Proactive Social Customer Service Is Now Expected

by Jeannie Walters

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Did you know it’s Social Media Week? In several cities around the globe, they’re celebrating all things social media with conferences, parties and networking opportunities. Alas, Chicago is not on the agenda this time, but it’s still an exciting thing to monitor.

Social media has come so far in such a short time period. Just think how seven short years ago, we didn’t even know what a tweet was. Now we are sharing Vine videos and hanging out with the President of the United States on Google+.

Twitter birdsCustomers are part of this revolution, and in fact, they’ve been leading it. Social media amped up the voices of individual customers so much, they suddenly had power. In many cases, companies acted like if they didn’t look at the monster that was social media, they wouldn’t have to deal with it. Of course today we can pretty much agree that isn’t true, right?

Now that CRM tools and social monitoring stations are becoming the norm, companies are reacting to customer service inquiries via their social media channels. Customers are turning to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and anywhere else they live socially to find answers and information. However, the brands they are talking to may be reacting to only a small percentage of customers who are seeking real responses.

In just a few studies on social customer service, the numbers tell a lot about how companies are not truly interacting with their communities with the aim of improving the customer experience.

  • In an analysis of 11,723 Tweets on Costco, Kroger, Safeway, and Walgreens, Only 3% Were Directed Using an “@Mention” which means 97% of social media conversations regarding brands are not directed at the brand.
  • Just 49% of brands track and respond to social media mentions, according to eMarketer.
  • Hispanic consumers are nearly 21% more likely than the general population to recommend a brand or company after their social care experience, showing the importance of cultural relevance in this type of customer service, according to NM Incite.

The problem I see, over and over and over again, is how customers are seen as people to react to with the bare minimum effort. The best social service proactively engages customers and surprises them. Customers expect to communicate with brands via social media. Customers are expecting to be heard via these channels, and yet so many brands still aren’t listening or communicating with customers on their terms.

We’re celebrating the many ways companies and customers show the love this February. The best brands on social media sometimes serve such an important role they change the way people feel about the brand.

  • The American Airlines social media team received kudos and active defense when the brand was being criticized (including by yours truly) for claiming their new logo was an improvement to the customer experience. That’s a powerful social experience if customers are defending them in the midst of the rest of a debacle like that.
  • Zappos has made a practice of surprising and delighting via social media. This post illustrates one story of wow service.
  • I’ve had nice engagements with Warby Parker via social media, even though I’m not a customer! And then I found this gem. It’s a screen capture of a happy customer who received a video from Warby Parker customer service. THAT’S proactive!Warby Parker social video

Bravo to those companies dedicated to showing the love to their customers with powerful customer service via social media. Want to wow your customers on your social channels? Here are some best practices:

  1. Show you care by responding to customers complaints, questions and compliments, and not just when they tag or @reply your brand. Use search tools to engage.
  2. Marketing messages are ok if they are valuable. Pushing nothing but your own promotions via your social channels gets annoying quickly. It’s not about you, it’s about your customers.
  3. Set expectations. It’s ok if you are not a 24/7 company to set expectations about when social customer service IS available. But vanishing for days is not ok.
  4. Share the good stuff. Look for ways to highlight your customers and help them be your advocates.

How do you share the love via social media? There are so many ways to connect, we’d love to hear your ideas here.

Image credit: opensourceway and ramseymohsen via Creative Commons license



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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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