7 Ways to Improve B2B Customer Service with Social Media

Customer service is a growing application of social media for B2B companies. In many organizations, social media started with marketing or communications department, and as they began monitoring for brand mentions, they quickly discovered they were intermediaries between the customer and the customer service department. If you have not yet brought your customer service reps into the realm of social media, it is time. They are the most qualified to respond via social media, as they are the ones responding by phone and email. While they probably need some basic social media training, the following ideas can help them become comfortable and successful using social media.

1. A Monitoring Workflow
The person monitoring for mentions, whether they are in corporate communications or customer service, needs to know what to do with customer service requests when they find them. Are you working in real time and these questions need to get to the customer service reps immediately? Does everything funnel through the department manager? Is there a single person on the customer service team responsible for responding on social media? Make sure you have set internal expectations for a response time. And make sure you can track responses by the customer service team, whether in CRM-type tool, or even a social media management tool like CoTweet or Hootsuite where you can assign tasks to team members.

2. Response Time Policy
If you already have established customer service response times, for example always responding to emails the same day, or within 24 hours, develop a social media response time that fits within the culture of your organization. Make sure it is something that you can meet, because you want to post this publicly and set customers’ expectations for a response. Keep in mind that posting a long window of time may demonstrate to your customers that real-time customer service is not something you can handle.

3. Social Media Etiquette
While customer service reps have always been on the front lines representing the company, if they will now be responding using social media, they need to understand the etiquette of the platforms. Some people can get a bit snarky when posting on social networks, and some of that grows out of the informal nature of the conversations. Informal or slightly fun is okay in your responses, however, they also need to be serious. Customers and prospects need to know that your company is taking them seriously. Also make sure everyone understands the public nature of social media, and how quickly a misstep can be shared and spread.

4. Post Answers to Common Questions on Your Blog
Your customer service reps can tell you the 10 most common questions asked by customers and prospects. Write a blog post for each one of them and use keywords in the titles so people can find them using search. This is the inbound marketing approach to customer service. Providing self-service answers on a blog is an efficient way to get people answers to their questions. Consider using short videos as ways to answer these questions too. Product managers are good people to recruit for these videos, as they can speak authoritatively about the products. Customer support people also have the technical knowledge to do this, and it starts to put a face on your customer service team.

5. Create a Response List for Common Questions
The outbound version of answering those most common questions is to prepare short answers for each platform, for example under 140 characters for Twitter, that includes a link to the blog post that answers the question more fully. This doesn’t mean always send the same “canned” tweet in response to a particular question, but give your customer service reps the basics to respond quickly and easily. Share this list with others on the team, especially product or sales people who engage on LinkedIn. This way they can respond to questions and include links to blog posts with more information.

6. Show Off Your Superstars
Customer service reps frequently toil in anonymity. Even though they say their name at the beginning of a call, most people don’t hear it, or don’t pay attention to it unless there is a problem. As one of the key benefits of social media is that it allows your B2B company to present itself as a group of people rather than a faceless monolith, put your customer service people out front and center. Many companies list who is tweeting, or even on-duty, in a Twitter bio. Some companies add initials to individual tweets so people know who is responding. And for larger organizations, customer service people have individual Twitter accounts with their name and the company name in the handle. Now that Facebook lets you shows Admins and post as yourself, these are two opportunities to respond as an individual person, rather than the company or Page.

7. Know When to Take It Offline
Simple responses to common questions can, and should, happen publicly. But real issues that require research or detailed conversations need to move offline. As soon as an issue is identified in this category, respond publicly with an email address or a request to send contact information via Twitter Direct Message. Other people following your company need to see a response, and the customer with an issue may require a response that is longer, and not appropriate for public channels. Frequently, customers who have raised issues using social media will post a positive comment once the issue is resolved. The ongoing perception that your company cares about its customers and wants to solve customer issues is important. If this is not true, using social media will be a challenge.

What are other ways to help customer services reps become more adept at responding using social media?