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E-Commerce Guide: Social Media Customer Service

Keeping your customers happy is your number one priority, right? It’s why so many e-commerce stores invest heavily in their customer support departments. One effective way to do this is to improve your social media customer service as part of your social media strategy.

No one expects you to be perfect. Consumers understand that oftentimes, things go wrong.

What they want from you is to be receptive to these issues and deal with them accordingly.

In this post we’re going to look at:

  • Why you need to think carefully about the social media channels you use for support queries.
  • The difference between support on social media and support on your owned channels like e-mail
  • Why response time is crucial if you choose to adopt a social media customer support strategy
  • The benefit of using your social channels for positive relationship building, not just negativity.
  • Should you use humans or bots to handle your social media customer service requests?

What support channels do you use?

There’s a certain benefit in utilizing a range of social media channels. After all, you don’t know for sure where your customers hang out, or how they want to get in touch with you.

But when you weigh up the opportunity vs the benefit, it very quickly becomes apparent that being very active and responsive on one social media channel is better than being less than receptive on 10.

Unless, of course, you have the resources available to manage multiple social channels.

When deciding which social channels you’ll use as your support channels ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do our customers interact with us on these channels?
  • Do we have someone available at suitable hours to reply to support requests?
  • Do we have a method or process to organize the requests so as to not miss anyone?

If you answered yes to the above questions, it’s a good idea to start using it with your social media.

Now how you go about this is interesting.

The first thing to note is that many customers are already talking about you.

Because of this, once you start reaching out to them via those channels, they’ll realize it’s an effective channel to communicate with you on.

Let’s look at an example.

Broken Mac Tweet

This Twitter user’s MacBook has broken. They wrote about it on Twitter but didn’t tag the company.

Apply haven’t replied (probably because they’re such a huge company).

But if you’re a smaller e-commerce store, make a point of searching on social media platforms to see where your customers are talking about you, but not directly to you.

This gives you a good opportunity to reach out yourself to see if you can solve their issue or query.

Does social media support differ from owned channel support?

You could try a social only support strategy. However, there are certain limitations to that.

Let’s take Twitter, for example, you’re bound by the number of characters you can use per tweet.

On Instagram, comments often get lost amongst others.

What’s more, in many cases when it comes to customer support, you need to ask customers for sensitive information.

Information they might not be comfortable with sharing publicly online.

Because of this you need to think about a hybrid approach. Communicating via social media is great, but make sure you have a process to lead that customer towards a longer form support forum.

For example, when this Twitter user had a complaint about one of Chilly’s products, instead of trying to navigate the entire conversation over Twitter, the support team provided the user with an email to follow up.

Social Media Customer Service

The personal message used is encouraging for the customer in question to know that Chilly’s cares about their issue and is ready to sort it out.

Now, we don’t know the process for what happens after the customer reaches out, but it would be a good idea (if you hand your customers to your email support from social media) to add a note so that they don’t have to repeat their issue again.

It’s frustrating for a customer to be handed from support team personnel to support team personnel without any notes or understanding of what’s already been sorted or spoken about before.

Response time is everything – especially on social media

How long do you think is reasonable for a customer to wait for a reply from you on social media?

Consumer’s expectation is anywhere from 0-4 hours, but the actual average response time is over 10 hours.

Customer Support Statistics

Now 10 hours is a long time to wait for someone to get back to you.

In many cases, you hear about these extreme cases on social media when someone finally decides to talk about your poor customer service.

Poor Customer Support Example

It all comes down to whether or not you can handle the volume you’re faced with.

The worst thing about the example above?

If another potential customer saw that, they’d immediately consider whether you were worthwhile shopping with.

Not only do you lose a current customer, but you lose potential would-be customers too.

Social media is great as a word of mouth marketing tool, but make sure the word that’s spreading about your company is positive.

And if it is negative? Respond in a suitably short time frame.

Build relationships

If you only wait to engage with your customers when something goes wrong, you’re leaving money on the table.

Customer support and service is all about going above and beyond for your customers when something doesn’t work and when it does work.

Customer support doesn’t always have to be negative.

Great Customer Support Examples

Abokado gave away five free breakfasts as they launched a new product. Those who wanted to enter the competition had to follow a few steps and engage with their social channels.

This is great for relationship building.

Think about it, if the only time you tweet is to reply to a complaint, what do you think someone will think when they land on your twitter?

They’ll think that you have loads of customer issues and will think twice about whether or not you’re a suitable company to spend their money with.

Humans vs bots

You have a dilemma.

You want to reply to all social media in record time.

But you also only have so many hours in your day.

So you decide to use bots….but are they a good idea?

Social Media Customer Service Fail

Chatbots are great when they work. They’re automated programmed tools that allow a computer to reply to your customers when you can’t.

The issue with chatbots is that they’re programmed. It’s much harder for them to understand nuances behind ideas in the same way humans can.

Just look at the example above. The chatbot couldn’t understand that the person wanted to view their options before making a decision.

Now imagine you’re speaking with a chatbot, you’re already frustrated by the situation you’re in and to make matters worse, the chatbot can’t understand your problem and doesn’t seem to be able to help you.

If you’re going to use chatbots make sure they’re intuitive enough to know what someone is asking.

Should you use social media customer support?

Keeping your customers happy should be your number one priority.

With how saturated the world of e-commerce is becoming, having a great product just isn’t enough anymore.

You need to delight your customers, even when things go wrong.

If you have the resource available, it’s a good idea to think about using social media as a way to connect and contact your customers, especially if they have issues.

This way, your customers stay happy on the go, wherever they are.

Have you ever used social media as part of your customer support strategy? Leave a comment below.


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