The Social Customer Service Playbook

By Rob Farrell, Lecturer, Trainer and Conference Speaker

With widespread customer adoption of social networking sites, many organisations have established a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and others to communicate with their customers. As a result, social channels are becoming a preferred alternative to email for many customers to reach out but what are the challenges for businesses and how can these be overcome?

Customers expect faster responses to their posts and queries. According to HubSpot, 80% of customers expect a response to their social media posts within 24 hours. On Facebook, customers expect a response within 6 hours however, according to Eptica it typically takes organisations one day, three hours, and 47 minutes to respond. On Twitter, 64% of customers expect a response within one hour.

According to HubSpot, 50% of customers would no longer deal with the organisation if they don’t respond to a negative social media post. Proactive organisations maintain audience trust by responding to negative posts in a constructive manner, this is ever more important given the public and visible nature of social networking sites.

Source: Shutterstock

The benefits of having a social customer service strategy 

While customers have come to expect at a minimum prompt responses, there are opportunities for organisations who effectively use social customer service to add value.

Direct engagement

Social media lets organisations engage with customers directly. If customers have questions or complaints, they can interact directly with a member of your team who should respond sympathetically to their concerns and try to resolve the issue. 

For example, the American grocery retailer Target responds to all of their comments daily, no small task. This shows customers that their opinions are valued and encourages audience engagement which social network algorithms favour.

Resolutions are public 

Resolving a customer’s query publicly can be a real win for your organisation. This shows that you value customer feedback, this is also publicly visible for other customers to see. According to social media expert Joshua Dirks;

“Responding to customer issues publicly is proof your brand and company culture is customer-centric. It’s reinforced every time a consumer searches for the brand.”

Customers talk

Customers share their experiences with each other verbally and online. A particularly positive experience can stand out, affirm their choice in buying from you and can encourage others to buy from you. According to  PwC, consumers are willing to pay up to a 16% price premium to organisations providing great customer experiences, so it pays to make customers happy.

Social listening 

Social networking sites are a beehive of activity with customers chatting about their opinions and needs. Using social listening techniques to monitor social media channels for any customer feedback, mentions of your brand or discussions about your industry, you can gain deeper insights into customers which can be leveraged in marketing communications, product development and other areas of your organisation.

Show your personality

Many organisations incorporate a casual, conversational tone to their social customer service and customers respond well. SouthWest Airlines have gone one step further and use humour to connect with customers. In the example below, they have fun with their passenger Erick as he creates a slideshow of his journey which gained over 19 thousand views. 

Source: Shutterstock

How to do it well

Given the fast paced and public nature of social customer service, it is important to establish procedures for your organisation. 

Step 1: Analyse your customer queries 

Analyse all of your organisation’s customer queries and identify trends such as repeatedly asked questions or areas that frustrate customers. Later, you can provide template responses to staff and launch an FAQ section for customers.

Step 2: Decide who will manage social customer service 

Many successful organisations treat social customer service as a collaboration between marketing and customer service teams. Some queries are dealt with directly on the social networking sites by the marketing team while more challenging queries are dealt with privately via messenger or email by the customer service team. 

When deciding how to manage your social customer service ask yourself: 

  • What response time will you provide?
  • What will be your tone of voice? 
  • When should a query be directed to a private chat or email? 
  • When should a query be escalated to a manager? 
  • How will you respond to negative comments? 

Step 3: Provide guidance to staff 

Ensure consistent and high quality responses to all customers and provide guidelines to the social customer service team. Don’t stop there, organise training sessions and incorporate real customer queries to bring them to life. 

Step 4: Analyse and improve

Customer behaviour and preferences evolve over time. Perform regular analysis of comments and queries you receive and share your findings with other relevant departments. For example, if a growing customer segment is unhappy with your opening hours, consider changing them to ensure customers are satisfied.

Social customer service provides huge opportunities for organisations who are willing to engage with customers on public platforms however, appropriate analysis and preparation are critical to making this a success.


Want to start working on your organisation’s social customer service strategy? Irish Times Training’s nationwide in-company service offers choice, value and the opportunity to tailor learning solutions to specifically meet your organisational needs. Contact our expert team today to find out more.

About the author

Robert Farrell is a lecturer, trainer, industry judge and conference speaker with +7 years in the field. He puts the audience firmly at the centre of his training by using role plays, group discussions and problem based learning.

He has also spoken at conferences in the UK and Ireland including Dublin Tech Summit, FutureScope TechConnect and the Jaguar HQ in Birmingham.

Robert holds an MSc in Strategic Management, a postgraduate diploma in Training & Education, a degree in marketing, certificate in Cyberpsychology and several digital marketing qualifications.

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