Social Customer Service Is Changing the Face of Business

Social is changing the way we do business. In this post, we dig into the best practices for delivering and measuring social customer service.


Jana Barrett

February 10, 2017

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Social media is changing our culture drastically. It’s easier to share information, publish ideas, and create a “personal brand.” As we do so, our lives become increasingly more public.

Business has felt its impact too. Social media has introduced new marketing channels, impacted the consumer decision-making process, and transformed communication between businesses and their customers.

90% of people ages 18-29 use social media, and a third of millennials say they actually prefer contacting companies over social media.

This means businesses have to monitor and improve their social presence like they do any other service channel if they want to boost customer engagement. In this post, we’ll cover some social customer service best practices, plus the most effective ways to measure your performance. Let’s get started.

How to Do Social Customer Service Right

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson is known for his commitment to the experience, not just the product. As Branson told Forbes:

When we started Virgin Atlantic thirty years ago we had one 747 and we were competing with airlines that had an average of 300 planes each. Every single one of those airlines have gone bankrupt because they didn’t have customer service. They had might, but they didn’t have customer service. Customer service is everything in the end.

He’s right. Customers are the ones who ultimately determine your success. After all, they’re paying for your products and services.

It’s important to recognize how social media culture is changing consumer expectations. Social is instant, interconnected, cross-channel, 24/7. Average people can access limitless information from limitless sources.

When companies enter the arena, they’re contextually held to the same standards. On Facebook or Twitter, I want near-instant responses, and I want them to feel like a conversation—not a PR statement.

Customers are also empowered to punish or praise a brand in online reviews, public posts, and forums. This visibility makes companies highly accountable to not just their customers, but anyone they talk to over social media and elsewhere. One negative story has legs. It can sour prospects and make existing customers distrustful, leading to lost business.

Social customer service best practices

1. Respond immediately.

The emphasis on speed and accessibility is reflected clearly on Facebook business pages, with the response time badge. (You can see ours here.)

social customer service - facebook response time

According to a recent study, “immediate response time” means within 15 minutes. This may sound demanding from the company’s perspective, particularly if you don’t have someone dedicated to social around the clock.

But the reality is, as long as social media is around, social customer service will be around too. It’s important to work out the logistics sooner rather than later.

To give an example of a company that rocks at social customer service, I’ll share a little personal anecdote.

A few months back, I was trying to bake something in my trusty Pyrex glass dish. I made the rookie mistake of adding some cold water to a hot dish, and, naturally, the dish exploded.

While the destruction of my baking dish was most likely my fault (I violated a simple law of physics), I was still a bit shaken up and decided to give Pyrex customer service a try.

I sent them a Facebook message explaining my disaster, not really expecting them to respond. They did, almost immediately, and asked for my address so they could send me a replacement.

The experience was awesome, and it made me a Pyrex customer for life.

The advent of social media has upped the service game. Though social customer service places new demands on companies, it also creates new opportunities to connect with customers authentically and leave a lasting impression.

2. Be consistent.

Consistency is especially important when your customer service interactions happen in plain sight. If an unhappy customer sees how you’ve handled other customer concerns online, they’ll base their expectations on that. If you fail to respond to them, a bad situation will only get worse.

I like to reference progressive airlines, like JetBlue, when describing what great social customer service looks like. If you check out JetBlue’s Twitter replies, you’ll notice they tweet every 4 to 5 minutes in response to customers.

social customer service - JetBlue Twitter

JetBlue takes their social customer service to the next level. In fact, they have 25 crew members dedicated to providing 24/7 social customer service, so they never miss a beat.

Your customer base might not be the size of JetBlue’s, but you’d be wise to follow their example. If customers are contacting you regularly over social media, then it’s clearly a channel that’s worth your team’s time.

Plus, the 1:many concept of social customer service can impact public brand perception in a way 1:1 support simply can’t.

If a social customer service interaction goes positively, you might gain some new fans in the process.

3. Get personal.

Social media platforms like Twitter celebrate brevity. The imposed character limits combined with today’s mobile-first culture has colored our language in many ways, including how businesses can acceptably talk to their customers.

Using everyday language and modeling communication style after the platform’s standards will help you connect to your customers better. It’s easier to create a positive customer service experience that feels natural on both sides.

To add to this, you should consider leveraging some of the customer service techniques you’d use over the phone or via email. That might include:

  • Using phrases that show empathy

  • Confirming that you understand the situation by repeating it back to them

  • Saying “please” and “thank you”

  • Focusing on potential solutions

The realer you are over social media, the more likely you are to resolve issues effectively and leave customers happy.

How to measure and monitor social customer service

Now that we’ve covered some social customer service best practices, let’s talk measurement. To deliver quality service, you have to refine your approach based on real data. After all, if you don’t know how your customers feel about your service, then you’re simply guessing at success.

Here are three metrics and methods you can use to measure your social customer service.

1. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) score

One of the most basic but effective techniques is customer satisfaction measurement. After a customer interacts with your team, you can send them a quick customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey to gauge the agent’s performance and the customer’s satisfaction level.

The resulting CSAT score, paired with any additional feedback they offer, can tell you a lot about the state of your social customer service. Maybe response times aren’t quite meeting expectations, so you have to ramp up support during busy hours. Customer feedback can fill in the details you might miss when you’re looking at basic service metrics.

Customer satisfaction surveys are timeless, straightforward way to gauge customer happiness and ensure your team is hitting the mark.

2. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) measures customer loyalty simply and effectively by asking customers how likely they are to recommend your company to others. The results can deliver profound insights into processes, services, and general sentiment, and help teams see things from the customer’s perspective.

Many companies are running NPS surveys over social media platforms like Twitter. Of course, you can send surveys after any customer interaction, but NPS tends to generate the most accurate and valuable results when it’s run more generally. You can try simply tweeting out a link to your NPS survey and asking customers to chime in, or use a more targeted approach to reach specific customer groups.

Regardless of when you distribute the survey, the score will give you an indication of where you stand with your customers. Tack on an additional question asking for open-ended feedback on your social customer service, and you’re likely to uncover some interesting new insights with this customer service metric.

3. Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance Score

This final form of measurement deals more with response goals. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is basically a target metric that customer service teams use to stay on track. For example, a team might decide 1 minute is the maximum amount of time a customer should spend on hold with customer service.

The SLA Compliance score helps companies track how well they’re performing against those goals. In social customer service, a company might aim to respond to all Facebook messages within 30 minutes. If they’re successful, then their SLA Compliance score would be 100%.

Not only is this a good way to monitor efficiency and service quality, but it can add some accountability for social customer service reps. If they know what their goals are, they’re far more likely to execute on them.


There’s no question that social media is transforming the customer service world. It’s introducing new visibility, calling for more authenticity, and placing a much greater focus on the customer experience.

To keep pace with innovation, companies have to consider the impact social customer service may have on their business and their customers. If you’re already offering it, take the time to put best practices in place. That means deciding how you’ll measure and monitor social care, not just deliver it.

And if you’re not yet offering social customer service, it might be time to start. With new support channels, you can cast a wider net around your customers. Someone who’s never contacted you before might reach out because you’ve made it that much easier for them—and they’ll be left with a better impression of your brand.

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