From what they’re eating for breakfast to their thoughts on current events, people are increasingly turning to social media to voice their opinions and seek answers to their questions. Unfortunately, this means that dissatisfied customers are quick to criticize a recent experience with the brand; over a million people tweet about customer service experiences weekly, and about 80% of the tweets are critical and negative in tone.

For the 99% of brands and companies on Twitter, this dissatisfaction represents an opportunity to swiftly and efficiently engage with customers and troubleshoot their issues. When contacting customer service over social media, customers want quick, effective responses, and they become frustrated when they have to wait for a response- or worse, when they don’t get a response at all.

Research shows that 72% of customers who complain about a product or service on Twitter expect a response within the hour- which only 10% of brands on Twitter were able to achieve. And, disappointingly, questions and complaints on Twitter only have an average response rate of 40.9% across all industries (Facebook, for comparison, has a response rate of 59.4%). Even when a response is given, only 36% of customers report having their problem effectively solved via social media in a timely manner.

Brands like Seamless, Nike, JetBlue, and Starbucks have all endeared themselves to customers with their quick, helpful social media responses to customers’ inquiries. How can your company follow suit? West Interactive has put together an infographic that covers customer service 101 on social channels. Here are the steps the recommend.

First, create a dedicated customer service handle for your company on social media. This strategy has been shown to improve response time by 43%, double the total rate of response, de-clutter brands’ main page, and generate the extraordinary customer service experience that builds buzz among your customers and has the potential to go viral. You should also dedicate a part of your customer service team to social media, which will improve your rate and speed of response. Finally, remember to search for mentions of your brand (with and without the “@” symbol), then keep track of and respond to those questions and complaints like you would on any other channel.

Here’s the thing about social media: it’s social. How you respond to your customers’ questions, complaints, or compliments on social media is highly visible to everyone on the Internet. Devoting time, resources, and personnel to the customer service aspect of your company’s social media will paint your company in a favorable light, highlighting your caring, exceptional customer service so that your company’s reputation shines.

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