Social Media and Customer Service: Don’t Get Left Behind!

| August 29, 2016 | By

When a company does you wrong, what’s the first thing you do?

Ten years ago, you’d probably call your significant other or a close friend to rant about your injustice. Now, there’s a good chance you whip out your phone and fire off a rage-fueled Tweet or Facebook post.

Social media has transformed the landscape of customer service, but unfortunately it’s evolved in a very one-sided way, with customers doing most of the talking.

Are you taking full advantage of the customer service opportunity social media affords your business? Or, on the flip side, are you totally dropping the ball?

The Paradigm Shift


There’s no denying that more customers are using social media to complain, but just how many are doing it may surprise you.

According to one study, the number of users taking to sites like Facebook and Twitter to voice their dissatisfaction with brands increased by eight times in a roughly 16-month window between 2014 and mid-2015. We’d bet the farm that the number has grown even more since then.

What’s more, customers not only want a response—they want it fast.

How fast? 42% of people surveyed said they expected to hear back from a brand within an hour, while 32% said you’d better get back in touch with them within 30 minutes!

But while customer complaints are rising exponentially on social, brands are doing almost nothing about it—literally.

According to an in-depth analysis by social media giant Sprout Social, brands respond to just 11% of customer complaints on social media. That’s like only answering your phone once out of every ten times it rings!

Meanwhile, companies were plenty busy tooting their own horns; for every customer response the average brand sent, they sent 23 messages promoting their own products.

Whew. That’s a lot of numbers. What are they all getting at? Most brands are doing a shoddy job at keeping up with customer service on social media.

And it’s not just their image that suffers—it’s their bottom line.

The Implications

Poor customer service on social media can cost your company in two related but very distinct ways: it costs you sales, and it costs you your reputation.

Lost sales


“But I don’t have the budget to hire a dedicated customer service rep!”

Are you sure about that?

According to Salesforce’s customer service arm Desk, 78% of customers have ended a business relationship due to bad customer service, while 61% of them turned around and went straight to a competitor.

Those are dollars walking straight out your door.

It’s a well-known fact in business that it’s much easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to win a new one. For every customer you lose due to poor service, you not only lose their immediate business, you must absorb the cost of finding a new customer to replace them.

The better question, then, is can you afford not to have a customer service rep?

Damaged reputation

Your reputation is a funny thing; when it’s good, it’s hard to put a tangible dollar-value on it. When it’s bad, it’s almost too easy to see how much it impacts your revenue.

The thing about social media complaints is that they’re out there for the entire world to see.

One dissatisfied customer might tell a handful of friends about their bad experience in person, but they might tell a thousand people in one fell swoop by posting to their Facebook page.

Your brand can’t afford that type of bad press. It turns away would-be customers before they even step into your storefront or click on your website!

Putting it in Practice

So how can you ensure that you’re not left behind in the social customer service movement?

Try these 4 tactics:

  1. Pay attention

You can’t manage what you’re not monitoring. Keep an eye on what’s happening on your company’s social media accounts—on a daily basis, if not more frequently.

A free tool like Hootsuite allows you to easily monitor when your brand is mentioned or someone engages with you with a user-friendly desktop dashboard.

  1. Delegate

If you’re a large operation, hiring a dedicated community manager is a great investment.

Chances are, though, that as a small business you’re not getting an avalanche of complaints or inquiries on social media.

In this case, consider outsourcing to a dedicated social media management firm, or delegating the task to one of your employees who has the bandwidth to take it on.

  1. Be effective

If a customer Tweets a complaint and you write back simply “we’re so sorry you’re unhappy!”, it doesn’t do much good.

You need to actively provide a solution to their problem, or, at the very least, a system for them to get in touch with someone directly.

Have a step-by-step roadmap for responding to social media complaints: who will respond, what they’ll say, and the next steps in the process.  

  1. Be genuine

One thing is true above all else on social media: people want to feel like they’re talking with a human, not a robot reciting a script.

Treat each case individually and act as if you’re talking to a friend, not some lawyer in a business suit.

Have you ever gotten a bad review or complaint on social media? Leave a comment and tell us how you responded.

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Additional Reading

How to Get Word of Mouth Referrals

How to Calculate ROI on Your Marketing Efforts