them know someone is on it. Even though this buys your customer service team some time, it’s important to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
  • If your businesses services clients in multiple time zones, but staffing someone around the clock or outsourcing to a customer service agency isn’t an option, consider employing a customer service bot to respond to inquiries. Facebook also lets you set up instant responses for business pages, although instant responses are not accounted for when Facebook calculates your business page’s response rate.

3. Do. Not. Redirect.

Conversocial found that 98% of customers who were given a service email or phone number over social media did not ask for one. Your customer reached out to your business on social media because they wanted to talk to you on that channel. Do not try to redirect them to another channel. At the very least, try to resolve the problem on the social media platform first, and if it proves too difficult or complicated, then suggest they call, email, or submit a service ticket.

4. Public to Private

When a customer contacts you publicly on social media with a question that requires an order number or contact information to answer, it’s best not to ask for that info publicly. Respond publicly by apologizing for the issue the customer is experiencing and asking them to direct message you on the same social platform. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have direct and instant messaging capabilities, so even though a customer needs to give you sensitive information, you do not have to leave that social channel to help them.

5. Have an Escalation Plan

Social media can get out of hand very quickly, and while some businesses can get away with snarky responses, it’s not a good model to go by. Having an escalation plan in place to make clear, consistent decisions about how social media inquiries are handled is a requirement of a successful social customer service plan. Have the team responsible for social care plan out and stick to the chart. Social media is a one-on-one interaction, so even though there is a team of a people handling the social accounts, it’s important to maintain consistency across platforms (it’s also just good business practice).

Social customer service care is growing, but with an action plan in place, taking care of your customers will have that much more of a personal touch. Keep your customer service team on top of all your service tickets with the HubSpot Services Hub.

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