I doubt that Mark Zuckerberg thought much about disrupting customer service as he developed Facebook in his dorm room. But he did. Facebook, and later Twitter, revolutionized how customers and businesses interact every day. Customers are taking to these instant and very public channels to provide feedback, be heard, and to air their grievances with brands.

As consumer behavior evolves with new technology, so must the businesses that serve them. Every customer service department needs to adapt and to not only be present on social media but to take a truly active and engaged role on social platforms.

A background on social customer service
Before we dive into strategies for bettering your own social customer care, let’s take a step back and look at how brands and consumers are currently viewing social media. Zendesk has found that not only are people turning to social media to engage with brands, they’re also expecting quicker results from those companies.

  • 20% of consumers used social media at least once for customer service in the past year
  • 83% of those consumers expect a response on Twitter within the same day
  • 51% of those consumers expect a response on Facebook within the same day

Unfortunately, according to this year’s Sprout Social Index, brands are failing to keep up with all of the inbound engagement.

  • Brands have seen a 32% increase in inbound messages in the past year
  • 8 in 9 of the messages sent to brands that require a response go unanswered

Brands are trending in the wrong direction, and we see that a vast majority of customer inquiries and complaints on social media go unanswered. Even the messages that are being answered are taking an hour longer than before.

4 ways to improve your social customer service
If most companies are failing to provide stellar social customer service—or any social service for that matter—there’s a real opportunity for you to create a competitive advantage and build loyalty by picking up the slack. Here are some strategies you can use to improve your social customer service.

1. React to inbound messages
The most important thing you can do is respond to the customers who are actively trying to get in touch with your brand. Messages that go ignored on your social pages don’t just cause your customers to feel unheard, they show other folks visiting your page that you don’t care about customer service.

When someone had a bad experience with the sandwich company, the Jimmy Johns’ social team quickly reached out and turned what could have been a poor experience into a positive brand interaction. The original customer even went on to Favorite the company’s timely response.

Listen for untagged brand mentions
2. Listen for untagged brand mentions
Not every person who mentions your company on social media networks will tag you in the post. In fact, most people will probably skip tagging your page and assume you’ll never even see their comment. That’s why you need to keep your eyes on each network to find those opportunities and conversations worth joining.

Jimmy John’s found a perfect opportunity to interact with a customer in a way that helped humanize their brand. Even though their page wasn’t tagged specifically, they discovered the message and created a charming response.

react to inbound messages
Responding to customer messages on social shows that you care, and taking a few seconds to respond to a message can result in a loyal customer.

3. Get your team on social
Unless you’re the only person working at your company—and good on you for spending the time on social media–there are probably some people around you that can help lighten the load. While you’re monitoring social media for all of the customer service inquiries requiring response, see if other departments are willing to help engage with their own audiences.

  • Human resources can respond to job seekers
  • R&D can respond to product suggestions
  • Sales can interact with those interested in purchasing

Just make sure that you are properly delegating who is responding to each message. It doesn’t look good to send two responses, but it looks even worse when you don’t respond at all. Try using a tool that opens up team collaboration.

Team collaboration on Sprout Social
4. Let the tools help you
Tracking customer queries across multiple social profiles, networks and departments is a difficult task. It may make sense for your team to adopt a few tools to help manage all of your communications. Social media management tools can help stay on top of your social interactions while full customer service software suites incorporate elements of email and chat as well.

To really stay on top of your social customer service game, see how Sprout Social and Zendesk work together